Sidney Lumet . Release Date: Nov 22, 1974. DVD Release Date: Sep 07, 2004.
****REPOSTED FROM THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH NEW COMMENTS/EDITS****
Like many of the works that sprang from the mind of the great Ms.
Christie, this is dated, but still enjoyable. I don't necessarily think
that "dated" is a terrible thing, but I do think that with the right
cast, this could be remade and still be enjoyable.
A lot of the problems that are built in to this movie come from its
inspiration, which is arguably one of the best examples of British
mystery writing EVER. If I was watching this in 1974, I'd have fewer
negative responses, but here's what I picked up that I found moderately
disturbing: the treatment of non-white characters, even extras, is
pretty abysmal. There's a whole discussion about "little brown babies"
that is so filled with white man's burden-esque issues that I'm thinking
it would have had to be edited when they redid this for TV in the early
00s. Agatha Christie has her own formula, and once you figure it out,
you can ruin something unfamiliar for yourself (and others, if you
happen to watching this with someone else). Numbers are a common thing
in her works: Three, Three Blind Mice, Ten Little Indians (which was renamed at least once before its name was changed to And Then There Were None
to avoid censure from PC militias with their usual 20/20 hindsight) and
this is no exception. There also is some discussion of the
"justifiable" homicide, which I think went out of the legal defense book
in this country maybe 50 years ago. It was a bit uncomfortable to
watch. My final complaint was why Wendy Miller's character (the
princess) constantly looked like her milliner was raiding sets from The Birds in order to get her done up.
I did love this movie though, despite the occasionally awful things that
people would say because of the wonderful time warp that movies can
create around us. Watching some very familiar faces at the top of their
game was great. At this point in time, for instance, Vanessa Redgrave
looks eerily like her daughter, Joely Richardson. Jacqueline Bisset and
Ingrid Bergman both give really great performances, and these are
actors that we rarely hear about. But really, this ensemble cast would
have been a tour de force back in the day.
The story is an amazing whodunit of the type we rarely see in the modern
era. There are a number of red herrings, including some that turn out
to be not red herrings, and truth be told, I missed a few. There is a
large portion of this movie where I didn't have a clue. There's even a
clue that when it was presented, I was griping about why someone would
think they could suspend disbelief to that extent and had thrown it away
as just a coincidence when it turned out to be vital. So, I guess you
could say that when I finally got a clue, it turned out to be mostly
wrong. This is the kind of film M. Night Shyamalan should be watching
if he wants to produce anything of real quality after… Signs. I'll give him that.