1974, Movies

Murder on the Orient Express (1974, Sidney Lumet)

I think there are two things to talk about when discussing this film adaptation of¬†Murder on the Orient Express: there’s the success of the film as an adaptation of the novel and then there’s the source material, the novel itself.


I think this is a successful adaptation as far as I know. I have not read the book but, from what I have heard from people who have read the novel, it is more faithful to the novel than the 2017 film version. So, taking that on faith, I think this has to be viewed as a successful adaptation:

  • The cast is excellent, as you’ve heard. (If you haven’t heard, check out the IMDB page.) And many of the really famous ones play to their type to great effect, diverting your attention from any ulterior motives you might otherwise suspect of them. At least one of the cast members plays very against type, which is also nice.
  • It is (sort of) location shot: they film in Istanbul, which I greatly appreciated, and I guess France does a reasonable job of standing in for Serbia. And shooting on an actual train, rather than a set, really helps with the claustrophobia.
  • Lumet’s flashbacks are also interesting, as they are not the same shots as the original – including some nutty close-ups – creating a bit of a disorienting effect, which is neat and much better than actually just flashing back to earlier shots.

But, all of this is kind of aside the point.




Am I alone in thinking this twist is fucking stupid? I mean, everybody did it! It’s practically a parody of mysteries. This is a classic? What is wrong with all of you? I appreciate¬†Murder by Death so much more now that I have seen this movie. I think Neil Simon must have been thinking of this novel among a few of others when he wrote it. I mean, this is absurd. I was sitting there watching his thinking “They’re not, right? I mean, they’re not going this way, really. It’s a red herring. It must be.” But no, it wasn’t.

So, I have some questions:

  • Was this elaborate ruse all for Ratchett? If everyone except for the director of the train company and Ratchett was in on it, why the elaborate ruse? Couldn’t they have come up with something less complicated?
  • How much did they improvise once Poirot showed up? How? They were all pretending they didn’t know each other.
  • Aren’t some of these motives a little flimsy? All 13 (oops) of them wanted to murder him and were willing to go ahead with this? Really?

Sigh. I mean… I can’t believe this is one of the most famous mystery novels of the 20th century. At least I don’t have to read it now.

7/10 for the quality of the film in spite of its source material.

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