Posts Tagged ‘mystery’


Revenge Is A Dish Best Served… Glamorous! — Murder On The Orient Express

November 27, 2008

d. Sidney Lumet 

Yet another whodunnit adapted from an Agatha Christie mystery starring that irascible Belgian, Herecule Poirot (Albert Finney). This time set on the famous intercontinental steam train, Detective Poirot must solve the murder of a wealthy man on the snowbound train before it is set free and the report made to the Yugoslavian police who will take over the case.

Like Death On The Nile, this film is chock full o’ stars — a somewhat higher caliber of stars, many hailing from classic Hollywood. You’ve got a gorgeous collection of leading ladies, starting with Lauren Bacall, and then you have Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset and Vanessa Redgrave. On the men’s side you have Martin Balsam, John Gielgud, Anthony Perkins, Michael York and Sean Connery. It’s amazing to see such talent in an ensemble getting brief scenes in which to have their moments and in longer scenes where they are gathered together to just listen as Albert Finney runs through a ten minute dialogue explaining the solution to the murder!

The mystery does not suffer under the mountainous amounts of dialogue being shoveled into our ears, though it can be a challenge to keep up when the relationships between each character becomes resolved. Still, Finney’s performance really shines here even if his Poirot is less warm than Ustinov’s interpretation, and more irascible.

The stars on-screen are not the only objects that dazzle. The sets are all very lavish, and the cinematography impressive. There is an amazing tracking shot down the length of the train in its berth that ends on the front lights being turned on. The music score is also very lush and timeless, avoiding the need to pin the movie down to its 30s setting.

If anything, the opening sequence detailing the kidnap and death plot of Daisy Armstrong (stripped directly from the real-life Lindbergh case) may be overwhelming and confusing because a ton of information gets heaped up-front.

All in all, Sidney Lumet does a great job balancing each actor, giving them their moments, and keeping the proceedings brisk even if the dialogue threatens to grind everything to a halt, much like the stalled train stuck in the snowbanks.

*** stars.


Belgian Upstart Solves Murder: Death on the Nile

November 23, 2008

d. John Guillermin

A very amusing mystery from Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile features Herecule Poirot, the Belgian detective, and a cast of characters all revolving around a rich woman, Lynnette (Lois Chiles), her sister Jacqueline (Mia Farrow), and Simon, who is stolen from Jacqueline to become Lynnette’s husband.

The action takes place mainly on a steamer as it chugs its way down the NIle, and in classic Christie fashion, we are introduced to a bevy of characters who all have a reason for hating Lynnette, and when she turns up dead, all have a motive for killing her. It’s up to Herecule Poirot, ably assisted by David Niven’s character, to solve the crime before more killings take place.

When I was younger and first saw this film, I confess to not being impressed by it; seeing it now, I cannot help but be dazzled by the assemblage of star power. It seems as if there were a lot of movies done back in the 70s that had all-star casts (The Towering Inferno, the Airport series, et al), and here we get a great collection: Bette Davis, Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, Jane Birkin, George Kennedy, Olivia Hussey, Jon Finch. Each character has their peculiarity (Bette Davis covets pearls, Angela Lansbury is an over-sexed Romance author, Jon Finch is a Communist) and all get a chance to shine.

And while it’s fairly easy to figure whodunnit, most of the pleasure is seeing how theydunnit when Poirot gathers everyone together to reconstruct the crime. I was surprised at the high body-count and took pleasure in seeing all these actors share scenes, though George Kennedy all but disappears toward the end.

The music is very grand, like the Nile, and once I found out that Nino Rota was responsible, it made sense.

So overall a very effective mystery — even if the solution is transparent early on — that is made interesting by the excellent cast and the memorable humane and humourous performance by Peter Ustinov.

*** stars.

I meant to see Albert Finney in Murder on the Orient Express, but the disc I received was cracked. So while I await a replacement, I should have Lady in the Water next.