tek's rating: ¾

Murder on the Orient Express (PG)
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This is based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie, which I've never read. The movie was released in 1974 (the year before I was born), but I first saw it on TV... oh, I dunno, sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s, I suppose. In 2017, a remake was released, and as is often my custom, I decided to re-watch the old film on DVD, on the weekend that the new movie was released. (Both movies have lots of famous actors, and I'm a fan of several of them in both films. But I don't know if I'll ever bother watching the new one.) I should say that the story features Christie's famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, played here by Albert Finney. But by the first time I saw the movie, I was already much more familiar with that character being played by David Suchet, on the later TV series Poirot. So I can't help but compare the actors, and I tend to prefer Suchet. Still, Finney did a decent job here. (Suchet's series did eventually do its own take on this story, but I don't believe I ever saw it. I really should do, someday.)

Anyway... the movie begins in 1930, with the kidnapping and murder of a young American girl named Daisy Armstrong, which became major international news, due to the fame of Daisy's family. The story then flashes forward five years. I guess Poirot had recently completed a case in... some country or other... when he gets called back to London for another case. His Italian friend Signor Bianchi is a director of the train line that includes the famous Orient Express, and arranges for Poirot to travel aboard the train, despite its already being completely booked. Other passengers include Bianchi; a retired American businessman named Samuel Ratchett; Ratchett's secretary and translator, Hector McQueen (Anthony Perkins); Ratchett's British manservant, Beddoes (John Gielgud); an elderly Russian princess named Natalia Dragomiroff; the princess's German maid, Hildegarde Schmidt; an American woman named Harriet Hubbard (Lauren Bacall); a Hungarian diplomat named Count Rudolf Andrenyi (Michael York); his wife, Elena (Jacqueline Bisset); a British Indian Army officer named Colonel John Arbuthnott (Sean Connery); an English teacher named Mary Debenham (Vanessa Redgrave), who is romantically involved with Arbuthnott; a Swedish missionary named Greta Ohlsson (Ingrid Bergman); an Italian-American car salesman named Antonio Foscarelli; an American theatrical agent named Cyrus B. Hardman; and a Greek doctor named Constantine. Another important character is a French train conductor named Pierre Michel. (Doubtless all the characters are played by famous actors, but I've only specified the ones who are at all familiar to me.)

Early in the trip, Ratchett tries to hire Poirot, because he believes his life is in danger. However, Poirot declines, having no interest in the case. That night, Ratchett is murdered (stabbed twelve times), a fact which is discovered the next morning. The train is stuck in a snow drift for some time, between destinations, so Bianchi enlists Poirot's help to investigate the murder, and Poirot enlists the help of Dr. Constantine. It doesn't take long for Poirot to discover that Ratchett's real name was Cassetti, and he was a gangster who had been responsible for the murder of Daisy Armstrong, five years earlier. What's more, Daisy's death had led to four other deaths (including two suicides). So Poirot and pretty much everyone on the train believe Cassetti got what he deserved, even if it was still a crime. Poirot's investigation also turns up connections between each of the passengers (other than himself, Bianchi, and Constantine) to the Armstrong case, which gives all of them motives to have killed him. Of course I'm not going to reveal what any of the specific connections were, nor who the guilty party or parties were. But certainly, the conclusion of the case is one of the best-known in the history of murder mysteries. (If you've ever read the original book or seen any adaptation of it, you're definitely not going to forget whodunnit, even if you forget specific character names and motives.)

Anyway... it was nice to see the movie again. I'm afraid I didn't like it quite as much as it probably deserves to be liked, but I did like it. It really is a great story.

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