In the cinema news of late, it was announced that Kenneth Branagh would direct a remake of 1974 British Mystery Film classic, Murder on the Orient Express.
Since the original announcement, it has been announced that Kenneth will not only direct but also be in front of the camera as Hercule Poirot, in the role made famous by Albert Finney in the 1974 film version of Agatha Christie’s classic 1934 novel of the same name.
Most recently, it was the reported news that Angelina Jolie is being lined up to play Mrs. Harriet Hubbard in the role played by Lauren Bacall in the original film (source: Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/jun/10/angelina-jolie-murder-on-the-orient-express-kenneth-branagh)
The story/film had passed me by, but a recent documentary on the Orient Express had made me more aware, so when the 1974 film came on TV on a Saturday afternoon, it seemed like the perfect time to catch up on this missed classic.
The original film directed by Sidney Lumet and for the time had a true all star cast including Ingrid Bergman; John Gielgud; Vanessa Redgrave; Michael York; Sean Connery & Anthony Perkins amongst others. The cast certainly makes it worthy of the film tagline “The greatest cast of suspicious characters ever involved in murder.”
The film opens up with the news of the kidnapping of Daisy Armstrong, a wealthy couple’s daughter, when the couple agree to the ransom, she is still killed, leading to a devastating set of consequences for the parents & their servant who is accused of the murder.
We move on 5 years and come across an unusually sold out trip on the famous train, the Orient Express. We come across Finney as Poirot in discussion with the owner of the line, and his good friend, Signor Bianchi (Martin Balsam)
Poirot is then approached by a wealthy American businessman, Ratchett (Richard Wildmark) who also will be a passenger on the train, and asks to hire him to find out who is sending him death threats. Poirot declines as he is not interested.
On the first night on the Orient, Ratchet is murdered. Bianchi asks his good friend Poirot to help find the murderer, and with the train stuck in heavy snow, he agrees.
With the train stopped at the time of the murder and no tracks in the snow, it is established the murderer must be on the train! The two enlist the help of Dr. Constantine (George Coulouris) , who was also traveling in coach with Bianci and therefore ruled out as a suspect.
Also assisting them is Pierre Michel (Jean- Pierre Cassel) the French conductor of the train, but he and 12 others on the train are suspects for the murder.
Whilst we won’t tell you who the murderer is, we can tell you the motive is connected to the Armstrong’s and their kidnapped daughter, which opened the film. We know this when Poirot discovers Ratchett’s real name was Casseti, a gangster who carried the kidnapping out!
The film was a Box Office hit earning $36m in the US alone from its $1.4m budget, it also was rated highly by critics, earning 6 Oscar nominations of which brought one win for Bergman as best supporting actress.
Christie herself was quoted as saying the film was well made, although had objections than Finney’s moustache as Poirot did not match her description of the finest moustache in England. Oddly enough Finney didn’t like the moustache either, having decided to not continue in the role for subsequent sequels. Peter Ustinov would bring Poirot back to screens, firstly in Death on the Nile.
It is unsurprising that the film is being considered for a remake, and unlike others, a lengthy space has passed since the original. The film is a classic though, so comparisons will be made so Branagh has a tough job ahead. Of course, if the film is a success then he will have 32 other novels he can consider making as well as numerous short stories.
We enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express but would be intrigued by a sequel. Who would you cast in the remake? What is your favourite Poirot film? We would love to hear from you here at Barking Mad About Films.
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