And Then There Were None (2015) Blu-ray Review

A somber, authentic realization of a mystery masterpiece 4 Stars

One of the true masterpieces of mystery fiction and unquestionably one of the half dozen greatest novels penned by Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None finally gets an adaptation of the original book worthy of the cunning and often darkly malevolent mind of its creator.

And Then There Were None (2015)
Released: 26 Dec 2015
Rated: TV-14
Runtime: 58 min
Director: N/A
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Cast: Maeve Dermody, Charles Dance, Toby Stephens, Burn Gorman
Writer(s): N/A
Plot: Ten strangers are invited to an island by a mysterious host, and start to get killed one by one. Could one of them be the killer?
IMDB rating: 8.1
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Acorn
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 2 Hr. 57 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 04/19/2016
MSRP: $34.99

The Production: 4/5

One of the true masterpieces of mystery fiction and unquestionably one of the half dozen greatest novels penned by Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None finally gets an adaptation of the original book worthy of the cunning and often darkly malevolent mind of its creator. The four feature film versions of the story were all based in large part on Mrs. Christie’s 1943 stage adaptation of her work which changed the book’s ending making the fates of some of the central characters something much less sinister and blood curdling than were contained in the original tome. Now, in an era where nothing need be softened or cleaned up, director Craig Viveiros and writer Sarah Phelps can offer up all the lambs to the slaughter as they were originally envisioned.

Ten people are lured to the remote and storm-ridden Soldier Island off the coast of Devon under one pretext or other, most of whom are unfamiliar with one another but all of whom are guilty of one or more crimes which, up until now, have been undetected and have gone unpunished. The party’s host U. N. Owen has brought together Doctor Edward Armstrong (Toby Stephens), Detective Sergeant William Blore (Burn Gorman), soldier of fortune Philip Lombard (Aidan Turner), judgmental spinster Emily Brent (Miranda Richardson), Judge Lawrence Wargrave (Charles Dance), reckless playboy Anthony Marston (Douglas Booth), General John MacArthur (Sam Neill), secretary/governess Vera Claythorne (Maeve Dermody), and house servants Thomas Rogers (Noah Taylor) and his wife Ethel (Anna Maxwell Martin). One by one, the guests begin dying under mysterious and rather brutal circumstances until Miss Claythorne realizes that the deaths are related to a children’s nursery rhyme framed on the walls in each of their rooms. Eventually, the strangers realize that there is no actual Mr. Owen; one of the house party is secretly killing each of the guests one by one.

And Then There Were None (whose plot has been lifted , stolen, or borrowed from by countless other writers since its original 1939 release) is one of the books of which Agatha Christie was most proud because in keeping the identity of the murderer hidden while still allowing us to get inside the mind of the killer (along with the minds of each of the victims), she set for herself an almost impossible task, a diabolical puzzle that very few people on first reading (or viewing) ever manage to figure out before the ending is revealed. Even when we get down to two people left, there are still surprises and shocks to come. Screenwriter Sarah Phelps embroiders the backstories of some of the characters so we can see them committing their crimes and living with their guilty secrets, and some of the methods of murder have also been altered from the originals, but the bleak, cheerless tone of foreboding from the novel is present and accounted for in this rendering (the feature films rather make the crimes more of a game and soften their horrific natures with a cunning wit, something that is definitely not done in this version of the story), and the sense of doom and desperation only mounts as we get closer and closer to the inevitable outcome. Director Craig Viveiros has three episodes in which to tell the tale (the feature films are all less than two hours, and while the original broadcast on the BBC was in three installments, the presentation on the Lifetime cable channel on this side of the Pond stretched the running time into two two-hour blocks on successive nights), but to fill the generous time allotments, there are flashbacks galore (one in particular going over the same ground with slight extensions two or three times), a rather pointless drug and drink party on the eve of the final murders, and an overuse of slow motion which does drag the pacing to a decided crawl on occasion.

