Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Christie's novel--The Murder on the Orient Express--and the BBC Version with David Suchet

Agatha Christie:  Murder on the Orient Express, the novel
 Murder on the Orient Express,  a BBC dramatization with David Suchet
Murder on the Orient Express (1974), see earlier post

A short time ago I watched the BBC dramatization with David Suchet, after having seen the 1974 film.   I don't remember reading the novel, and perhaps that's what I should do next.

The two do differ in certain respects.  One difference between the two film versions is that Suchet's Poirot suffers through much more of a moral/ethical/professional struggle at the end than does Finney in the 1974 version, or so it struck me. 
I've only watched a few of the Suchet versions, and it struck me that this was the darkest interpretation of Poirot that I had seen in the past, and it actually begins at the beginning. The two incidents prior to boarding the train certainly affects him very strongly and probably plays a significant role in his decision at the end.

Unlike the 1974 version, the music and soundtrack are very traditional, the music suggesting the turning of the wheels and danger ahead.  Another difference is the length of the films.  The 1974 version was 127 minutes long while the BBC version with David Suchet is only 89 minutes in length.  What was lost in those 40 minutes?   Several of the interviews never happened as Poirot supposedly relies on his memory of the kidnapping of Daisy Armstrong.

Several Weeks Later

I just finished reading the novel, probably for the first time as all of my memories of it come from the two films.  I could find little difference between the novel and the 1974 version of it, aside, of course, for the tone of the film.  The BBC version, of course, dropped some of the interviews, probably  because of  the length of the work.

Aside from the difference in  tone and the coverage of the novel, one other difference between the two films is Poirot's reaction at the end when he deceives the police as to his solution of the crime.  After having read the novel, I must conclude that the 1974 version is actually closer to the novel than is the BBC version, in which Poirot clearly is upset at his choice.  In the novel, he merely says which version he will give to the police and lets it go at that.  Perhaps other readers can find evidence that suggests he is very upset over his decision, and if so, I would appreciate being shown this in the novel.

This seldom happens, but I prefer the earlier 1974 version to the BBC adaptation.  


  1. I am left with one solution: I will read the novel and comment (respond) later. Your compare/contrast assessment is very astute. More will follow when I finish the novel.

  2. R.T.,

    OK, waiting to hear from you.

  3. Fred, the Christie is #4 on my priority list, so you might be waiting for a few days (weeks) until I finish a Donna Leon, a Michael Connelly, and Genesis. And by this afternoon, when my Swiss-cheese setting-sun mind probably gets distracted by other thing, the authors and numbers might change again. How is that for a mixed bag of confusion!

  4. R.T.,

    I thought everybody functions this way--I know I do.

  5. Fred: Nice commentary. I have just recently discovered Poirot (Suchet's) myself. I really enjoy him. Suchet said he wouldn't have accepted the part since it was so different from his normal fare (Shakespeare) but he admired Poirot's ethics and personna so much he decided to take on the part. I personally like his interpretation.

  6. Sharon,

    While I'm not one of Poirot's greatest fans (I've seen a number of film versions, but have read few of the novels), Suchet has probably become the defining Poirot for me, much as Jeremy Brett has become the defining Sherlock Holmes or Joan Hickson THE Miss Marple, of who I am an admiring fan. .

    1. Fred: I agree with you about Jeremy Brett. I've read and reread all of Doyle's Holmes stories and Brett personifies Sherlock.
      I've not seen or read any Miss Marple. I need to watch her next.

    2. Sharon,

      There are probably as many Miss Marples around as there are Poirot, but I never really was interested until I happened to see Joan Hickson. That got me interested in reading all of the novels and short stories.