This past month, film critics and bloggers were treated to the first look at the Kenneth Branagh Murder on the Orient Express. Like the 1974 movie, it’s stylish, mostly faithful to the book and featuring an all-star cast including Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penélope Cruz, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, and Derek Jacobi.
The movie is scheduled to come out for the Christmas season: Nov. 11.
A few thoughts:
1. Love the Poirot look. David Suchet was the perfect Poirot, just as William Gillette was the perfect Holmes. What I want to see is another artist’s interpretation.
Doesn’t mean I’m going to love all of them. When MGM held the rights to several of Christie’s books in the ‘50s, they turned out movies that were so far off book that Christie demanded the rights back. Who could blame her? Novels usually had one shot at the silver screen. If it failed, it could take decades before another studio or director would try again.
For “The Alphabet Murders,” MGM put in charge Frank Tashlin – a comedy director who helmed a Martin and Lewis movie. Then they hired Tony Randall to play Poirot and Robert Morley to play ex-military man Hastings and Anita Eckberg as the femme fatale. The result was movie in which more time was spent treating Poirot as comic relief, and (as you can see in the clip), getting laughs out of watching him get dressed, or encountering Miss Marple (Margaret Rutherford) than the story.
To hear Randall’s horrid accent – “You URRRED [errored], Hastings! You URRRED!” – you can feel Christie squirming in her seat.
2. The internet’s already having fun with the song at the end of the trailer. Apparently, Imagine Dragon’s “Believer” was deemed not appropriate, and one YouTuber suggested alternatives. Unfortunately, the results aren’t that interesting. It’s a repeat of the scene revealing Poirot, with a new song from rap and country genres overlaid. Not that amusing after the first time.
3. The trailer spurred me to look for any other versions of “Orient Express.” I knew about the 1974 Albert Finney adaptation, and of course Suchet got his shot at it.
What I didn’t know about was the part Japanese version that aired in two parts on television. Poirot is played much broader than usual, but a look at IMDB shows that it was well-received.
There was also a 2001 version starring Alfred Molina that was less well-received. Christie fans knew at its beginning what they were in for when Poirot, solving the murder of a belly dancer at an Istanbul nightclub, receives a marriage proposal from its beautiful owner.
4. For those looking for background information, I highly recommend the IGN article on the first publicity campaign for “Orient Express,” with quotes from Branagh and James Pritchard, Christie’s great-grandson.