There isn’t much argument with the casting, however. Old pros like Toby Stephens, Sam Neill, Charles Dance, and Miranda Richardson get deeply within their characters and put on quite a show (Stephens in particular is a mass of hysterical tics and unending chain-smoking). The sexual attraction between Philip Lombard and Vera Claythorne, present in the play and the feature films but not in the original novel, is repeated here but with a somewhat different outcome, and Aidan Turner and Maeve Dermody handle their roles quite nicely. (On several viewings, Maeve Dermody’s performance grows in power and authority). Burn Gorman stays adroitly hot under the collar for most of the story, and Noah Taylor and Anna Maxwell Martin as the servants are an especially creepy pair of domestics. Since he’s the first to die (sorry for the spoiler, but so it has been in every incarnation of the piece), it’s rather easy to forget about the contribution of Douglas Booth’s Anthony Marston, but he’s memorably caddish during his few minutes of screen time.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The program has been framed at its widescreen television aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is very good to excellent throughout, but because a slight green tint has been applied to the photography for the purpose of unsettling tone, color values are somewhat compromised with flesh tones rather sickly pale. Black levels are acceptable without being reference quality. Each of the three episodes contained on the two Blu-ray discs has been divided into 6 chapters.

Audio: 4.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is quite sophisticated for a television production though you may find that the rear speakers get much less of an atmospheric workout from the thunder, lightning, gunshots, and wave crashes than the front soundstage does. Dialogue has been professionally recorded and has been placed in the center channel. The ominous music score by Stuart Earl features continual deep bass which will give your subwoofer something to do during much of the program’s running time.

Special Features: 3/5

The Making of And Then There Were None (43:07, HD): from the initial table read through the six-week production schedule, this featurette offers interviews with director Craig Viveiros, producer Abi Bach, writer Sarah Phelps, president of Agatha Christie, Ltd. Hilary Strong, Christie’s grandson who oversees all Christie productions Mathew Pritchard, production designer Sophie Becher, director of photography John Pardue, costume designer Lindsay Pugh, and the cast.

On Agatha Christie (19:53, HD): many members of the cast and crew comment on their familiarity (or lack thereof) with the works of Agatha Christie. Many of the sound bites here are also present in the above featurette.

Sarah Phelps Interview (14:54, HD): the writer discusses her approach to the material and her growing enthusiasm for Agatha Christie. Again, much of this interview was also used in the above featurettes.

Photo Gallery (1:15, HD): a brief montage of behind-the-scenes color photographs of the production.

Overall: 4/5

And Then There Were None, while containing the same basic story found in all four previous feature film versions of Christie’s stage masterwork, truly offers a more authentic experience with the tone and texture of Christie’s original, highly unsettling novel. The Blu-ray release presents superior sound and picture to the broadcast versions and comes highly recommended.

Published by

Matt Hough

author,editor

13 Comments

  1. The book is one of my favourites since my youth. None of the previous film versions came even close to it., in my opinion.So, I'm really hoping this one will. Ordered it.(The original title now has a strong ring of being un-PC, both in English and – though different – in my own language. It's the "little" doing it. Not meant to by the writer, but it's the title of a classic nursery rhyme indeed.)Thanks, Matt.Cees

  2. I've been a fan of the original novel for 35 years, so I have to second Matt's take in the overall.  This version is the closest one we have to what Christie gave us as a book.  I realize that Christie herself did the first stage adaptation in the 1940s, but I was never that happy with that version.  I always felt that her play turned the story into a bit of a drawing room comedy, with various comments about the classes of the people involved in the story, and with an artificial happy ending tacked on.  It's that version that was adapted by Rene Clair in 1945 – and while that movie is intricately filmed and arranged, it has never struck me as anything more than a clever curio.

    MANY SPOILERS FOLLOW

    I would grade this version of the story with a solid B.   It's easily the most faithful of all the adaptations and it gets a LOT of this story spot-on right.   But it also repeats some of the mistakes of the play adaptation, and it makes a series of its own mistakes that keep it from true greatness.

    On the plus side, we have some great performances here – particularly Charles Dance as Wargrave and Miranda Richardson as Brent.   Mr. & Mrs Rogers also surprised me – they were both quite good.   Sam Neill was good, as always.   And we have a welcome return to the time period and setting of the story – between World War I & II, on a craggy little island off the British coast.   The names and most of the aspects of the characters have been restored to what we had seen in the books, and there's a proper sense of dread as the story unfolds.

    On the other hand, in my opinion, there's some very odd missteps.   Before getting into the details there, I'll just say that I wouldn't have started with an instant sense of doom, as this version does.  It would work better to let that issue build, so that there's a real question as to what is happening before the deaths begin, but not a giveaway that we're headed to the cellar.   Several of the instant flashbacks at the top of the story were too far over the top for me – I would have preferred to have those surface with time as the characters' facades begin to crack.

    In more detail:

    -Tony Marston – his character was one of the best handled in this version.   The young, flashy guy whose reckless driving killed two kids, and his only response was to complain that he lost his license for a while.  I had no complaints with him – I was especially happy to see the bit about his high speed pass of Armstrong on the road.

