Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
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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.
The format and layout of the film works tremendously well, the dark and twisted kidnap and killing story at the beginning sets the tone well, it hits hard, and makes the end of the film all the more engaging and believable.
The film looks sensational, it is a beautiful production (especially in HD) the scenery throughout is lavish, a true feast for the eyes. From the bright sunny beginning, to the dark, bleak and snowy scene of the murder. The film seems to get intentionally darker as it progresses. The costumes are glorious, Jacqueline Bisset especially gets to wear some wonderful outfits.
Albert Finney is good in the part, he certainly looks the part, when I read the book he is exactly how I visualise him. He is wonderfully theatrical, and as Ustinov definitely suits the flavour of Death on the Nile, so does Finney here.
The characterisations aside from Poirot are expertly brought to life, some glorious performances, Lauren Bacall and Wendy Hillier are sensational in their roles, how well the cast bring to life the class system of 1930, it really was a different world. Sir John Gielgud is tremendous as stiff upper lipped Beddoes, and plaudits also to Richard Widmark who makes Mr Ratchett as vile as possible.
9/10 you can almost smell the gourmet cooking and hear the clink of Champagne flutes. A glorious film. Kenneth Branagh's new adaptation has a lot to live up to.
An all-star, well seasoned, cast does help to make the film more intriguing, more appealing because all gave outstanding performances in this film. The story itself will easily pull you in even if you are unfamiliar with the cast - the story (mystery) is that good.
If you like this movie then you may enjoy similar types of films like "Sleuth", "Deathtrap" or "Murder By Death".
Movies based on Christie's novels and stories were being made back to the 1930s. One early one with Charles Laughton as Hercule Poiret so turned her off that she was hesitant about future productions of her work. But they were made - like the two versions of LOVE FROM A STRANGER. There were two high points: Rene Clair's AND THEN THERE WERE NONE and Billy Wilder's WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (oddly enough with Laughton again, but in a better fitting performance). Then came the popular series of Miss Marple films with Margaret Rutherford, which were rewritten to emphasize Rutherford's comic abilities (and to give Miss Marple a companion - Mr. Stringer, played by Rutherford's husband Stringer Davis). Another attempt at Poirot was made, again as a comic film, THE A.B.C.MURDERS (with Tony Randall as Poirot). Christie was not amused. But in 1974 she saw her vision of Hercule Poirot as a character put properly on screen by Albert Finney in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS.
It gave her a satisfaction that few mystery novelists of her age ever had. Dorothy Sayers did live to see Lord Peter Wimsey played by Robert Montgomery in BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON, but while entertaining it was not the Wimsey that she created - she died before she could see Ian Carmichael play the role on a series of television multi-episodes shows based on her novels. While Josephine Tey's novels occasionally were made into films, her Inspector Grant was not turned into a good running series character.
I think that the reason that Agatha Christie was satisfied was the care that Sidney Lumet took with MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Not only the all star cast involved, but keeping the story in the late 1920s to early 1930s style, with clothing, vehicles, and class snobbery maintained. It actually helped preserve the novel's effectiveness.
The casting is quite good. Poirot is ably played by Finney, who is fussy but also serious and sharp when going over the clues and interrogations. Martin Balsam as his friend, the railroad official, is properly "watsonish", constantly jumping at conclusions as to who the killer is. Interestingly forgotten in the background is the only other passenger we learn of that is not under suspicion, the Greek doctor who assists Poirot (George Coulouris). In the 1940s Coulouris would have been a red herring at least.
The suspects (led by Lauren Bacall and Wendy Hiller) are properly snobbish (especially Sean Connery). They are even snobbish towards each other. But the question of who killed the victim is handled to constantly throw off the viewers. It is one of the most perfectly balanced whodunits.
I only have one minor criticism. The murder centers on a "Lindbergh" kidnap-murder tragedy of the past, and the killer has to be someone after the real brains behind the tragedy. So all the suspects happen to be connected to the victim(s). But as it turns out there was one victim who was overlooked - the patsy killer (based on Hauptmann?) who was frightened into committing the crime and was hanged. It would have been interesting if the family of this criminal also had been represented among the suspects.
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!
