Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Ten Little Indians movie review

To be perfectly honest, I was expecting to hate the 1965 movie version of Agatha Christie's masterpiece And Then There Were None. Which is why I've managed to avoid watching it until now. But I decided to bite the bullet, and to my surprise found the film surpassed my admittedly low expectations.

The setting is a country house, of course, but this one is to be found at the top of an Alpine mountain accessible only by sleigh and cable car. The servants who greet the guests who have been invited by the mysterious U.N. Owen are locals, and when Owen's voice is played on a tape recording, I discovered that the uncredited actor who spoke the words was Christopher Lee (in a later version of the film, Orson Welles did the same job.)

The cast is pretty good, including Stanley Holloway, Dennis Price and Wilfrid Hyde White, as well as the ultra-glamorous ex-Bond girl Shirley Eaton, who gets to play a sex scene, albeit mild in the extreme, with Hugh O'Brian.

A notable feature of the movie is the 'whodunit break', an updated version of the Challenge to the Reader introduced in the Golden Age by Ellery Queen and also used by the likes of Rupert Penny and Anthony Berkeley. A gimmick, yes, but a pleasing one, at least to my mind. I enjoyed this film more than I should have done, perhaps. It ain't Martin Scorsese, but as light entertainment, it ain't that bad, either.


Anonymous said...

Martin - Glad to hear you enjoyed the film more than you were afraid you would. I confess to being enough of a purist that I would probably really mind the differences between the novel and the film. But that's just I...

Bill Crider said...

Saw and enjoyed this one in the theater those many years ago.

Deb said...

There was a version in the early/mid 1970s with Oliver Reed and (I believe) Elke Summer. I can't tell you how disappointing the ending is...let's just say, the most photogenic actors escape unscathed!

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, I suspect you are in the majority there!
Hi Bill, I agree, it is enjoyable.
Deb, I must watch it sometime. If only for Elke!

John said...

Out of all the film versions I still prefer the original American one: And Then There Were None (1945) with Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, C. Aubrey Smith, Mischa Auer, Roland Young, Judith Anderson, Louis Hayward, and June Duprez. It's faithful to the stage adaptation and the only film version that is he closest to Christie's vision in the book.

Of the remakes the Hugh O'Brien/Wilfred Hyde-White one you write of here is the best. The Elke Sommer version of this story (1974) has Richard Attenborough as the judge and is set in a remote hotel in the deserts of Iran (a nod to Christie's archeological mysteries?). I've seen it. Apart from the performances of Attenborough and Gert Fröbe it's really not very good. But there are also Elke and Stéphane Audran in the cast to offset most of the dreadfulness.

A 1989 version with Donald Pleasance as the judge was supposed to be the first movie of that would remain faithful to the bleak ending of the novel, but the producer changed it at the last minute. Perhaps someday someone will make the definitive version. I'm not sure if a faithful adaptation was done for one of the many Christie UK TV series. Maybe.