    -The Rogers couple – As characters, I enjoyed both of these performances.  The wife wasn't quite the ghostly, guilty woman from the book, but she was quite interesting and fit within the story.   Rogers himself was a lot closer to the book – a bit shifty.  The problem with their situation is that this version has Rogers committing an outright murder by smothering Miss Brady.  The book makes clear that they simply withheld her medicine – which is still murder, but not the same thing as putting a pillow over her head.  Rogers the butler here is a more violent person, and to my mind, that gets away from the subtlety Christie was applying.  I would also note that the smothering would have been easily detected, while the book's version of her simply not getting her medicine would not necessarily be traceable.  And the point of these characters is not that they committed deliberate violent murder, but that they passively allowed deaths to occur.  They were guilty, but not of anything that could be proven or directly punished.  

    I also have to note that Rogers' death in the miniseries has a major flaw.   In this version, Rogers is axed in the guts, practically chopped in half per the rhyme.  In the book, he's axed in the back of the head.   The difference between these two methods is that the book's version would allow the killer to get away with it.   If he'd been axed in the stomach, he'd likely make a heck of a lot of noise and everyone in the house would have heard it.  The head shot would do away with that problem.   (And I must further note that the hysterical outburst after Rogers' death has been swapped from Vera Claythorne to Dr. Armstrong – something tells me the writer did not want to play the beat of having Vera losing it and being slapped, so that unhappy moment was switched to the doctor…)

    -General MacArthur – a very nice performance by Sam Neill, and mostly very close to what was in the book.   Neill's performance where he speaks with Claythorne was properly wistful.  The problem here is that once again, the miniseries has his character commit an outright, active murder.  In this version, he shoots Arthur Richmond in the back.   In the book, he dispatches Richmond to the front, where he knows Richmond will certainly be killed.   His character then has to live with the fact that both he and his wife knew that he sent Richmond to his death.  Again, the miniseries is taking a direct approach where the point had been something much more subtle.

    -Emily Brent – another fine performance, this one from Miranda Richardson.   And yet, the miniseries takes this character over the top by heavily hinting that spinster Brent actually was attracted to her maid Beatrice.  That's not what we get from the book.  The original version of this character is devoutly religious and extremely judgmental.  She cast Beatrice out when the young woman became pregnant out of wedlock – not because she was jealous but because she was a cruelly judgmental person.  When Beatrice drowned herself (in the movie she throws herself in front of a train), Brent's response to was to be even crueler – saying that the young woman had committed an even worse sin by her suicide.   The miniseries does away with the literal bee in the room when Brent is killed, which may or may not be a good thing.  It's one of the sillier moments in the book, but it does tie in with the rhyme.

    -Judge Wargrave – easily my favorite character in the book and in the miniseries, as brought to life by the great Charles Dance.  He's mostly the same in both renditions, albeit with the change that his plan in the miniseries is more overtly tied to a killer he had hanged.  The Wargrave of the book notes that he is the one person out of the ten on the island that actually is NOT guilty of murder when he gets to the island.  (I'm going to just ignore Isaac Morris as a distraction…)  Wargrave was popularly thought to have condemned an innocent man to death with Edward Seton, but the evidence that came out showed Seton really was guilty.  Which means he should be the odd man out to the investigators later.  The Wargrave of the miniseries realizes that he and Seton are the same kind of person, and is inspired by him.  Not necessarily a bad change.

    -Dr. Armstrong – he's fairly close to the doctor from the book, in terms of his character, the woman he inadvertently killed on the operating table (by performing surgery while drunk), and the manner of his death.   The one major change here is that the miniseries forgets to have Vera and Lombard pull his body above the high tide line, and that's crucial for the mystery to be considered unsolveable.   Given how the miniseries ends, the investigators would almost certainly conclude that Armstrong was the killer, and that wasn't the point of the story.  The idea is that they won't be able to identify ANYONE as the killer.

    -Blore – this was a good performance by Burn Gorman, and the character is mostly similar to what's in the book.  But Blore's crime is given a completely different spin in the miniseries and again, taken right over the top.  Blore in the book is a corrupt cop who takes a bribe and perjures himself in court, naming an innocent man who is then sent to prison and dies.  Blore in the miniseries is guilty of stomping a gay prisoner to death in his cell – and as played in the miniseries, it's heavily hinted that Blore was attracted to him.   This is a change that takes the situation pretty far away from what Christie intended.  Blore's death is also altered – in the miniseries he's stabbed to death and a bear rug is thrown on him.  The book was a more bizarre idea – the killer drops a heavy clock out a window and crushes Blore's skull.  The reasoning for that method is again lost on the miniseries – the point is to show the investigators that it would have been impossible for Blore to commit suicide this way and unlikely for several of the others to have done it either.

