Murder on the Orient Express

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

It starts on a ship, it ends on a train. Through the years many Agatha Christie films and shows have been on and off for many years and not many of them admittedly from this viewer has warranted a viewing for the basic reason that a work such as those are meant to be seen from beginning to end and when switching channels end up in the middle. Yet, one such film caught my attention for it’s all star cast, its acclaim and for its wonderful director Sidney Lumet. Perhaps one could say this started them all and thus this put Christie into the forefront of mystery novels and excelled on the track but beware. There is a Murder on the Orient Express.

Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney) takes a word from a friend and is squeezed in to an exclusive train ride on the Orient Express. Along the way he’s introduced to a few characters and socializes with others until one night when noises are abound and the darkness settles in that one of them turns up dead. It just so happens that this death brings about a group of people from different walks and different motives in which they may have a reason to do this one victim in and it’s up to Poirot to find out who was the main culprit involved.

At first. I expected this to be a bit like a good amount of English films in they could be dry, drawn out and in the end satisfying to others and not so satisfying to many but I was wrong. This is a delightful movie that requires the attention of the viewer and the all star cast is by no way a distraction but rather carry the film along together with each part that all have and it is lead by the great Albert Finney. It’s too bad the makeup award was not a regular one around the time this film was out for it could’ve won hands down making Finney up to be an older gentleman and he plays with the enthusiasm and careful manner of Poirot.

The look and feel to the film is rich and the pace moves in an involving manner as with each character the viewer does want to know if one or the other or others did it and what does this person have to do with all of this. The great questions leave room for some intriguing answers and a twist or two along the way. Nevertheless, Murder on the Orient Express serves well as an entertaining murder mystery culminated together by many and entertains with so much more.

Video: How does it look?

The good news is that Murder on the Orient Express is in the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Geoffrey Unsworth’s nominated cinematography looks very good at times. The bad news is that this viewer wishes it looked very good more times than not as the transfer leaves room for many specks, especially at the beginning twenty minutes of the film, and debris here and there when at times the viewer thinks that the picture is about to be crystal clear until a few of the bright scenes give way to a similar problem with the beginning of the picture. It also doesn’t help that the newer Paramount logo was used for the DVD when in the past on some showings on TCM have the original logo was at the very beginning. An obvious oversight should keep a purists interest all the way throughout and this is a not so good error. The video overall is good but could be better.

Audio: How does it sound?

On the other hand, Richard Rodney Bennett’s score along with the effects of the train sing out beautifully in the Dolby Digital 5.1 track where the viewer can hear the steam from all channels and the little effects on the side channels with the dialogue complementing the center channels with some of the activity. With the sound being impressive for a movie that’s a little more than thirty years old, it’s a shame that the visual portion during the film couldn’t be clearer but the audio comes through positively. This disc also has a French and English Mono track along with English subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Along with the film’s theatrical trailer in it’s aspect ratio (a rarity for any trailer with the studio), This disc has two well done supplements. The first is a featurette about the author Agatha Christie told by her grandson and it’s short and sweet as it paints an interesting portrait of his famous grandmother.

The other extra is the four-part making of documentary entitled The Making of Murder on the Orient Express and the high recommendation to use the PLAY ALL function rings true here as any conversation with director Sidney Lumet is always one of high interest and here he doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the discussion of setting, casting, and production. Some will indicate the lack of an audio commentary, but the documentary is done so well that there hardly is a need for one with all covered and others involved with the film are included here like some of the cast, the producers, the technical masters and Christie’s grandson. It runs 48 minutes and highly requires repeat viewing for it entertains equally as the film does.

Through time, Murder on the Orient Express has held up well when it comes to being a great film full of characters, an all star cast that’s never wasted and an intriguing mystery in a great setting. I only hope that a better transfer could be in the future with the newer formats excelling with this picture but despite that, it comes recommended with a good amount of attention.

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