Just the name "Orient Express" conjures images of a bygone era. Add an all-star cast (including Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, and Lauren Bacall, to name a few) and Agatha Christie's delicious plot and ho... more »w can you go wrong? Particularly if you add in Albert Finney as Christie's delightfully persnickety sleuth, Hercule Poirot. Someone has knocked off nasty Richard Widmark on this train trip and, to Poirot's puzzlement, everyone seems to have a motive--just the setup for a terrific whodunit. Though it seems like an ensemble film, director Sidney Lumet gives each of his stars their own solo and each makes the most of it. Bergman went so far as to win an Oscar for her role. But the real scene-stealer is the ever-reliable Finney as the eccentric detective who never misses a trick. --Marshall Fine« less
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 09/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Agatha Christie's mysteries changed the genre. With twists, turns and credible watertight plotting her novels divorced themselves from the hackneyed conventions of the genre. Sidney Lumet's superb film of Christie's novel looks marvelous on this deluxe DVD from Paramount. The rich, colorful cinematographer of Geoffrey Unsworth ("2001: A Space Odyssey") looks terrific. Lumet's assured hand guides the film without hesitation to a truly stunning conclusion. Paramount has remastered the soundtrack for Dolby Digital 5.1 giving the sound a richer feel than previous video editions of the movie. While it doesn't quite convey the detail one might hear in a brand new movie, it does a great job of improving an already great mystery movie.
After working on a case, Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney) travels home on the Orient Express hoping for a relaxing journey. Instead, when the train is caught in the show he's drawn into a mystery on the very train he's traveling on. A millionaire named Ratchett (Richard Widmark) has been brutally murdered. Who could the murderer be and what was his or her motive? Poirot must work this out and discover which of the train's passengers committed the crime. He discovers an unusual link between the millionaire and many of the passengers on the train. Is this the vital link that will help him solve the crime?
Featuring a stellar all cast of Hollywood and London stage and screen veterans, "Murder on the Orient Express" chugs along on the charm of the performers, a solid script by Paul Dehn ("The Spy Who Came in the Cold", "Goldfinger", "Beneath the Planet of the Apes") and outstanding direction by Sidney Lumet ("The Verdict", "Deathtrap", "Network", "Prince of the City"). The casting is a bit unusual. While Albert Finney probably wouldn't be most fan's first choice for Poirot, he gives a marvelous performance as Agatha Christie's detective. I've read reviews criticizng Finney's performance and, while he may not be the "ideal" Poirot his interpretation is unique and works perfectly for this film.
I'm pleasantly surprised that Paramount has sprung for all the extras here. We get a documentary that can be viewed all at once or by segments. The documentary features interviews with Sidney Lumet, producers John Brabourne, Sean Connery, Jacqueline Bisset, Michael York, Richard Goodwin, writer-director Nicholas Meyer ("Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn", The Seven Percent Solution) and the grandson of Agatha Christie discussing the hard road to producing the film. Evidently, Christie reluctantly agreed to give the rights to the film to the producers at first but was won over when she found out that producer Brabourne had worked on "Tales of Beatrix Potter". Lumet comments on the difficulty in having Finney play Poirot as he was too young for the role (Alec Guinness and Paul Scofield were Lumet's first and second choices). The marvels of make up helped sell Finney in the role and the fact that he played against audience expectations worked for him in the role. Lumet recounts a funny story where the cast got together to read the script together the first time couldn't hear the cast. Why? Because the stage actors were in awe of the theater actors and vice versa. Lumet's challenge was honing an acting style that was consistent between all the very different performers. "Murder" is one of those few mysteries that live up to its potential despite considerable odds against it doing so. It's clear that the cast respect and love Lumet-how else to explain Connery, Bisset and York agreeing to appear in a documentary on the making of the film for the DVD? There's also a discussion of the real life inspiration for part of the story-the Lindbergh kidnapping. Another marvelous documentary by the talented Laurent Bouzereau, his work has become the standard against which all other writer/producer/directors of extras on DVDs should be measured. His work here as on "Duel", "E.T." and other DVDs continues the tradition of digging up the past to enlighten those of us who couldn't possibly have been there.
"Agatha Christie: A Portrait" gives us insight into the mysterious life of the elusive novelist. We're also told almost as much about her most famous creation Poirot who appears almost as elusive as the novelist herself. This eight minute featurette puts a human face on a remarkable mystery novelist who helped reinvent the genre. We also get the original theatrical trailer which demonstrates how much work went into restoring and transferring this beautifully shot film. Smudged with loads of analog blemishes, the comparison between the trailer and the film indicates the great work that went into improving this film for DVD. There's no commentary track but Lumet's insightful observations in the documentary more than make up for the lack of such a track.
