Murder on the Orient Express is probably THE classic Agatha Christie story, and the 1974 feature film starring Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, and Vanessa Redgrave is one of the classic screen adaptations. I saw the recent Kenneth Branagh version that I thought was acceptable, so I wanted to see how this one stacked up.
As a film? Sure, the ’74 version was fine? The opening was so heavy-handed with all the backstory on the Armstrong kidnapping that underpins the current-to-the-story murder; I suppose I wouldn’t know how that tied in if I didn’t know the story, but it was so randomly obvious. I’m never sure how comic the character of Poirot is supposed to be. I quite like Peter Ustinov’s take; Albert Finney was so unsubtle that it just felt stagey. Nothing sucked, I just didn’t feel any major emotional connection to any of the characters or story.
The costumes were designed by Tony Walton, who also did the production design, and has done a lot of both for theater; he was nominated for a costume design Oscar for his work on this film. I can’t find much info on his approach other than these thoughts on costuming Poirot/Finney:
“I costumed Albert Finney in a film role for Murder on the Orient Express that required padding, makeup, slicked-back hair, etc., to transform him into a very different character than the attractive young man he was playing at night on the London stage. I gave him a ring made from a bullet casing. He would knead the ring to remind himself that his character had a limp from a bullet wound. The right cuff links are something the audience may never be aware of, but it does help the actors, especially if they happen to be engraved with the character’s initials.” (Surfaces: Visual Research for Artists, Architects, and Designers)
The costumes do read as 1930s and not 1970s, thankfully, and were character-appropriate but not in any way that bowled me over. Again, it’s all fine?
The shots got very crowded and claustrophobic.
What’s your take on the 1974 Murder on the Orient Express? Should I have gotten more excited?
My favorite Murder on the Orient Express is the episode version starring David Suchet. The opening scenes they used made the conclusion of the episode make more sense.
Nice overview! BTW that’s Anthony Perkins as McQueen, not Anthony Hopkins.
Duh, thanks, will fix!
I prefer ALL the David Suchet versions. He truly inhabited the character. And the clothes and settings were always impeccable.
Same. David Suchet was and will always be Poirot.
Christie’s grandson claimed that Suchet was the only actor who got Poirot right.
Eh . . . I don’t agree. Not always.
Is it humanly possible for Lauren Bacall NOT to look elegant? I don’t think so.
Some of the costumes are lovely, but a bit too stylized for my tastes. And the men’s haircuts – especially for the extras – were a tad long for a 1930-1935 setting.
This was my introduction to Christie- I saw it when I was about ten. I completely fell in love with the costumes at first sight and though my parents told me to go to bed i just quitely stayed in the corner of the sofa- and in the end they let me. I loved it so much, and it was not a good idea to re-watch it a couple of years ago- I found Albert Finney’s Poirot unbearable! But I stll loved Luren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman.
I just watched this recently and thought they did a good job overall but Albert Finney’s Poirot was almost shouting his lines at the other characters! It was really over the top! And it was fun to see all of the other famous actors – Anthony Perkins’ character talking about how he loved his mother made me giggle.
David Suchet’s Poirot is my fav but I do love Peter Ustinov’s Poirot in Evil Under the Sun.
I actually saw this in the theater when it came out, I was quite young and in retrospect I don’t know WHAT my mother was thinking, I’m surprised the opening sequence didn’t give me nightmares. I still love this better than any other version, or any other Christie novel, for that matter. I thought the newest version made unnecessary changes, and I will never get over Kenneth Branagh’s ridiculous mustache! However, I did think there was some amazing camera work, especially a wonderful tracking shot of the train cars.
The costume padding was the main reason Finney didn’t return for Death on the Nile, although he was asked. He said that the padding overheated him enough while filming this…he couldn’t even BEGIN to imagine what it would be like in the hot Egyptian sun!
I’m a Suchet fan all the way!! Finney is a splendid actor as well as Branagh (crazy interpretation too over the top for me and stylized), but no one comparers to the master! Ustinov was a close second I have to admit.