★★★★★ Murder on the Orient Express is a masterclass of the genre with the classiest cast ever assembled.
It doesn’t take a famed (and fictitious) Belgian Detective with majestic facial hair to deduce that the timely reissue of some classic adaptations of Agatha Christie’s work is hitting the shelves shortly before Kenneth Branagh’s lavish remake of Murder on the Orient Express docks in cinemas.
If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, the title pretty much sums up what’s going on, a murder takes place on renowned locomotive The Orient Express. Happily, world-famous detective and moustache enthusiast Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney) is onboard and puts his little grey cells to use to smoke out the killer.
Director Sydney Lumet assembles a glitzy cast of noted actors such as Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Wendy Hiller, Michael York, Jacqueline Bisset, and Anthony Perkins. For some, Finney’s eccentric performance is over the top, while he does chew the occasional piece of scenery, Finney’s portrayal won him an Oscar nomination for his troubles. Bergman won for Best Supporting Actress, although I’m still unsure why Bacall, Redgrave and Bisset were largely absent from any awards nominations.
The trouble with many of Christie’s work is that they feel more at home on a stage. MOTOE is no exception, For all the exquisite cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth, the single location setting does make it difficult to escape the confines of a play like structure. However, today’s movie landscape is filled with giant productions and a lack of dialogue and character-driven stories, so there is something oddly refreshing about an old-fashioned murder mystery.
I’m a huge fan of Albert Finney, but (you knew there would be a but here) I grew up watching David Suchet as Poirot and continued to do so until the adaptation of Christie’s final book Curtain. For me, it’s impossible to think of Poirot and not see Suchet, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change.
For a film that’s over forty years old, Murder on the Orient Express remains a masterclass of murder mystery with the classiest cast ever assembled. The newly restored release contains nearly an hour of new bonus features including an interview with producer Richard Goodwin. If you don’t already own it, add Murder on the Orient Express to your collection today.
Kenneth Branagh’s version arrives in cinemas on November 10.