Saturday, April 9, 2011

And Then There Were None

René Clair, 1945, bw (8.6*)
This would have to be considered the definitive film of any Agatha Christie mystery novel. Other than changing the ending (yes!), the rest of this black and white classic is very close to her original novel Ten Little Indians (the title was changed to be more 'politically correct').

Ten seemingly random people, including a judge and a doctor, are invited to a remote island as guests of a mysterious Mr. U.N. Own (unknown, get it?). The island appears deserted, and a recording is played at dinner from the missing host, accusing them each of murder. Immediately, one of them is dead, and the game has begun. The guests begin to die one by one, while the remaining guests each accuse each other of being the killer, perhaps even the missing host.

Of course, if you know Christie, then you know the plot hinges usually on one unexpected twist that the reader (filmgoer in this case) will guess about until revealed at the end. This was one of the best of her novels (The Murder of Roger Akroyd being the other), and her fans and mystery fans in general will enjoy this film, even if their suspicions are correct.

The cast includes Oscar winners Walter Huston and Barry Fitzgerald, and also veteran character actors Misha Auer, Roland Young, C. Aubrey Smith, Roland Young, Louis Hayward, and Judith Anderson. This won best film at the 1946 Locarno Film Festival, it's only award.

There's actually a newer updated version from Russia, made in 1987. Some say it's more faithful to the novel, including the original ending; others say it's more ponderous and the subtitling gets out of sync.

Another good filming of a Christie novel is Billy Wilder's Witness For the Prosecution, which we will review later.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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