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Film / Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

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This 1974 film is the first screen adaptation of Dame Agatha Christie's mystery novel Murder on the Orient Express, directed by Sidney Lumet and featuring an All-Star Cast headed by Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot.

A murder happens aboard the Orient Express, just as it is forced to stop due to heavy snow. Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective who is among the passengers, starts unravelling the mystery, and comes to learn that everyone's a suspect.

Joining Finney in the movie's All-Star Cast are Anthony Perkins, John Gielgud, Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Vanessa Redgrave, Wendy Hiller, Michael York, Jean-Pierre Cassel and others.

Another big screen All-Star Cast adaptation featuring Kenneth Branagh as Poirot was released in 2017.


This film has examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: In the original novel, Poirot rather cavalierly lets the murderers go free, but in the film, he only does so after an immense amount of soul-searching, and even then it's clear from his expression that he's not sure if he's done the right thing.
  • Adaptation Name Change: M. Bouc becomes Signor Bianchi.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Of a sort, and of course depends on one's definition of villainy here. In the novel, the Countess does not stab Cassetti, Poirot even comments that her husband takes her place in the conga line of death in proxy. In the film, she and her husband stab him together. However, though she did not stab Cassetti in the novel, she was still part of the conspiracy.
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  • And This Is for...: Each of the murderers — save for Foscarelli and Schmidt, who only curse him — announce the name of the person they lost as they take their turns stabbing Ratchett/Cassetti.
  • As You Know: Poirot tells Colonel Arbuthnott that in his opinion the late Colonel Armstrong should have been awarded the VC, "which stands, as you may know, for Victoria Cross and is awarded for valor."
  • Asshole Victim: Ratchett/Casseti was a child murderer and a mobster whose kidnapping and murder of Daisy Armstrong led to the deaths of Daisy's mother during childbirth which killed the baby as well, their maid who was Driven to Suicide by accusations of being the actual kidnapper, and Colonel Armstrong shot himself after being overwhelmed. This is one of the reasons why Poirot lets the murderers go.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Inverted. Poirot allows the murderer to go free because the murder victim had hurt all of the people who committed the murder with his own crimes. In this case, the murderous "bad guy" is painted as an avenging "good guy."
  • Bilingual Bonus: The passage of Goethe read by the Princess' maid is from Kennst Du das Land and contains the line "What have they done, oh wretched child, to thee?"
  • Comically Missing the Point: Subverted twice by both Beddoes (intentionally) and Foscarelli. Hilarity Ensues for Poirot.
    Foscarelli: Hey, what are you reading, Mr. Beddoes?
    Beddoes: Love's Captive, by Mrs. Arabella Richardson.
    Foscarelli: Is it about sex?
    Beddoes: No, it's about 10.30, Mr. Foscarelli.
  • Dramatic Drop: Beddoes drops his drink tray when the door is finally forced open and they find Ratchett dead in his bed.
  • Driven to Suicide: Colonel Armstrong shot himself after the death of his daughter, his wife and their unborn child. The family maid Paulette, wrongly accused of conspiring in Daisy's kidnapping, killed herself.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: The opening sequence showing the kidnapping of Daisy Armstrong focuses on an abandoned teddy bear on the floor.
  • Everybody Did It: The novel was the Trope Maker. All the suspects were in on it together.
  • Foreshadowing: There are a couple of implications that Poirot recognized Mrs. Hubbard as Linda Arden from the very beginning. He quotes Greta Garbo when they first meet, admits he saw the actress perform twice as Lady Macbeth to the Princess, and in one scene pointedly thanks her for "playing your part". He even paraphrases her lines as Lady Macbeth when she shows up with the dagger.
    Poirot: Why did you take this dagger from the place?
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: One of the trademarks of Christie film adaptations.
  • Just Train Wrong: This film's version of the Orient Express has a French steam locomotive (on a train snowbound in Yugoslavia) and a Pullman lounge car, which the real Orient Express never featured.
    • A Wagon-Lits Pullman lounge car did operate in the Simplon-Orient-Express, but not on this part of the line.
  • Mama Bear: Linda Arden, a.k.a Mrs. Hubbard masterminded Ratchett's murder to avenge her granddaughter, who he kidnapped and murdered, and her daughter, who in her grief gave birth to a stillborn child which also killed her.
  • Metaphorically True: Everything Princess Natalia Dragomiroff says to Hercule Poirot. They had to lie to throw him off the trail, but honor dictated they couldn't do it outright so they "merely" gave the nearest equivalent answer. For example; Mr. Whitehead became Mr. Snowpeak.
  • The Oner: Poirot's interrogation of Greta is shot in one continuous, five-minute take.
  • Pinkerton Detective: Cyrus Hardman is a Pinkerton agent. This is a change from the original novel, which had him working for the fictional McNeil Detective Agency.
  • Pretty in Mink: Princess Dragomiroff, Countess Andrenyi and Mrs. Hubbard all wear furs at some point.
  • The Reveal: Each suspect is responsible for Ratchett's death, as each of them took a turn to stab him while he was drugged and helpless.
  • Separated by a Common Language: How does Poirot know Mary Debenham spent time in America? Because she said "I could always call my lawyers long distance," when an Englishwoman would say "I could always make a trunk call to my solicitors."
  • Sherlock Scan: Poirot is somehow able to tell who the cook is because he "has, perhaps, a nose for fine dining".
  • Snowed-In: The train is stuck in a snowdrift, which gives Poirot a limited time frame to solve the case.
  • Spinning Paper: The prologue sequence, designed by Richard Williams' studio, features a montage of Spinning Papers chronicling the kidnapping, and eventual murder, of Baby Daisy Armstrong.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Ratchett takes the opportunity of the train entering a tunnel (and thus becoming dark) to leave unobserved after Poirot refuses his offer.
  • Stopped Clock: A broken watch is found on Ratchett's body, which tells his time of death. Later Poirot deduces that it was planted to throw investigation off.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: It turns out Ratchett was drugged so he could be easily taken out.
  • Thriller on the Express: A murder occurs on a train stuck in a snowdrift.
  • Unusual Euphemism: When asking Poirot for help, Poirot asks Ratchett what business he was involved with.
    Ratchett: Baby food.
  • Vehicle Title: The title comes from the name of the train where the action occurs.
  • What You Are in the Dark: When Poirot discovers that all his fellow passengers were the killers, he has a crisis of faith, even though the suspects are willing to accept the consequences of their actions - the man was dead, they didn't care about their fate afterward. Poirot decides to go with the simpler, false explanation and let them all go free, but is visibly shaken.
    Bianchi: Hercule. I thank you.
    Poirot: My friend. Now I must go and wrestle with my report to the police and with my conscience.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: Ratchett is a through-and-through vile invidual, but Poirot is still compelled to solve the man's death.


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