The first class compartment of the December 1935 departure of the Orient Express from Istanbul is full, unusual for this time of the year. Regardless, famed and fastidious Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, who needs to get back to London immediately, is able to secure last minute passage in the compartment with the assistance of his friend, Signor Bianchi, one of the directors of the train line who is also making the trip. Some of the first class passengers seem concerned about Poirot's presence on the train. At least one of them has reason to be concerned, as later, another first class passenger, who earlier in the trip asked Poirot to provide protection for him due to several death threats, is found murdered in his stateroom by multiple stabbings. At the time the victim is found, the train is unexpectedly stopped and delayed due to snow in remote Yugoslavia, which may be problematic for the murderer in getting away now that Poirot is on the case, which he is doing as a favour to ...Written by
This whodunit story by Dame Agatha is excellent. She has always been my favorite writer of detective fiction. I keep returning to the film version, however, not because of the story but because of the film's sheer elegance and style. It is awash in elegance ... the majestic cinematography; the glamorous clothes; the delightfully eccentric aristocratic characters; the mysterious yet refined musical score. The film is so theatrically regal I'm surprised that it did not feature a representative of British royalty.
The setting is Europe in the 1930's. The pace is slow and relaxed. And while the dialogue is in English, the film has a deliciously international flavor, with a mix of interesting accents and word pronunciations. Heavy on dialogue, the film never seems overly talky, the result of a clever screenplay and lush visuals. Humor is included in the script usually in the form of tasteful put-downs. Example: an attractive Mrs. Hubbard comments: "Don't you agree the man must have entered my compartment to gain access to Mr. Ratchett?" The aging Princess Dragomiroff responds in a deadpan tone: "I can think of no other reason, madam."
In his portrayal of Hercule Poirot, Albert Finney almost literally disappears into the role, a tribute to convincing makeup and to Finney's adroit acting. His performance is appropriately idiosyncratic, deliciously hammy, and theatrical, every bit as entertaining in this film as Peter Ustinov is in subsequent Christie movies. The rest of the cast has ensemble parts, my favorite being Wendy Hiller whose Princess Dragomiroff comes across as royal, proud, and very eccentric.
With its snowy landscapes, ornate and cozy interiors, and subdued lighting, "Murder On The Orient Express" is an excellent movie to watch on a cold, winter night, snuggled under a blanket or next to a warm fireplace with a cup of cappuccino or a glass of cognac. Just be sure that all knives and daggers in your mansion are out of reach from your staff of servants.
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