The three most striking qualities of this film are its production values, cast, and Finney's exhausting performance. Although a little over-the-top, Finney gets Poirot exactly right - Poirot is played as a somewhat obsessive, slightly manic, and flamboyant Belgian - not at all as a non-English Sherlock Holmes. The cast speaks for itself. Bacall, Perkins, Hiller, Redgrave, York and Bissett are all delightful in their supporting roles. But perhaps the most under-recognized achievement of this film is its cinematography. The film is extremely visually engaging from start to finish. This is achieved by perfect visual pacing, great camera work, spectacular - though somewhat cramped and redundant - sets, good costuming, and a stunningly attractive cast.
Murder on the Orient Express also succeeds in sticking with Christie's original narrative (mostly), and sets a high standard for film versions of the great mystery writers repertoire. From my perspective, the film remains unequaled among the Poirot interpretations and meets the challenge of adapting and simplifying Christie's often complex exposition very nicely.
At the beginning of the film talks about a kidnapping and killing a baby similarly to the Lindberg's son and which the murderer was condemned to death row , this one will be related with the death of the train.
The motion picture is only set on two scenarios : the station and train . However this doesn't make boring it.
The runtime movie is overlong : two hours and some but isn't slow-moving and is amount amusing for suspense and tension.
First-rate interpretation specially from Albert Finney and Ingrid Bergman , Oscar winner as best secondary actress .
The set design and costumes are riveting , the flick is magnificently set by that time . Evocative musical score by Richard Rodney Bennett . Geoffrey Unsworth's cinematography is atmospheric and colorful.
Sidney Lumet's direction is fascinating such as ¨12 angry men¨ .
The movie will appeal to suspense enthusiasts and thriller lovers.
Rating: 7,5/10 . Very good
Richard Widmark is an American expatriate traveling on the famous Orient Express train and he's been receiving mysterious death threats. As it happens Poirot is on the train also and refuses Widmark's offer to be a bodyguard.
Widmark is later stabbed to death in his compartment and while the train is stranded somewhere in Yugoslavia due to snow drifts, Poirot investigates the murder in the best Agatha Christie tradition. Of course in that same tradition the plotters would have gotten away with it more than likely had Poirot and his little gray cells not been present.
Widmark as it also turns out was a gangster who had to flee America because he was named as the mastermind of a horrific crime that shocked the nation. There are a whole lot of people who had reason to want him dead.
Poirot conducts his inquiry of the other passengers and they are quite a crew consisting of among others, Lauren Bacall, Michael York, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Wendy Hiller, Rachel Roberts, Vanessa Redgrave, Jacqueline Bissett, etc.
Of course I won't tell you the solution, but here's a hint. Note what Sean Connery says while he's being grilled.
It's a great ensemble cast of course with a bunch of seasoned players doing their thing. Ingrid Bergman got a Best Supporting Actress award for her portrayal of a simple soul who is a missionary. I'm betting the critics noted that her part was offbeat casting for her which she pulled off. In any event she was surprised as all get out when her name was read at the Oscars in 1975. In accepting the award she got up and said quite matter-of-factly that fellow nominee Valentina Cortese deserved it. Of course she didn't turn it down.
As I said, this was one elaborately planned murder and I think you will enjoy seeing Poirot unravel it and what happens later.
But Agatha Christie has other things in hand. On a trip between Paris and Istanbul, something quite horrible happens to another passenger, one Mr. Ratchett, a man who has been suspected to have been the mastermind behind the Lindbergh baby incident in which she was kidnapped and killed. It would be up to the local authorities to come and intervene, but a snowstorm has stalled the train midway and Poirot has to locate the killer.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS is drenched in style and reminds me of GOSFORD PARK, its much younger cousin. When a movie has so much acting and overacting and actors of such stature such comparisons will not be overlooked, but this story has a lot more up its sleeve which I won't reveal for those who haven't seen it. Suffice it be to say that the names alone (while in later years did not guarantee a good film, here they do) are of this caliber: Lauren Bacall, Albert Finney (as Poirot), Ingrid Bergmann (who won an Oscar, her third, for Best Supporting Actress), Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins, Jacqueline Bisset, Vanessa Redgrave, Sir John Gielgud, Martin Balsam, Richard Widmark, Michael York, Wendy Hiller, Jean-Pierre Cassel, George Coulouris, and Rachel Roberts.
