o My Eyes…MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974) from the UK

The Oscar-nominated music score by Richard Rodney Bennett is delightful. And the film, directed by Sidney Lumet, gets the atmosphere and claustrophobia of the train cars right. 4 Stars

[​IMG]

I had a bad initial experience with this film in 1974. I had been married that morning and my wife and her little boy and I were out on the town (Portland, Maine) celebrating. After a great seafood dinner, we decided to catch this film, but there were only a half-dozen seats left (remember those days?), and they were all front row, extreme right side, against the wall. Thus we watched the film from a terrible viewing angle, way too close to the screen. The image was very distorted. For over two hours I struggled to appreciate the film, but went away very disappointed. A subsequent home video viewing did not improve my disposition toward it.

Sure did want to like it, though. I mean, what a cast! Were it not for his cauliflower ears, I’d not have guessed Albert Finney was playing the lead role, Hercule Poirot, who is a bit over-the-top here. And then there are Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Jacqueline Bisset, Ingrid Bergman (who won an Oscar for this), and so on. The Oscar-nominated music score by Richard Rodney Bennett is delightful. And the film, directed by Sidney Lumet, gets the atmosphere and claustrophobia of the train cars right.

So why didn’t I like this more than I did? It’s talky, but other than a murder, talk is what we get from Agatha Christie. And some of my favorite movies are talky throughout (THE LION IN WINTER, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, BECKET, etc.). But I think this Blu-ray is a breakthrough for me…I think I can finally begin to warm up to this movie, which is exactly what I’d been hoping for when I ordered this from U.K.

The label is StudioCanal, not Paramount, which apparently does not hold international video rights, only domestic. That is why, if you want this title, you’ll need a region-free player, as the disc is Region B locked.

The image is framed at 1.85:1, and looks well-rendered on the disc. Flesh tones look natural. There is grain to be seen. Black levels on my 65″ LG OLED look fine, and there is shadow detail. I am not at all unhappy with what I see….or what I hear. Audio is 2.0 DTS-HD Master. The music and dialog are as clear as a cloudless day. Subtitles are available.

There are a few extras. An interview with the producer, and a four-part “Making Of” documentary that totals close to 45 minutes (there is no “play-all” function, though). There is also a 12-page, small-scale reproduction of the Paramount Press Book. And I love the cover art.

Yeah, I think I can reevaluate MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, seeing as how I have a copy that probably bests the theatrical print I saw, even if I’d been ten rows back, center of the auditorium.

Published by

Kevin Collins

administrator

23 Comments

  1. haineshisway

    You should be unhappy because the color is a joke. Paramount has the real negative on the film and their DVD has lovely and correct color.

    Hasn't this been remastered recently? Is the colour still off on the new version?

  2. Dick

    [​IMG]

    I had a bad initial experience with this film in 1974. I had been married that morning and my wife and her little boy and I were out on the town (Portland, Maine) celebrating. After a great seafood dinner, we decided to catch this film, but there were only a half-dozen seats left (remember those days?), and they were all front row, extreme right side, against the wall. Thus we watched the film from a terrible viewing angle, way too close to the screen. The image was very distorted. For over two hours I struggled to appreciate the film, but went away very disappointed. A subsequent home video viewing did not improve my disposition toward it.

    Sure did want to like it, though. I mean, what a cast! Were it not for his cauliflower ears, I'd not have guessed Albert Finney was playing the lead role, Hercule Poirot, who is a bit over-the-top here. And then there are Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Jacqueline Bisset, Ingrid Bergman (who won an Oscar for this), and so on. The Oscar-nominated music score by Richard Rodney Bennett is delightful. And the film, directed by Sidney Lumet, gets the atmosphere and claustrophobia of the train cars right.

    So why didn't I like this more than I did? It's talky, but other than a murder, talk is what we get from Agatha Christie. And some of my favorite movies are talky throughout (THE LION IN WINTER, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, BECKET, etc.). But I think this Blu-ray is a breakthrough for me…I think I can finally begin to warm up to this movie, which is exactly what I'd been hoping for when I ordered this from U.K.

    The label is StudioCanal, not Paramount, which apparently does not hold international video rights, only domestic. That is why, if you want this title, you'll need a region-free player, as the disc is Region B locked.

    The image is framed at 1.85:1, and looks well-rendered on the disc. Flesh tones look natural. There is grain to be seen. Black levels on my 65" LG OLED look fine, and there is shadow detail. I am not at all unhappy with what I see….or what I hear. Audio is 2.0 DTS-HD Master. The music and dialog are as clear as a cloudless day. Subtitles are available.

    There are a few extras. An interview with the producer, and a four-part "Making Of" documentary that totals close to 45 minutes (there is no "play-all" function, though). There is also a 12-page, small-scale reproduction of the Paramount Press Book. And I love the cover art.

