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.