DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Murder on the Orient Express (Recommended)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Scott Kimball, Sep 7, 2004.

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  1. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    Murder on the Orient Express



    Studio: Paramount

    Year: 1974

    Rated: PG

    Length: 127 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

    Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English; English Restored Mono; French Mono

    English subtitles; Closed Captioned in English

    Special Features: Two featurettes, theatrical trailer

    SRP: $14.99 USD


    Release Date: September 7, 2004




    Director Sidney Lumet’s elegant adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is a veritable who’s who of international movie stars of the 1970’s.

    The film stars Albert Finney, almost unrecognizable in the role of famous detective Hercule Poirot. Ingrid Bergman won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as a slightly dimwitted, Bible-quoting Swedish missionary - a role that she chose over the more flamboyant role of the Princess. Rounding out the cast are the likes of Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Jacqueline Bissett, Jean Pierre Cassel, John Gielgud, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Widmark, Michael York, and others.

    What does one do on a train, stranded in a snowdrift, when a man is murdered and the evidence points to... everyone? If you’re Hercule Poirot, you uncover bits of evidence, and interview everyone on board, to discover the doer of the deed.

    Murder on the Orient Express is a wonderfully elegant and eccentric film. Dialog is the key to the story, and it is often slyly humorous as some of the best actors of their time play their unusual characters with tenacity.

    Agatha Christie was known to be reluctant to allow her work to be translated to film. Thankfully for us, she made an exception for Murder on the Orient Express.

    Helping the wonderful performances along is the sure-footed direction by Sidney Lumet, and the wonderful Oscar nominated score by Richard Rodney Bennett.



    Video

    Murder on the Orient Express is brought to you in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is anamorphically enhanced.

    The print does show its age, displaying a moderate amount of minus density blemishes. The frequency of the blemishes varies, with long periods of clean print, and some periods of moderate disarray. Overall, the amount of dust and scratches is not distracting, and is not out of line with a source print of this age.

    Contrast is very good, with bright, tight whites that don’t bloom. Black levels are, at times, slightly lacking - delivering a dark chocolate brown hue. Shadow detail is good.

    Colors are accurate, and saturation is slightly understated,

    Grain is present in varying amounts, as was present on the source print. There appears to be no added video noise, nor are there any noticeable compression artifacts in the many beauty shots of the train in a shroud of steam.

    Finally, the image presented is sharp, without any obvious filtering artifacts.

    This transfer gets high marks, overall, for video fidelity.

    Audio
    There are three audio mixes to choice from.

    First up is the Dolby Digital 5.1 remix. All too often, 5.1 remixes from a mono source leave a bit to be desired. This mix, however, is phenomenal. Richard Rodney Bennett’s beautiful classical score benefits most from this mix, filling the front soundstage with excellent clarity, channel separation and frequency response. Some incidental sound effects are mixed to left, right and rear channels for subtle surround effects. This is a remix that doesn’t set out to call attention to itself - instead, it presents an engrossing soundstage that enhances the experience of the film.

    And I don’t say that often about 5.1 remixes.

    Next up, Paramount has included a restored mono track. This has been cleaned up nicely, exhibiting absolutely no hiss or age or abuse artifacts. It is nicely restored, but after listening to the expanded frequencies and multichannel sound in the 5.1 track, I was left wanting. Purists will certainly be glad of its inclusion, however.

    Finally, there is a French mono track included.

    Special Features

    Agatha Christie: A Portrait (9:37)

    This featurette is presented by Mathew Prichard, grandson of Agatha Christie. Prichard relates how Christie got her start in writing while recovering from an illness. Having nothing in the house to read, she decided to write a book.

    The genesis of Hercule Poirot is relayed, and compared to other literary detectives.

    This piece gives away the ending of the film, so save it for after the feature.


    Making Murder on the Orient Express (48:34)
    A four part featurette, with a “Play All” feature.

    Laurent Bouzereau has assembled a wonderful hour of conversation with Sidney Lumet, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Jacqueline Bisset, Lord John Brabourne, Sean Connery, Richard Goodwin, Nicholas Meyer, Mathew Prichard, Tony Walton, and Michael York.

    Backed with still images from the production of the film and music by Richard Rodney Bennett, this extensive featurette tells the story behind the difficult acquisition of an Agatha Christie work, the all-star casting, the shooting of the film, and the effect the film has had on the people involved.

    The four parts are titled: All Aboard!, The Passengers, The Ride, The End of the Line.

    Final Thoughts
    Murder on the Orient Express is a must-buy for classic murder mystery fans. Paramount serves up an excellent package, with an admirable transfer, and excellent 5.1 audio remix, and a wonderful featurette. While the special features are few in number, they are nicely done.

    Recommended.
     
  2. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    Nice review. I've had the region two of this, and your description of the transfer is similar to what's on the region 2 (although I'll be picking this up and can then compare). However:

    "Agatha Christie was known to be reluctant to allow her work to be translated to film. Thankfully for us, she made an exception for Murder on the Orient Express."

    Dame Agatha, is, in fact, one of the most film-adapted novelists. There are three or four versions of And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians), there's the whole run of seventies films (Death on the Nile, The Mirror Cracked, etc.), there's the whole run of MGM films (including all the Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple films and the Tony Randall Hercule Poirot, not to mention the TV versions of Poirot and Miss Marple and many many other films, including Witness for the Prosecution, one of my favorite adaptations of her work.
     
  3. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Scott:

    Excellent review. I'm looking forward to revisiting this film which wowed this then-15-year-old during its initial 1974 run. I remember being very impressed back in the day. I wonder how these now-45-year-old eyes (with the addition of glasses!) will see it.

