Film & Water #117 – Murder on the Orient Express



Just before Kenneth Branagh’s remake rolls into theaters, Rob welcomes back Chuck Colletta to discuss 1974’s MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, directed by Sidney Lumet starring Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins, Richard Widmark, and many more!

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15 responses to “Film & Water #117 – Murder on the Orient Express

    1. In our conversation there was one item that I failed to mention. I know what a fan of Gene Tierney that Rob & some of his listeners are. Well, just as Christie used the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case as the basis for her MOTOE plot she used a tragic incident from Tierney’s personal life for another mystery novel: The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (1962). I won’t reveal any more as that would spoil the book’s ending. This Christie mystery was adapted into a 1980 film with another all-star cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Kim Novak, Tony Curtis, Geraldine Chaplin, & Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple:

  1. I was shocked to find I had correctly remembered the resolution of the film! I watched it on TV with my Mom probably 30 years ago, but I still recalled the ending! I need to go back and watch this again with adult eyes.

    Great discussion fellas! Always nice to hear from Chuck!


    1. If you guys need somebody to talk the “diseased maniac” section for Superman Movie Minuet let me know. I’m disgustingly available. I love starting my week with some Superman talk.

  2. Great show and discussion. I am on the fence about seeing the new version because I love this one so much. This is one of those ‘Dad movies’ that I watched at some point with him, loved then, and love now.

    Every so often, when I am in a conversation or a meeting where a problem is being discussed and where there is no easy answer or everything is unclear, I will say in an awful Poirot ‘Perhaps the very train itself is the murderer!’ I often get blank stares.

    I would say about 5 years ago. this was on TCM and I watched it with my oldest daughter who was around 13 at the time. She didn’t know the ending. To see her face when the mystery is solved was just fantastic. For that moment, I will always cherish this movie and that memory.

  3. My wife is a big Agatha Christie fan, and I’ve been a fan of Kenneth Branagh since I first saw him in his 1989 film adaptation of Henry V. So it’s a safe bet that we’ll be seeing the new Murder on the Orient Express at some point.

    I believe I saw the 1974 version of Orient Express as a youngster, when it aired on TV one time. I remember little of the film beyond the fact that I saw it, and the incredible cast would have been lost on me at the time (with the exception of Sean Connery). I guess that means I’m overdue for a second viewing.

    Finally, I have to admit that David Suchet will always be my Hercule Poirot. After following him in the role on TV for 25 years (1989-2013), it’s always a little strange for me to see someone else playing the Belgian detective, even if it’s Finney or Branagh. That being said, I am curious to see what Branagh brings to the character and the story.

    1. There is a significant change to the ending in the Suchet version. Apparently, he grew more religious over the years and was uncomfortable with the finale’s morality. He insisted on a final speech with Poirot condemning the killer(s) for taking the law into their own hands and committing murder.

      1. Thanks, Chuck. I remembered that Suchet’s Poirot took a more condemning attitude towards the murderers, but I never realized that was at Suchet’s own insistence.

  4. For me the additional great thing about this cast (besides stellar performances) was that it made figuring out the mystery all the tougher. Casting can often inadvertently serve as a clues for viewers sometimes. If you have a suspect pool with a bunch of unknowns and one or two big names you know those people are going to be important. Maybe it’s because they did it, maybe it’s because they give the vital clue, maybe they’re the next victim but you KNOW that the biggest name in the supporting cast is somebody who matters. But when you stack the cast like this, that throws that rule completely out the window. And while I’ve heard mixed things about the new version I think that the cast captures that same thing. Perhaps nobody has the pure stature of Bacall or Connery (because nobody ever could) but they are all on comparable levels through a mix of established character actors, up and comers and aging icons.

  5. Saw the Branagh version last night. It starts out somewhat promising but ends up getting derailed (ugh! I stooped to the old cliche!), I was really looking forward to this remake but it lacks the wit, charm, sophistication, & some of the vital clues from the novel/Lumet film. I hate to be the old crank saying that the previous version was better, but it is in my opinion. If this new version is successful, I wouldn’t be surprised if Branagh returns for “Death on the Nile” which they set up at the end.

  6. Well I’m going to disagree with Chuck on the 2017 version.

    The 1974 film is much more faithful to Christie’s novel, no question. And the third act – the solution and our seeing the murder – is absolutely perfect. Gold standard of Agatha Christie adaptations.

    The 2017 film can’t match that, but I don’t think it matters because the focus is less on the mechanics of the murder and its solving, and more on creating a version of Poirot that has an interior life, that is more haunted and complex (and funny, and his French is better than Finney’s terrible mangling of my language), and that you want to follow to other films (so I do hope Death on the Nile is on the horizon). This version actually ends on an ethical dilemma, which may not be in the book, but makes Poirot much more interesting.

    The film well knows that this mystery has perhaps the most famous solution of any mystery ever. By making many changes to the process (who the suspects are, collapsing some of the clues, even the odd action scene), it leaves the film open to changing the solution (for first time audiences). Overall, I was left with a feeling similar to watching Cumberbatch as Sherlock. Whatever that may mean to you.

    I liked how you paired up the ’74 cast (Bogey’s ladies, etc.) because there’s something similar going on in ’17 – two ppl from Fantastic Beasts, two from Star Wars, two from the Royal Shakespeare Company, etc. Not the same cred? Maybe not, but it’s fun.

  7. I think my major gripe is how pale & wan most of the suspects are. Even the great Dame Judi leaves little impression. I did like the depiction of the murder,however. I think it’s good for these mysteries to be re-presented to new/younger audiences. I just felt that Branagh was focusing too much on Poirot over the other actors.

    1. The function of putting huge stars in every role is so the audience can better make sense of who everyone is, and that’s as true of Lumet’s as it is of Brannagh’s. It’s a form of short hand. Watching both back to back (which is what I did) different characters bubble up to the surface. Though the plot details aren’t exactly the same, they sort of complement each other.

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