Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Murder on the Orient Express--Hollywood at what it does best
I just finished a film version of Agatha Cristie's Murder on the Orient Express--the 1974 version. I'm not going to do a summary or analysis of the plot or even a comparison of the film to the book. Others have done that, numerous times, so I'm just going to do a very short commentary here on some trifles.
What I enjoyed most about the film was the cast--the cast--the cast. In an interview, somebody--the producer? the director?--said that they weren't going to do a tight little black-and-white British mystery. They were going to do a real glamour job on it--an Hollywood big picture, expensive, marvelous costumes and sets, star-studded cast, and all the trimmings. They did it and then some.
The film score is excellent and provides an excellent example of what they tried to do and succeeded in doing. In an early scene, we see the train pulling out of the station at night. The steam from the engine provides a foggy atmosphere. And the music and sound effects? It isn't the expected sound of the driving wheels, and the music doesn't provide that sense of imminent danger ahead--something bad is going to happen. NO! What we get is a waltz! The train pulls out of the station and chugs through the countryside to a Viennese Waltz, perhaps even a variation on a Strauss waltz. The feeling is that of a vacation, a fairyland trip, almost a musical.
Well, that's all I'm going to say about the film itself--now here's a list of the cast.
Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot
Sir John Gielgud
I couldn't recognize Albert Finney because of his makeup. And Ingrid Bergman? One of the actors in an interview talked about sitting in the makeup room next to Ingrid Bergman who was being "deglamorized." --his term and very appropriate.
Sir John Gielgud--the consummate professional--does more with a look and syllable than most with a long monologue. At one point, Gielgud, who plays a butler in the film, has just been questioned by Poirot, and as he leaves, one of the others present says very seriously, "The butler did it." Gielgud, as he leaves the room, turns his head and with a sneer utters one syllable of a contemptuous sound. Gielgud's butler is superior to everyone there, and he lets everyone know it.
Great film--lots of fun--go see it, perhaps with a glass of champagne. That's what I'm going to do the next time I watch it.