    -Lombard and Claythorne – Aidan Turner's performance here is fairly close to the wolf-like persona described in the book for Lombard.  His crime in the book and in the miniseries is essentially the same – the only difference is that the book's Lombard is an openly racist man who left natives to die, while the miniseries character is simply a mercenary.   Much of what happens with Lombard in the miniseries is close to the book – until we get to Claythorne.

    For Vera, the performance by Maeve Dermody is interesting, particularly in the flashbacks to her cold conduct after passively allowing young Cyril to drown.   There is a strange sidestep for her in midstream, however.  The book has a situation where seaweed is hung in her room, and she encounters it in the dark, thinking it to be dead young Cyril's hand and has a screaming fit – which is what allows Wargrave and Armstrong to set up their false death.  In the miniseries, this is an odd hallucination by Claythorne that has no basis in reality.  The point in the book is that the others see the seaweed and know that this situation was set up by the killer.

    -The Ending – and here's where things go more than awry.   The setup is close to what happened in the book, what with Vera coming back to her room and starting to kick the chair away.  But then we get into something akin to the stage play, with Wargrave walking into the room and telling her his master plan, just as Wargrave does there.   This leads to the miniseries Vera trying to con Wargrave into taking her noose off and letting her out, but that really rings hollow.  And it doesn't do her any good anyway.  The miniseries plays Wargrave's end in something similar to the book, in that he shoots himself but the gun recoils to the other end of the table, but in a situation that frankly wouldn't make any sense.  

    I also have to note that Matt is correct about the length – particularly in the third part.  The whole drinking and drug-taking scene is completely unnecessary, as is the whole sequence of Lombard and Vera getting together. 

    The problem with staging And Then There Were None is always the ending.  First you have to stage the final four deaths so that any investigator would be unable to figure out whodunit.   Then you have to find a way for Wargrave to tell his story and finally solve the mystery.   The book settles this with the old message-in-a-bottle trick, allowing Wargrave to narrate the whole ending of the book.  And this probably would be the best way to do it visually – you just have a voiceover with flashbacks as someone finds that message.  Staging the situation with Wargrave pleasantly walking into the room just feels like Old Chestnut Theater stuff.

    And there's the matter of the overt murders and the injection of unneeded flavoring into the situations of Blore and Brent, not to mention Lombard & Claythorne. 

    I still find this to be the best of the adaptations that have been done, but these issues are what keep it from really knocking my socks off.

    Vera and Lombard wind up having a truly odd relationship in the context of everything else that's happening.   I never got the impression from the Vera of the book that she was anything but distrustful of Lombard.  But here we have them suddenly getting involved with each other – when each thinks the other may be the killer.   I frankly don't know that I buy that.  The end result is still the same – Vera is more resourceful than Lombard and gets the upper hand on him when it counts.

  3. So, how do you (or anyone) think this compares to the other adaptations of this story–the classic Barry Fitzgerald version, the early 60s Ten Little Indians or the early 70s euro version?

    I thought I addressed my opinions as best I could in my review.

    This really is the closest to the book. The four previous film versions were all based on the play version which had a different ending and all featured changes in look and personality to the original characters (and the settings were all different in each film. Only in the first And Then There Were None are they even on an island.)

  4. There has been an obsessive trend of late to try and go back to the book's ending, first in a radio drama a few years ago and now this.     I have to be honest, it's because of that, that I'm passing on this because I simply do not like the book's ending and have always felt that the change first made for the stage version and then incorporated into the 1945 version and all subsequent versions was superior.

    The 1945 version has always been the best one to me thanks to its wonderful cast (save the bland June Duprez) and terrific sense of black humor mixed with tension.     The 1965 remake is so-so but at least retains the essence of the 45 script and has a great mid-60s sense of glamor/style in its cast (Shirley Eaton of "Goldfinger" looking great and also a terrific confession scene moment that even surpasses the original),    The 74 and 89 versions are awful and not worth seeing.

    There was a computer game a few years back that mostly did return to the novel for a lot of thimgs, but in the end offered a far more interesting twist for the benefit of those already familiar with the story.

  5. There has been an obsessive trend of late to try and go back to the book's ending, first in a radio drama a few years ago and now this.     I have to be honest, it's because of that, that I'm passing on this because I simply do not like the book's ending and have always felt that the change first made for the stage version and then incorporated into the 1945 version and all subsequent versions was superior.

