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?