I am coming at you today with a book review as well as not one, not two but three reviews on the three film adaptations of said book! Yeah, I said it. This post, as you can already tell by the title, will be a review of Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. I love Agatha Christie! She is considered to be the mother of detective fiction (Edgar Allen Poe is considered the father). Let’s get started!
Famous Belgian Detective Hercule Poirot is traveling on the Orient Express for London when the train is stopped due to unforeseen weather conditions. At the same time a passenger is mysteriously murdered. It is up to Poirot to solve the case and present an explanation to the police.
Let me start by saying…you do not see the ending coming. AT. ALL! You think it’s one person, then you think it’s someone else until you find out it was completely different from what you were expecting. At least for me. It is so incredibly complex nobody would readily believe it. In addition, watching Poirot solve this crime is incredible. In a way one could compare him to Sherlock Holmes. I give the book a 5/5.
My favorite adaptation of the novel was the original created in 1974. It had Sean Connery, Lauren Becall and Ingrid Bergman. Bergman’s character of Greta Ohlsson was so good she received an Academy Award for best supporting actress. Honestly, I didn’t think her portrayal was all that spectacular but apparently the Academy committee did. Aside from a few name changes here and there and one particular scene, the movie was pretty consistent with the book. Same with character descriptions. I will say Albert Finney’s portrayal of Poirot was not only spot on but he stood out. Poirot is described as being funny-looking and egg shaped with a huge mustache and Finney perfectly fit that description. He also displayed Poirot’s eccentricities with gusto. I give this movie a 4/5.
My second favorite would be the recent adaption from 2017. Kenneth Branagh not only played Poirot but he directed the movie as well. There were different characterizations than the book. Colonel Arbuthnot was a doctor and black (although he was still English), Greta Ohlsson’s character was changed to Pillar Estavados and was Spanish instead of Swedish and Antonio Foscarelli was changed to a Latin man named Marquez. With the times changing, I believe Branagh wanted to include more minorities in the story. In the orginal, the only minority was Foscarelli and he’s Italian. That or he wanted certain actors in his movie despite the fact that they didn’t match the character descriptions. I’m leaning more towards the former. I will say this version of the movie leaned on racial profiling than Christie’s book did. Without spoilers I will there were a few times where the characters were accused of the crime because of their ethnicity. There was one scene with Arbuthnot and his encounter with Poirot that bothered me. You’ll now it when you see it. Also, Branagh’s Poirot looked nothing like Christie’s description, except for the huge mustache. And that bothered me as well. I give this movie a 3/5.
Finally, the least favorite film adaptation goes to TV movie version starring Alfred Molina as Poirot. The main problem was that it tried too hard to be different. Instead of it being set in the 1930s it was set in 2001, the same year it was made. In it, Poirot has a girlfriend, the villain was being threatened with a videotape instead of a letter, 3 out of the 12 original characters were omitted, there were software developers and fitness trainers…it just didn’t work! I get the urge to want to be different and rework the original story into something else but it didn’t pan put well. Molina’s Poirot was different as well. He was dark-haired but his mustache was a pretty normal, reasonable size and Molina is tall, not short. I give it a 2/5.
So there you have it. My take on the book and the three adaptions. There is a PBS series called Poirot that did emerge in the 1980s. I excluded that because I have not seen it. But check that out as well
Until next time!