Agatha Christie’s murder mystery Murder on the Orient Express has been made into several movies—another one is even in the works.
I watched the original movie adaptation made in 1974 and which starred notables of the time such as Lauren Bacall, Jacqueline Bisset, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins, and Sean Connery, to name a few. Bergman won Best Supporting Actress for her role in this movie.
The plot is involved but not overly reliant on twists and turns seen in modern mysteries that befuddle and confound. The audience is led down a path of assumptions by being privy to what Agatha Christie’s Inspector Pirot observes. Things are not completely what they seem. Or perhaps they are. In the end, two possible solutions to the murder are presented.
The train the Orient Express is uncharacteristically full for this time of year. Inspector Pirot who suddenly needs to return to London is unable to secure a private sleeping compartment. The train departs from Istanbul in the winter and subsequently becomes stuck in snow drifts in Yugoslavia.
Overnight a member of the train is murdered. The director of the train begs Inspector Pirot to investigate rather than have local police do so. Pirot begins his interviews of the passengers, muddied by things that he saw and heard the night of the murder, things that ultimately are meant to throw him (and us) off track.
The movie oddly starts with clips from a sensational murder and kidnapping in 1930, reminiscent in some ways to the case of the Lindbergh baby. Then the movie cuts to Istanbul five years later, when people are gathering to board the Orient Express.
The tragedy of the Armstrong case wasn’t just the kidnapping and murder of the young daughter, but deaths that followed from it—the suicide of a maid falsely accused, the death of the mother during the premature birth of a second child, the death of the second child in childbirth, and the suicide of the father.
In turns out that all the passengers (and one crew member) have connections to the Lindbergh case—sister of Mrs. Armstrong, godmother of the murdered child, mother of Mrs. Armstrong, friend of Mr. Armstrong, butler in the Armstrong household, etc.
With these connections and motives for the killing, who did it? From the assumed identity of the murderer comes the how and when for the murder. It didn’t occur when assumed but later than Pirot was led to believe.
The 1974 version of Murder on the Orient Express is considered one of the best film adaptations of Agatha Christi’s novels. It definitely makes a compelling watch to see the famous Belgian inspector piece together the mystery….and several famous actors in action.