    The 1945 version has always been the best one to me thanks to its wonderful cast (save the bland June Duprez) and terrific sense of black humor mixed with tension.     The 1965 remake is so-so but at least retains the essence of the 45 script and has a great mid-60s sense of glamor/style in its cast (Shirley Eaton of "Goldfinger" looking great and also a terrific confession scene moment that even surpasses the original),    The 74 and 89 versions are awful and not worth seeing.

    There was a computer game a few years back that mostly did return to the novel for a lot of thimgs, but in the end offered a far more interesting twist for the benefit of those already familiar with the story.

    I watched this over Christmas (BBC) and enjoyed it until the last 10 minutes when I realised it was the book's ending. I felt I had wasted 3 hours.

    I watched the 1945 Rene Clair film this week which has always been a favourite 1940s film of mine. Wonderful production and unsurpassed version as Jack says.

  6. SPOILER ALERT

    Kevin I recognize that the issue of the ending has long been a divisive point among people.   There are many passionate fans of the book who think all other versions fail unless it has the book's ending.      But as you point out, the chief problem with the ending is that from a cinematic standpoint it just doesn't work.     The "message in the bottle" thing might have been fine on the printed page, but cinematically it would be a cheat IMO.      In the visual medium, we need to see an exchange take place in the immediacy of the action so that the killer can tell everything to the last survivor.    And this appropriation was actually first done in the BBC radio drama of a few years ago so the miniseries here isn't doing anything new in that regard.     That said, I still didn't like it.    It comes off as a purposeful attempt to give us a down, dark ending because a lot of people think that by itself is always superior "art".    The rewritten ending IMO is much better because a psychopath employing his careful God-complex scheme of dispensing his concept of perfect justice in the end is properly and rightly exposed as a psychopath if we learn that he's not infallible and has two innocent people targeted for "justice".     (BTW, since spoilers have been revealed at this point, I would like to single out for praise Wilfrid Hyde-White's confession scene in the 1965 version as even superior to Barry Fitzgerald's.    Fitzgerald is still the impish leprechaun to the end, but Hyde-White shows a chilling transformation from lovable Colonel Pickering type to a demented psychopath)

    Incidentally the lesbian subplot of Emily Brent-Beatrice Taylor alas was lifted out of the dreadful godawful Frank Stallone 1989 version. It's amazing they would look to that one to retain that item!

    This subject I'm sure will keep dividing fans of this story for generations to come.    I would like to see it done with the atmospherics of terror from start to finish, but with an ending more in keeping with the ones we're traditionally used to.

  7. I loved your lengthy and very detailed analysis, Kevin, and thank you so much for spelling out the multiple changes for good and ill with such skill. I'm going to print it out and stick it in the Blu-ray case to reread again the next time I play the show.

  8. Matt, thank you very much for that!

    SPOILERS AGAIN!

    Jack, I really appreciate that you've taken the time to see so many adaptations of this one.

    I want to make sure I'm clear about the issue with the book's ending.  I'm not saying that it can't work cinematically.  Rather, I'm saying that it would take an approach that would allow you to see what is happening and why, without the villain pleasantly walking in and affably telling the heroes what he intends to do, as happened in Rene Clair's film.  You could accomplish this with a voiceover, and even with Wargrave talking directly to camera.  I would actually prefer to have had the Scotland Yard inspectors in the end of the movie rather than the long drinking/drugging scene – because it makes the point that the crime is unsolvable until Wargrave reveals himself in the letter.

    To me, the entire point of the story is the fact that all of these people really are guilty – aside from the killer, who is guilty the moment he starts killing them.  They're not outright killers, as this miniseries presented them.  Their crimes are more of selfishness and lack of caring about anyone but themselves.   Marston knows he killed those kids and couldn't care less.  Lombard is fine with leaving those people to die if it would help him.  The Rogers couple neglected their employer until she died.  Blore took his bribes and casually allowed an innocent man to die.  MacArthur ordered a man to the front, knowing it would get him killed.  But these people didn't pull the trigger themselves – they committed crimes that could never be punished.   None of them is innocent of their listed crimes, except Wargrave, who is himself a killer.

