I don't mind telling you that my head nearly exploded during the opening credits: Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Michael York, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Widmark, Anthony Perkins, Martin Balsam, John Gielgud! Not to mention that 'Murder on the Orient Express (1974)' was directed by Sidney Lumet, one of my favourite filmmakers, and adapted from an Agatha Christie novel.
I don't mind telling you that my head nearly exploded during the opening credits: Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Michael York, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Widmark, Anthony Perkins, Martin Balsam, John Gielgud! Not to mention that 'Murder on the Orient Express (1974)' was directed by Sidney Lumet, one of my favourite filmmakers, and adapted from an Agatha Christie novel. It was only recently that I had my first encounter with noted Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, having enjoyed a few television episodes with David Suchet in the title role. Finney's Poirot is perhaps too much of a caricature, emphasising the cartoonish silliness of the character rather than the quiet superiority found in Suchet's portrayal (however, I'm not familiar with Christie's novel, and perhaps he was simply written that way). Nevertheless, the remainder of the ensemble cast provides stellar support.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.
Ultimately, 'Murder on the Orient Express' is a mildly entertaining, if unremarkable, caper. I'd recommend it to fans of the genre, and those who enjoy the company of good cast and good production values, but it was not a film that changed my perspective on the genre. It was just too long, with too much going on, and not enough of what I consider to be the essential ingredients for a story.
The DVD includes the original theatrical trailer and some bonus features, including the 1974 CBS TV movie 'Murder, She Wrote' in which Poirot solves a murder aboard the same train, and the 1966 'Murder by Death' in which Poirot and Miss Marple (in the role of the elderly Detective Superintendent Arthur Field) track a killer from a village to a crowded city, to a desolate American desert. Another bonus feature is a clip from the 1988 'Murder by Death' in which Poirot and Marple work together against a serial killer.'Murder on the Orient Express' is available from Amazon.com. 827ec27edc