    Am especially anxious to see the interplay of all the high-level actors.

    This film turned me into a serious Christie fan during my teen years!
     
  4. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    Christie's "reluctance" doesn't mean that she didn't allow adaptaions of her work. She obviously did. But many of Christie's novels were turned into film after her death in 1976.

    There were 25 or so adaptations of her short stories, plays and novels prior to that, and some very early Poirot films with Austin Trevor, and a few other films in the 30's through the 60's. Many were multiple adaptations of the same stories.

    According to the interview with Mathew Prichard on the DVD, Christie was reluctant to have much of her work turned into film. Given that she was such a prolific writer (well over 60 novels to her name, not to mention all the short stories and plays), though, even a small percentage adds up to quite a few films.

    Murder on the Orient Express was in '74.

    All of these were made after Christie's death:

    Death on the Nile
    The Mirror Crack'd
    Evil Under the Sun

    and the majority of the TV movies and series.
     
  5. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    Twenty-five pre seventies films based on Christie makes her one of the most adapted novelists - that was my point. How reluctant could she have been? In later years, perhaps, but someone was selling the rights to her books and one must simply presume she had to know about it. I'm not saying she was fond of the adaptations, but she let them happen. Of the post-sixties films you left out Endless Night with Hayley Mills and Hywell Bennett. I'm quite fond of the Margaret Rutherford Marple films, even though they're not wonderful adaptations. One hopes they will find their way to DVD at some point.
     
  6. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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    I guess I'll put up with a less than great transfer for a $9.99 price.
     
  7. Michael Harris

    Michael Harris Screenwriter

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    This is one I've been waiting for. I am glad Richard Rodney Bennett's score is well served in the sound mix. It was an analysis of his score to this movie that was broadcast back in the early 80s on Steve Ember's program on WETA FM(for those in the DC area who may remember when WETA was a serious music station) that got me interested in film scores.
     
  8. Alistair_M

    Alistair_M Second Unit

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  9. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Are you sure that's the correct aspect ratio? Wrong information has been previously posted on that site.
     
  10. TedD

    TedD Supporting Actor

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    IMDB is incorrect. OAR was 1.85:1 flat. I ran a 35mm print of this title at the University of Colorado in Boulder many years ago.

    Ted
     
  11. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    Yeah, IMDB only has a slightly better than random chance of getting the AR correct, it seems... I never trust them.

    In the last year, I can only think of one title that Paramount has released non-OAR, and that was the director approved and supervised special edition of Star Trek VI, at 2.0:1. Of course, they have released pan-n-scan versions of many titles, but the OAR version is always available.

    -Scott
     
  12. James Phillips

    James Phillips Stunt Coordinator

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    The correct aspect ratio is 1.66:1. There was an adapted scope version as well, though.
     
  13. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    How much damage do you suppose the imdb does in terms of mis-information? There is so much wrong info posted there, from running times to incorrect aspect ratios, to wrong release dates - and this is a site that people use for their research and to post things like just got posted here. As Robert Crawford stated, it's 1:85, has always been 1:85 and will always be 1:85, the imdb notwithstanding.
     
  14. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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    So where do we consist correct info if imdb is so often wrong?
     
  15. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    Well, that's tricky, isn't it? Usually, the Variety reviews get it right as to whether films were scope or not. The imdb is wrong as often as they're right and have been the source of way too much confusion on simple issues, like the aspect ratio of Murder on the Orient Express and probably hundreds of other films.
     
  16. Will Krupp

    Will Krupp Screenwriter

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    Well, one thing is for certain...mistakes happen. The best thing for any of us to do when imdb gets it wrong is to make sure we correct the information as soon as we see it. I'm sure others have submitted the corrected info to imdb, and I just did as well for safety's sake. Face it, most of the information on the site comes from members, which is why there are often mistakes and conflicting info (release dates is one that ALWAYS gives me headaches). Just THINK of all of the conflicting information we find on this very message board!! By the way, just got back from buying this one and am looking forward to watching it later!
     
  17. TedD

    TedD Supporting Actor

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    Sources? No reason why there would ever be an adapted scope version in 35mm of a film shot flat for the SMPTE standard of 1.85:1 projection, Europe's penchant for 1.66:1 projection not withstanding. [​IMG] If you are referring to a hard matted 16mm print when you mention the phrase "adapted scope", then it merely reinforces the 1.85:1 OAR.

    Ted
     
  18. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    What Ted said.

    I have submitted many corrections to the imdb on many issues - not one of them has ever appeared and every one of them were very easy to substantiate as I provided links to the correct info.
     
  19. Bill Parisho

    Bill Parisho Stunt Coordinator

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    Great review Scott. One of the annoying things about Paramount Video is the way they release great titles (The President's Analyst, Goodbye Columbus, etc.) but fail to include any bonus features. Well at least those movies can be bought for around $10. (unlike Sony-Columbia-Tri-Star which likes to give us titles without bonus features for $24.95)
    So what a great surprise to see Orient Express come out for a nice low price and include trailers and featurettes. Bravo to Paramount!
    Bill Parisho
     
  20. James Phillips

    James Phillips Stunt Coordinator

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    Sorry, Ted. Sloppy English on my part. [​IMG]

    No, I meant that the film was adapted to anamorphic Scope. I don't know whether this was done for the original cinema release, or just on 16mm, but there are definitely 16mm Scope prints out there to be found. So it's possible that this could be where the 2.35:1 aspect ratio error on IMDb originates from.

    Can someone with the Paramount disc post the corresponding image to this one from the Region 2 version, please? [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     

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