    The original book is actually quite similar to David Fincher's Se7en.  It lays out a cycle that needs to complete itself, or the exercise is pointless.  In Se7en, the cycle is a walk through the seven deadly sins, and how they are manifested in their punishments.  In And Then There Were None, the cycle goes through the verses of the poem until you get to the last one – "One Little Indian Boy Left All Alone, He Went and Hung Himself And Then There Were None".    Suddenly sparing Lombard and Claythorne would stop the cycle midway and thus leave the story incomplete.  And the point with Wargrave is that he carefully did his homework.  These people were all picked because they really did get away with causing someone else's death. Wargrave isn't wrong about that.

    I wouldn't say that a down, dark ending is superior art in all cases, but it is correct here.  The sunny ending of the stage adaptation and Clair's film is actually quite out of place here.  After all of these people have been killed in various creepy fashions, it just feels odd to have the villain walk in the door for a chat about the situation.   But again, the stage adaptation moves more toward comedy in many ways.  I just don't think the novel really does much of that.

    Granted, that's my opinion and we'll of course differ.  Again, you have a considerable amount of knowledge of the various adaptations.  I wasn't aware of Hyde-White's turn at it.  I was familiar with the stage adaptation, the Clair film and a terrible film from 1974 with Richard Attenborough as the judge.  I laughed at the boxcover of the version with Frank Stallone.   And by the way, Herbert Lom has the distinction of having been in not one but TWO of these versions – he was Dr. Armstrong in the terrible 1974 film and the General in the terrible 1989 video.  And I note that Donald Pleasance wound up in there as well.   The casting for this miniseries was a lot stronger overall, thankfully.

  9. Appreciate your commnts Kevin.   We are in disagreement on the ending but I think it can be said its good that there are multiple interpretations available.    I might recommend sometime tracking down the computer game version that was released six years ago which offered a novel and unexpected twist on the story (it did the same for "Murder On The Orient Express" where David Suchet voices Poirot in a more traditional telling of the tale than the version Suchet did for the BBC but with an unexpected final twist that kept the game from being predictable) in which for the ONLY time in any version we have a different murderer.

    There is one other version of the story I've neglected to mention and that's a 1959 television version (which I do have a copy of) with Nina Foch as Vera and Barry Jones as Wargrave and that one I think is a faithful version of Christie's original stage version which does not end on a light tone.    In that one, Vera *thinks* she's really shot Lombard and when she comes back Wargrave is all out of control trying to forcibly hang Vera until Lombard emerges to rescue Vera and kill Wargrave.     In that one, Lombard's innocence is less credible compared to the "Charles Morley" twist of the major film adaptations in that Lombard simply refused to deny a false rumor that built up about him.      Much of the altered template we're used to from the major film adaptations I think was more the product of Dudley Nichols, the author of the 1945 script.

    The 1965 version which is set on an isolated Swiss mountaintop is a respectable version of the story though not on the same level as the 45 original.      Like the later 74 version it changed the nationalities of some of the characters because of the different setting but the pacing and direction is much better and it also has Shirley Eaton in her best non-Goldfinger role as the Vera character (renamed Anne in this one).     Hyde-White as the Judge is as I said terrific.     There is also a reunion with Stanley Holloway from "My Fair Lady" as he plays Blore in this one.     Unfortunately we get some poor casting like Fabian in the Tony Marston role (here playing a pop singer named "Mike Raven") and Daliah Lavi in the Emily Brent role which in this telling is transformed into a sexy movie actress whose crime was driving her soldier husband to suicide after she dumped him for her career.       Another bad change is having General Mandrake (its quite understandable why the name "McArthur" was dispensed with) being guilty of sending a platoon of soldiers to their death needlessly instead of his wife's lover because that means he shouldn't be one of the earliest ones to die.     This is done though so the General (played here by Leo Genn) can be a man of action before he gets it instead of a doddering fool.      But all in all the sense of Bond-era mid-60s style and the fact that the mountaintop sending does evoke isolation and being cut off, allows the film to still work.

  10. Thanks, Kevin. I wholeheartedly agree with your opinion about the book's ending, which to me is essential.

    The stage version relates to the book like the American version of The Vanishing to the original. I actually hate the second version of that movie, even though it was made by the same director (who apparently gave in to the US studio bosses).

    And, of course, the stage version of this tale we're discussing here doesn't do justice to the (American) title of the movie!

    Cees

  11. Thanks for the great review, Matt, and thanks to Jack and Kevin for their comments. Count me as a fan of the book's ending. I plan to purchase the Blu because of this thread.

    I have a Russian version of the film that preserves the original ending of the book. The trouble with the DVD is the English subtitles; as the movie goes on, the subtitles annoyingly appear later and later after the actor's line is delivered.

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