Skip to main content

I have brought you here to charge you with the following crimes.

Ten Little Indians
aka
And Then There Were None
(1974)

(SPOILERS) In respect of the novel, the latter title, And Then There Were None, didn’t become the UK standard until the mid-1980s, having been taken off the bat by the US in preference to the original UK title, Ten Little N*****s; Ten Little Indians was used for the US paperback, making it curious that a title changed due to its racist language was replaced by one also likely to cause offence (the novel’s original title was also used for the film in some territories, per some of posters viewable on IMDB). It’s both Agatha Christie’s best-selling novel and the best-selling crime novel of all time (and the sixth best-selling novel of all time). Impressive credentials, and Ten Little Indians has duly been adapted many times and with various degrees of fidelity (commonly bearing the more upbeat ending of the stage play version). This is the film version I’m most familiar with, and commonly the most derided, it seems. Perhaps because I came to it first, though, I do actually regard it quite fondly.

That’s despite the various plot holes flaunting themselves quite brazenly. You might have reasonably thought they’d be ironed out, what with this being producer Harry Alan Towers and screenwriter Enrique Lovet’s second bash at the property. Such inconsistencies as the guests readily accepting the invite in the first place, to such a remote location. Then there are events and fates that seem randomly effective at best (wandering into the desert to die).

Mostly, though, it’s the location that has always stuck with me, and it still does an enormous amount of heavy lifting in making the picture stand out. The desert exteriors were variously shot in Iran and Spain, while hotel is found in the former country. It’s striking in cavernously empty form: vast, atmospheric and opulent.

Peter Collinson may not have ever really capitalised on the early promise of the supremely well-oiled The Italian Job, but this remains probably the highest profile of his subsequent projects, many of which were outright duffers. If he can’t extract uniformly great performances from the Europudding cast, he nevertheless ensures the picture looks very polished. Add to that a memorable score from Bruno Nicolai, and there’s something irresistibly 1974 – fashions included – about the whole concoction. On the whole.

Charles Aznavorre is entirely resistible as a drunk Frenchman with a contractually obligated – I presume – song included. Ex-Bond villains Adolfo Celi and Gert Fröbe (the latter not allowed his best face, a humorous one) are merely serviceable. The same is true of Stephane Audran and Elke Sommer. But Oliver Reed, Richard Attenborough – replacing James Mason as he embarked on a long quest to secure funding for Gandhi – and Herbert Lom are all highly watchable, the latter two in particular providing an easy rapport. Plus, there’s the treat of Orson Welles’ indelible tones portentously setting the scene via a tape recording (Towers and Welles being associates from way back, and Welles having appeared in Towers’ production of Treasure Island a couple of years earlier).

There’s apparently a longer cut showing the guests arriving by plane, and a subplot featuring spies searching for the ten little Indians centrepiece that is progressively broken up as the guests are knocked off. I can see how that would be cut, as it sounds entirely extraneous. Few would claim Ten Little Indians is a classic, but by the same token, it’s difficult to see quite where the opprobrium comes from; as Christie adaptations go, it’s both memorable and effortlessly watchable.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You're not only wrong. You're wrong at the top of your voice.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
I’ve seen comments suggesting that John Sturges’ thriller hasn’t aged well, which I find rather mystifying. Sure, some of the characterisations border on the cardboard, but the director imbues the story with a taut, economical backbone. 

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

It looks like we’ve got another schizoid embolism!

Total Recall (1990)
(SPOILERS) Paul Verhoeven offered his post-mortem on the failures of the remakes of Total Recall (2012) and Robocop (2013) when he suggested “They take these absurd stories and make them too serious”. There may be something in this, but I suspect the kernel of their issues is simply filmmakers without either the smarts or vision, or both, to make something distinctive from the material. No one would have suggested the problem with David Cronenberg’s prospective Total Recall was over-seriousness, yet his version would have been far from a quip-heavy Raiders of the Lost Ark Go to Mars (as he attributes screenwriter Ron Shusset’s take on the material). Indeed, I’d go as far as saying not only the star, but also the director of Total Recall (1990) were miscast, making it something of a miracle it works to the extent it does.

How do you like that – Cuddles knew all the time!

The Pleasure Garden (1925)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s first credit as director, and his account of the production difficulties, as related to Francois Truffaut, is by and large more pleasurable than The Pleasure Garden itself. The Italian location shoot in involved the confiscation of undeclared film stock, having to recast a key role and borrowing money from the star when Hitch ran out of the stuff.

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

I’m not the Jedi I should be.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
(SPOILERS) Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the only series entry (thus far) I haven’t seen at the cinema. After the first two prequels I felt no great urgency, and it isn’t an omission I’d be hugely disposed to redress for (say) a 12-hour movie marathon, were such a thing held in my vicinity. In the bare bones of Revenge of the Sith, however,George Lucas has probably the strongest, most confident of all Star Wars plots to date.

This is, after all, the reason we have the prequels in the first place; the genesis of Darth Vader, and the confrontation between Anakin and Obi Wan. That it ends up as a no more than middling movie is mostly due to Lucas’ gluttonous appetite for CGI (continuing reference to its corruptive influence is, alas, unavoidable here). But Episode III is also Exhibit A in a fundamental failure of casting and character work; this was the last chance to give Anakin Skywalker substance, to reveal his potential …

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

My dear, sweet brother Numsie!

The Golden Child (1986)
Post-Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy could have filmed himself washing the dishes and it would have been a huge hit. Which might not have been a bad idea, since he chose to make this misconceived stinker.

I think the exorcism made the problem worse.

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
(SPOILERS) While I’ve seen instalments the originaland III a number of times, until now I hadn’t got round to checking out the near-universally reviled first Exorcist sequel. Going in, I had lofty notions Exorcist II: The Heretic would reveal itself as not nearly the travesty everyone said it was, that it would rather be deserving of some degree of praise if only it was approached in the right manner. Well, there is something to that; as a sequel to The Exorcist, it sneers at preconceptions right off the bat by wholly failing to terrify, so making its determined existence within the fabric of that film becomes downright bizarre (the relationship is almost like Back to the Future Part II to Back to the Future, but not). Further still, it warrants a twisted validation for being its own thing, refusing to rehash its predecessor like 90% of sequels, then and now, thus exerting fascination all its own. Unfortunately, John Boorman’s film is also equal parts lis…