Friday, 25 April 2014

Murder on the Orient Express

1974 - Dir.: Sidney Lumet - 2 hours 8 minutes
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 26th April, 2014

It has to be admitted that at one time this film was never off the telly. However, those of us who saw it in the cinema have always felt that the small screen really didn’t do it justice. It’s a big film, made with big money, with big stars, big music and big acting - hardly the sort of thing to be confined to a box in the living room. Now, like so many pre-loved classics, it’s been dusted off, cleaned up and digitally restored to its sparkly, glossy bigness and is fit to dazzle us on the big screen once more.
It’s set 1934 - at a time where the very rich live a charmed existence born along on a fluffy cloud of luxury - or, in this case, in a fluffy train of luxury - untroubled by any thoughts of the poverty and strife endured by the lower orders (nothing changes!). It might be sacrilege to suggest that Agatha Christie was a snob but, let’s face it, she was. Servants and working folk are always “colourful” and quirky and quite often are proved conveniently to be the murderer (thus allowing the nobs to carry on with their carousing unhindered by the hangman’s noose). This story is perhaps her most socialist - we shan’t mention the reason lest there are any of you who have never read the book or seen the film. Let’s just say it’s an equal opportunity murder.
One of the enduring delights of this movie is the lush score by Richard Rodney Bennett. It was originally intended to do it on the cheap and get Bennett to arrange some 1930s tunes for the soundtrack. Bennett, a classical composer who loved jazz, persuaded the director to let him compose an original score. The composer wrote many film scores and one of the last was for “Four Weddings and a Funeral”.
The 84-year-old Agatha Christie attended the movie premiere in November of 1974. It was the only film adaptation in her lifetime that she was completely satisfied with. She felt that Albert Finney's performance came closest to her idea of Poirot though she hated his moustache.

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