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
Elegant, star studded whodunit aboard the legendary train
This is both a glamorous and entertaining adaptation of Agatha's Christie's mystery novel. There's certainly a star studded cast but perhaps the main star is the luxury train itself, the legendary Orient Express bound from Istanbul to Calais. Black with gold crests, it hisses steam as it streaks dramatically through the Balkans. Inside are opulent interiors, intriguing compartments, gourmet cuisine, fine wines & liqueurs, and elegantly costumed passengers. Of course there's the typical enclosed group of suspects with a murderer in their midst.
The setting is 1935 and Belgian detective Hercule Poirot boards the Orient Express along with an assortment of colourful, suspicious passengers. One of them ends up murdered in his compartment, a man discovered to be a fugitive responsible (but never prosecuted) for the kidnapping some years earlier of a child that resulted in five deaths. Poirot is called upon to solve the crime, discovering that some of these intriguing passengers may not be who they appear but instead have links to this past case of kidnapping and murder.
Albert Finney is convincing as the eccentric detective Poirot, with his slick black hair and elegant little curled mustache. He plays the role more seriously than Peter Ustinov in Death on the Nile, another film with a star studded cast. I enjoy both renditions of the detective, though my favourite may be A&E's David Suchet. I have heard that Christie herself approved of Albert Finney, but agree with her conclusion that Finney's mustache is too small! My only complaint is the scene in which Poirot is screaming quite abusively at Miss Debenham. It's out of character for this very cerebral detective.
Yes, as the tag line claims, it's definitely the who's who in the whodunit, with the passengers all portrayed by famous stars. These actors must have had fun with their roles. Richard Widmark portrays the obnoxious American businessman, Mr. Ratchett, with Sir John Gielgud his perfectly cast, reserved butler Beddoes, and Anthony Perkins his secretary MacQueen. Michael York and Jacqueline Bisset play the mysterious, foreign Count and Countess Andrenyi, who act guilty as all get out. Lauren Bacall is suitably irritating as the loud, outspoken Mrs. Hubbard, while Ingrid Bergman is a frightened Swedish missionary...or is she? Bergman was a magnificent actress in many roles, but I have to agree with some who question whether she deserved the Best Supporting Actress Oscar here for really, quite a minor part.
Sean Connery is handsome as always portraying the indignant Scottish Colonel Arbuthnot, though I find him even more appealing now. Like a fine wine, he simply improves with age! Vanessa Redgrave plays his love interest, Miss Debenham. What are these two hiding? Obviously something! Of course there's an aristocratic and eccentric old dowager aboard, the proud and haughty Princess Dragomiroff, played to perfection by Wendy Hiller. You can just tell that this black clad and bejeweled lady is not telling the truth! Personally, I took a liking to the train's French conductor, though was previously unfamiliar with the actor, Jean-Pierre Cassel.
The famous locomotive is halted by a snow drift and meanwhile, Poirot is designated to solve the crime, interrogating each suspicious passenger in turn. The detective must summon his little gray cells to ferret it all out, though I find little humour in him here. No spoilers, but I think this is one of Christie's more clever twists. Personally, I would never have guessed the murderer if I hadn't read the novel first. However, one of the suspects being interrogated does give a clue, if you're really sharp!
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