Murder on the Orient Express
1974 - United Kingdom - 128 minutes
Writer - Paul Dehn
Director - Sidney Lumet
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 7.2/10 - Link to IMDB
Roger Ebert Rating - 3 of 4 Stars - Link to Ebert's Review
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars

Death on the Nile
1978 - United Kingdom - 140 minutes
Writer - Anthony Shaffer
Director - John Guillermin
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 7.0/10 - Link to IMDB
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars

In 1974, Sidney Lumet was tapped to direct the film version of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, and he succeeded in creating a star-studded master telling of the story. It was followed in 1978 by Death on the Nile and in 1980 by The Mirror Crack'd. All three films hearken back to the golden days of Hollywood and the Grand Hotel type of film loaded with famous actors. We don't get many of those types of films in today's times. The latest I can think of is 2001's Gosford Park. If you are an old fashion movie fan, I think you will especially enjoy Murder on the Orient Express and probably enjoy Death on the Nile. I'm not so sure about The Mirror Crack'd.

Murder… features Albert Finney as the famous detective, Hercule Poirot, supported by no less than Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Rachel Roberts, Richard Widmark, Michael York, and Colin Blakely. Ingrid Bergman won the Oscar for best supporting actress in a role that she chose above a more glamorous and bigger role in the film.

Death… features Peter Ustinov as Poirot supported by Jane Birkin, Lois Chiles, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, Jon Finch, Olivia Hussey, George Kennedy, Angela Lansbury, Simon MacCorkindale, David Niven, Maggie Smith, and Jack Warden.

I must admit that even though Murder… is by far a better film than Death…, I really prefer the latter. Albert Finney gives an extraordinary performance in the first film, but Peter Ustinov adds that special Ustinov touch to the character of Poirot making him intriguing and especially witty. Death… also has scenes in some exotic locales in Egypt that add a well-acted travelogue feeling to the movie.

In Murder…, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Wendy Hiller, and Rachel Roberts stand out in their depictions of the characters - and that's saying something to stand out in that cast. Bacall adds a special touch of spice and humor to her character.

In Death…, Angela Lansbury and Jack Warden steal the show (or chew the scenery) as comic, over-the-top characters. Then there's Bette Davis being the old, eccentric yet still strangely beautiful Bette Davis. She appeared in some quality television movies before her death some ten years later, but this was her last quality theatrical film.

The DVD of Murder… features excellent special features - produced in 2004 - in which Lumet, Agatha Christie's grandson, various producers, and actors offer remembrances about the making of the film - an added treat for those who like such extras.

So, if you enjoy watching stars giving solid performances, love to wallow in a juicy murder or two, and like to lie back and watch movies designed for their pure entertainment value, I think you'll be rewarded by these two.

Neil Turner
July 30, 2006

Hercule Poirot Solves Two Mysteries