Boasting one of the most riveting monologues ever committed on film, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS remains one of the more sumptuous Agatha Christie whodunits and is another strong (if atypical) film in veteran film director Sidney Lumet's career.
***1/2 (out of four)
Visually, the movie is very good. Cinematography uses a lot of light and the colors are pleasant, as well as the choice of locations, sets and costumes. The soundtrack was competent and did his job well, but it's far from iconic.
The humor of the book is kept in the movie. Pity that Monsieur Bouc's constant suspicions about the Italian are cut out, but instead we have him changing his opinion after every interrogation. Yet Mrs Hubbard's hilarious character is very much the same. And the questioning of Countess Andrenyi is accompanied by continuous looks of devoted watchfulness and almost grotesque jealousy of the Count. There are countless other details (such as Princess Dragomiroff's doggies) that give the movie some lightness a mystery always needs.
And, last but not least, the film's very touching. It's actually the only film besides Titanic and Hamlet that always brings me to tears. Ingrid Bergman gives a perfect performance of the gentle, soft-hearted Swedish lady, who is hesitant even to strike the brutal murderer. And by the end of the film there also is a very moving scene with the calm official Pierre Michel crying over his dead daughter's picture - that was the director's brilliant addition that allowed us to further understand the struggles and suffering of the characters.
Again, it's a truly ageless movie and you won't regret watching it.
This film features quite a few smaller performances from well-known screen actors, including Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York and Sean Connery. The support cast help the film massively, as they're all integral to the central plot. Albert Finney takes the lead role and does excellently in bringing the detective to life. His performance suitably gives life to Poirot, and in this film he is everything that you would expect an eccentric Belgian detective to be. The fact that the mystery is set aboard the Orient Express is important as it ensures that the film exudes class throughout, and it also means that the small cast is always isolated aboard the claustrophobic vessel. I do think that more could have made of the train setting, as we're not always conscious of it; but what is made of it is good. Many mystery films fall down at the conclusion, but it's safe to say that this one does not. It takes Albert Finney about twenty minutes to run through exactly what happened, but it's worth the wait as there's practically no chance of guessing who did it! Overall, this isn't great or a classic; but it's very good and highly recommended!
Exceptionally done thriller is a homage to the mysteries of Hollywood's golden age with fun and brilliantly done performances from a seasoned cast, but Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, and an unreconizable Albert Finney really stand out. Magnaficent score, sets, costumes, color schemes, dialogue, and a fine eye for detail just add to the fun. Never a dull or boring moment; the finale is really, really good. I just love everything about this film. Very highly recommanded film is in my top 10 films of the 70's and is in my top 100 films of all time.
The director had been able to be blessed by one of the major casting ensemble of its time, produced in Season 1973/1974, starting all out-going screen presence from Albert Finney as the main character private investigator Hercule Poirot to Lauren Bacall as the supporting character of Mrs. Hubbard over to Richard Widmark performing as the business criminal Ratchett, who becomes the object of murder on an express train from Istanbul to Paris, which gets stuck in ice and snow in the middle of nowhere, a scenario which had been repeated in production season 2016/2017 from Director Kenneth Branagh, who does not shy away to take on the main role of Hercule Poirot himself and further fostering a major ensemble cast with Johnny Depp as Ratchett and Michelle Pfeifer as Mrs. Hubbard and more to revealed in November 2017. Beauty, excellency and splendor on the train, which departs at around 20 minutes into the "Murder On The Orient Express", Director Sidney Lumet keeps tight focus on any of his twelve murder-involved characters to give them some screen-time to make a mark towards an investigating streak by the character of Hercule Poirot, which still seeking an equal in emotional sophistication, mental navigation and a portion of humorous ease at work, which makes the film another candidate for multiple revisits.
Nevertheless some characters established with extraordinary effort at on-location exteriors as the hidden affair of Mary Debenham & Colonel Arbuthnot, performed by Venessa Redgrave and Sean Connery, have one or two decisive moments as striking couple in the film, but their relationship never gets the flourishing beat besides practicing murder as within an unit of twelve, which probably let screenwriter Michael Green of the 2017 remake exchange the character of Mary Debenham to a young, in this case Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley, and making the character of Arbuthnot become a doctor instead of a military officer. When it comes to the blue-lit 12 hit-stabbing of the character of Ratchett, every character dies alone in the moment of committing murder, before reviving each and everyone's spirit in the contradicting scene of drinking a glass of champagne after getting exposed by Hercule Poirot, who does not loose his temper once to be the master of persistence and as to say breaking the ice with anybody he encounters.
