I must confess that I'm not much of a fan of Agatha Christie. To be honest, I've read exactly one of her books in my life. It was for a class I took in college on detective fiction and for the life of me, I don't remember which book it was other than that it featured Hercule Poirot. I've seen some of the films based on her books but by and large, the type of drawing room murder mysteries that she perfected, along with Dorothy L. Sayers and others, are just not my cup of tea. I enjoy a good puzzle as much as the next reader but for feats of pure detection and ratiocination I much prefer a Sherlock Holmes story. And for crime stories in general, give me something hardboiled, down and dirty every time. Regular readers of this blog can look and see the types of crime stories that float my boat.
That said, I enjoyed watching AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (1945) yesterday afternoon. I'd seen it years ago but had long since forgotten the identity of the killer. It's a simple enough story. Ten people are brought to a remote island by an unknown host. Once assembled, it's revealed that each person is guilty of a heinous crime and they are all to be killed, one by one, until there's only one person left.
The victims are dispatched with aplomb until there are only two people left alive but neither is the killer. That means that someone faked his or her death and is still alive and plotting on the island.
Full of atmosphere, NONE is a claustrophobic exercise in suspense, with most of the action taking place entirely within the confines of a massive house. It's stagy and talky in places but director Rene Clair keeps things moving at a good pace. One curious note: several times throughout the film, characters will look and speak directly into the camera as if addressing the audience.
Veteran character actors Barry Fitzgerald and Walter Huston steal the show with their broad performances while Louis Hayward (looking like the love child of Orson Welles and Raymond Massey), is the stalwart hero of the piece with a secret of his own.
Released in the UK as TEN LITTLE INDIANS, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE follows the stage version of Christie's novel more closely than the novel itself. It's all great, murderous fun and games, a pleasant diversion on a bleak winter's afternoon.