Poirot At His On-Screen Finest In “Murder On The Orient Express”

Sidney Lumet directs this star-studded adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic novel Murder on the Orient Express with the brilliant Albert Finney in the role of Poirot…

murder-on-the-orient-express_posterBased on the acclaimed mystery novel by Agatha Christie, this 1974 film adaptation sees the Orient Express get stuck in the snow during heavy weather. Overnight one of the passengers – the millionaire Ratchett – is repeatedly stabbed to death 12 times. As a result, the famous detective Hercule Poirot is on hand to find out who murdered him and why, leading him down a web of treachery and deceit. You immediately buy into the story through the performances, and they are brilliant all round. Albert Finney, who plays Poirot himself, is the most impressive out of the large ensemble cast, largely because he is so into that character, we can never for a moment believe that it really is Finney playing him. His beady and suspicious eyes are like laser beams scurrying around, his hair is slicked down to a polished shine, his French moustache is constantly quivering with alarm, and he scurries up and down the train like a paranoid crab.

Even the supporting cast are clearly having a blast with the roles they have, whether it’s big or small. Martin Balsam is fun to watch as the Express’ director and Poirot’s sidekick on the case, Ingrid Bergman delivers an Oscar-winning performance as a missionary looking to fund her work in Africa, Anthony Perkins plays Norman Bates’ twin brother who also has a mother fixation and a compelling facial tic, Wendy Hiller is clearly having a ball playing a contagious Russian royalist, Lauren Bacall over does it of course but who cares, Rachel Roberts is excellent, and so on.

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Sidney Lumet, a director best known for delving into the realms of hardboiled fiction, brings out something that is terse and edgy in the convolutions of its plot. He creates an atmospheric and thought-provoking whodunit story that, despite its many twists and turns, manages to keep you hooked into the drama, even if nearly all of it takes place on the Orient Express itself. It has, at its heart, a simple conceit, which is that a murder happens on a train and the detective has to find out who it is. It’s a classic whodunit conceit that works brilliantly on the screen, and it is known that some film adaptations of Agatha Christie’s work became the subject of criticism, not least from Christie herself, but Lumet manages to capture the spirit of her work and shows it in pure cinematic fashion.

You are instantly drawn into the interrogations Poirot performs on the suspects of the murder, and one by one, you are constantly trying to piece everything together to see how the murder was all played out. It then culminates into a spectacular final confrontation where Poirot brings everyone together and gathers his various theories to deliver his final explanation. Finney masterfully dominates the scene and it is a truly tense and cinematic moment. The movie itself is like a Swiss watch: you are constantly trying to work out how pieces and cogs fit together like any “whodunit” story, and you are having a blast throughout.

Told in high style, Murder on the Orient Express is a loving salute to an earlier period of filmmaking, full of style and panache that is delivered by the entire cast, with Finney dominating the entire show with a knockout performance.

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Written by Ryan Pollard

murder-on-the-orient-express_posterDirected by: Sidney Lumet
Written by: Paul Dehn
Starring: Albert Finney, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Anthony Perkins, Sir John Gielgud, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Michael York, Jacqueline Bisset, Wendy Hiller, Rachel Roberts, Sean Connery, Vanessa Redgrave
Released: 1974 / Genre: Drama/Thriller / Country: UK / IMDB

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Own Murder on the Orient Express along with Death on the Nile and Evil Under The Sun in the newly released Poirot blu-ray box set.

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Box Set Details:

The collection brings to life three of Agatha Christie’s best-known novels, with Albert Finney marking the beginning of Poirot’s on screen journey along with Ingrid Bergman (CASABLANCA) who gives an Oscar® winning performance in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. DEATH ON THE NILE sees Peter Ustinov step into Finney’s shoes to great acclaim. Four years later, Ustinov reprises the role alongside some of Britain’s best-loved actresses Jane Birkin, Dame Maggie Smith and Diana Rigg in EVIL UNDER THE SUN.

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974)
Elegant, all star production introducing ALBERT FINNEY as the first screen Hercule Poirot. A no-good American tycoon lies dead with twelve dagger wounds, but which of the passengers is the guilty party? This classic includes an Oscar® winning performance from Ingrid Bergman. R/T: 127 mins approx

DEATH ON THE NILE (1978)
A visually sumptuous and quintessentially British production, Death on the Nile won an Oscar® for Anthony Powell’s costume design and introduced PETER USTINOV in his first portrayal as the Belgian detective Poirot. Aboard a luxury Nile steamer a mystery assassin takes the life of an heiress. R/T: 140 mins approx

EVIL UNDER THE SUN (1982)
A star-studded cast heads this Agatha Christie story of one man’s efforts to fathom the mysterious death at a resort hotel in the Mediterranean. Starring PETER USTINOV as Hercule Poirot, the film also stars JANE BIRKIN, DIANA RIGG and MAGGIE SMITH. R/T: 116 mins approx

Blu-Ray Tech specs:
Cert: PG / Total Feature Running Time: 383 mins approx / Region B / HD standard 1080p / Feature Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/ Colour / Mono 2.0 LPCM / English Language / Cat No: OPTBD2480 / RRP: £ 34.99

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About the Author
Ryan Pollard is a former student of Animation at the University of Huddersfield.

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    ruth Reply

    This sounds excellent! Never seen an Agatha Christie adaptation before but w/ Sidney Lumet at the helm and Finney as Poirot, it’s gotta be good!

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