Beautifully restored with enhanced sound, "Murder on the Orient Express" probably didn't look this good when it showed in theaters in 1974. The outstanding international cast of screen and stage veterans along with Dehn's sharp adaptation and Lumet's assured direction makes "Murder" one of the best films made from one of Christie's convoluted mystery novels. It's a joy to watch.
Excellent whodunnit with a surprising twist
Darren Harrison | Washington D.C. | 07/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To me the definitive Hercule Poirot will always be Peter Ustinov, but in 1974 Albert Finney tackled the role in this excellent adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel of the same name and the movie continues to this day as one of my very favorite whodunnit's - thank goodness it is finally making its way to DVD. Starring a cast that is simply incredible this movie set the standard for the Ustinov star studded movies that would follow (starting with 1978's DEATH ON THE NILE). Included on the list of stars are such names as Sean Connery, Jacqueline Bisset, Sir John Gielgud, Richard Widmark, Vanessa Redgrave, Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Perkins. Aboard the Orient Express a businessman (played by Widmark) with a mysterious past is murdered in the middle of the night. Desperate to resolve the matter before they arrive at the next major stop on the line (to avoid a lengthy police investigation) Hercule Poirot is persuaded by an executive for the train company to begin his own investigation. An avalanche over the line gives Poirot plenty of time to interview all the passengers and make his conclusions as to the guilty party (or parties). When Finney's Poirot faces off with the fellow passengers and describes his account of how the murder was committed and by whom you will be amazed - astounded. It's this very element and the star power of this movie that carries this intriguing mystery far above the standard whodunnit fare. The movie is well plotted, the acting beyond reproach and the direction steady and inspired. MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS is a triumph in every respect, and when you consider it takes it's story from the worlds most read and respected mystery author it's not difficult to see why."
Elegant, stylish murder mystery...
Wayne Klein | 09/02/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"...but turn on the closed captioning, because as one reviewer pointed out Albert Finney's heavy accent and often garbled speech could try anyone's comprehension, not to mention patience. But Finney is still excellent, though he falls short of David Suchet, who is the quintessential Hercule Poirot.But enough about that. They rarely make films this lavishly entertaining anymore. "Murder on the Orient Express" is visually striking to say the least; the Orient Express and its various set pieces are magnificently rendered, and at no small expense either. The all-star cast is impressive; from Lauren Bacall's scene-stealing American chatterbox to Anthony Perkins' disturbing, PSYCHO-reminiscent secretary, the cast list adds emphasis to the idea of the house-party whodunit. The film is, essentially, a Hollywood party on a grand scale.Although the film is sluggish at times and the unraveling of Agatha Christie's labyrinthine plot doesn't work as well on the screen as it does on paper, this is still great fun, the perfect Saturday night movie for viewers who like a dose of wit and intelligence with their entertainment."
On the Whole, Excellent
Darren Harrison | 12/12/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This classic 1974 film is, for the most part, an excellent adaptation of Agatha Christie's most famous novel, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, which stars Hercule Poirot as the ingenious yet slightly egotistical little Belgian detective. The cast is filled with distinguished actors: Albert Finney, Ingrid Bergman, Dame Wendy Hiller, Lauren Bacall, Michael York, Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Connery, Richard Widmark, and many more. I must state right away that I don't care for Finney's interpretation of Poirot. Perhaps I am simply biased, having been "brought up" on David Suchet's refined, humorous, yet never ridiculous characterization, which strikes me as definitive. The rest of the actors play their parts to perfection. Particular standouts for me include Martin Balsam as Poirot's Italian friend, Bianchi (Balsam's Italian accent is wonderful; one would never guess that the actor was in fact Jewish and from The Bronx) and Sir John Gielgud, very witty as the murdered man's butler (!) Anthony Perkins is outstanding as the murdererd man's secretary, a more sympathetic Norman Bates. Sidney Lumet's direction is, of course, beyond criticism. The elegant yet cramped atmosphere of the train is ideally conveyed, while such sequences as the opening, the discovery of the murder victim, and the flashback-reenactment of the murder are stunningly effective. You should watch this if you want to see a filmed version of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. However, I would suggest also watching any of the "Poirot" episodes to experience David Suchet's interpretation of the title character."
A Classy Whodunit
James L. | 04/07/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Murder on the Orient Express is one of Agatha Christie's most famous stories, and in this film it is brought to life by an amazing cast. Businessman Richard Widmark is found dead with multiple stab wounds while aboard the famous train, and it's up to passenger and detective extraordinaire Hercule Poirot, played by Albert Finney, to solve the crime while everyone waits for the tracks to be uncovered from fallen snow. Surprisingly, my only criticism of the film is the lead performance by Finney, which is mannered, difficult to understand at times, and not at all what I picture Poirot as being like, having read a number of Christie's books. The rest of the cast is terrific, with special praise going to Ingrid Bergman and Wendy Hiller. The final scenes of revelation are very well done, and whether or not you already know the story and solution to the crime, I think you will find this movie to be very entertaining."