Director Sidney Lumet and Cinematographer Goeffrey Unsworth had everything under controlling timetables with building constant suspense and excitement with skillful scenario camera pan, as on the train station platform, catching three major supporting character delivering beats in one single panning shot from left to right, which presented editor Anne V. Coates with the coverage to keep the pace for an exceptional Thriller, which finishes without one single action sequence.
© 2017 Felix Alexander Dausend (Cinemajesty Entertainments LLC)
Hercule Poirot is aboard a trans-European express train when a wealthy man (Widmark) is murdered in the neighbouring sleeping compartment. Poirot has a dozen suspicious suspects to choose from, and you'll never pick who did it. Such a large supporting cast may have proved difficult to depict without placing undue emphasis on any one character (and perhaps two hours is insufficient time to thoroughly explore everyone's motives), but Lumet does a good job of bringing together all the loose threads. Red herrings are scattered from right to left, and only Poirot himself can discern the real evidence from the decoys. Ingrid Bergman won her third Oscar for her role as shy missionary Greta, and I do love Ingrid, but the highlight for me was Lauren Bacall's insufferably loquacious Mrs Hubbard. For some high-class entertainment with some prestigious company, 'Murder on the Orient Express' is a surefire winner.
I saw this movie in the theaters in '75 when I was a teen and was just taken to another world that felt dangerous with the "you're on your own" aspect of traveling abroad (without the traveler's diarrhea) while running into some of the most quirky, creepy, eccentric and odd behaving characters that one might expect to meet on a train in Europe in the '30's. This seemingly eccentric behavior runs interference in hiding the truth about why and what would bring together on one train 12 oddball characters who seem to have nothing in common. Poirot slowly and diabolically works his way in his questioning of the 12 to make the connections.
That ensemble of convincingly cagey acting characters is what the audience and Poirot must break through aided by effectively and obviously placed brief flashbacks to confessions and character back story each character reveals that at first were obscured by first impressions. Of course Poirot humorously dismisses with smart ass and equally quirky European flare and sophistication the suspect's phony behavior as a form of personal interrogation to rattle them in order to draw out more detail that points to the real murderer. Standouts in this form of re-remembering what was said outside the context of first impressions at the start of the movie is performances by oddly pasty pale complected Anthony Perkins and Ingrid Bergman's nervously, devout humanitarian character. The performances are not from your typical B-movie detective who done it.
As a teen I was totally confused by these flashbacks and line of questioning even though I had read several Agatha Christie novels including "Murder On The Orient Express". The book had no flashbacks. This movie actually creates a whole other more interesting and character driven way to tell a who done it detective murder mystery in a most elegant and stylish way while remaining brilliantly grounded and believable by the performances of top shelf actors in gorgeous and authentic looking '30's era costumes.
Through the years I've had to watch this movie several times in TV re-runs to understand the connections provided by the flashbacks even though I already knew the surprise ending. It's still fun to watch and I can't wait for the US release of the Blu-ray. I wish I could give the same review of the 2017 remake I saw last night.
MOST BELIEVABLE AND NATURAL: Jean-Pierre Cassel. Don't know him but would search out other movies he is in.
MOST NOTICEABLE: Sean Connery (Honorable mention: Vanessa Redgrave).
MOST DISAPPOINTING: Albert Finney. Appears to be working far too hard, to the point of straining. I think his speaking style is too bombastic for this role. An actor can say "he killed five people" multiple times and get the point across without shrieking the line. I didn't really notice his acting because he only looked like someone trying to be a high-powered actor, rather than actually being one.
PERFECTLY CAST: Anthony Perkins.
MISCAST: Martin Balsam (looks like a very American, New York stage actor who has been inserted into this European role for some reason known only to the producers.)
Lavishly produced, beautiful to look at, well-paced. To its everlasting credit (thank you Mr.Lumet) this movie manages to deliver an aura of exciting train travel. Nostalgic, somewhat corny 1930's-tribute musical score.
Very strong plot- almost too strong for movies but good for a book. Makes you nostalgic for the 1930's but not necessarily for the 1970's or 1970's movie-making.