    Yeah, I think I can reevaluate MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, seeing as how I have a copy that probably bests the theatrical print I saw, even if I'd been ten rows back, center of the auditorium.

    Dick, I agree, the cover is superb. I can't comment further since I don't have this release.

  3. Yes, I love that cover art. The movie to me is a priceless, peerless adaptation of the book. I couldn't ask for anything greater: the performances, the production values, that superb background score, and wonderfully engaging direction. Every great mystery novel should get such a masterful adaptation. A few have: The Maltese Falcon comes readily to mind. The Thin Man is another.

    This is one of the greats.

  4. Konstantinos

    I don't know what is the original color in this particular shot but I assume the colorised one?
    http://caps-a-holic.com/c.php?go=1&a=0&d1=11048&d2=11049&s1=108238&s2=108253&i=0&l=0

    I would find it hard to believe that it was B&W originally and they colorised it for the bluray.

    The version on iTunes which is a completely different master from either StudioCanal release has multi-colored newsprint in that scene. I don't know why the newest Blu-ray is only Black & White. Maybe the effect was added in post and somehow did not get saved to the original negative?

  5. Trancas

    The new StudioCanal "Murder on the Orient Express" blu-ray has only been out since October 23 last year.
    According to blu-ray.com "The release is sourced from a brand new remaster that is vastly superior to the master that StudioCanal used for the first release of the film in 2014."

    http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Murder-on-the-Orient-Express-Blu-ray/188063/#Review

    Well, a new remaster is a different thing than a new scan.
    A new remaster doesn't have to be a new scan.
    At least this is what I have understood.
    Maybe whoever has the rights in USA made a new scan.

  6. David Weicker

    The new blu-ray has a mixture of colored newspapers and b&w newspapers

    Actually I've looked more closely at this screencapture linked here:

    Konstantinos

    I don't know what is the original color in this particular shot but I assume the colorised one?
    http://caps-a-holic.com/c.php?go=1&a=0&d1=11048&d2=11049&s1=108238&s2=108253&i=0&l=0

    I would find it hard to believe that it was B&W originally and they colorised it for the bluray.

    And I've come to the conclusion that it's not black & white at all but the colors have been toned down so much that you can barely detect the colors but they are still there.

  7. bigshot

    It's too long and too talky. It wears you out.

    Have you ever seen an Agatha Christie adaptation that wasn't "too talky", at least if they're faithful to the source material. It's from the dialog that we get to know the characters and get the clues that will help us piece the mystery's solution if we listen carefully.

  8. I don't mind talky, but unrelenting talky is a different thing. It looked like the film was shot in disconnected bits and everyone was focused on their particular bit with no attention paid to trying to create some sort of ebb and flow out of it.

    I'll watch it again someday. I've fallen asleep both times I've watched it in the past.

  9. bigshot

    I don't mind talky, but unrelenting talky is a different thing.

    I can't help but be reminded of watching the film version of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962) with Kate Hepburn with my brother in law once. About halfway through the film, I saw him snoozing. Later, I asked if he was tired but he said, "No, but all they did was talk talk talk and nothing was happening!" 😆 Not comparing my beloved Christie to the great O'Neill but I can understand why the film may not appeal to some.

  10. Thomas T

    Not comparing my beloved Christie to the great O'Neill but I can understand why the film may not appeal to some.

    I've said this before but this is probably my least favorite of the EMI Christie's. I don't mind talky either but this one seems so EARNEST and devoid of any real fun that I'm always ready for it to end about 20 minutes earlier than it does. I think Finney's Poirot is too self-consciously acted and I find the later Ustinov titles much easier to take (though he's not the Poirot of the novels.)

  11. Will Krupp

    I've said this before but this is probably my least favorite of the EMI Christie's. I don't mind talky either but this one seems so EARNEST and devoid of any real fun that I'm always ready for it to end about 20 minutes earlier than it does. I think Finney's Poirot is too self-consciously acted and I find the later Ustinov titles much easier to take (though he's not the Poirot of the novels.)

    I respectfully disagree. There's a great deal of wit in Finney's performance. It's pretty clear he's having a good time and maybe it's just me but I swear Ingrid Bergman has a twinkle in her eye as she subtly parodies her Inn Of The Sixth Happiness performance. Maybe it's because I tend to be performance oriented but everyone seems to be relishing their turn at bat and only Lauren Bacall disappoints. The look of the film is ravishing, Unsworth's cinematography, Tony Walton's stunning period costumes and of course, Richard Rodney Bennett's elegant score. And my God that cast! Some of the roles are underwritten but the actors are real stars and flesh out their roles by their very presence. Compare them to the heinous 2017 remake. The roles are still underwritten but it suffers from the casting. Daisy Ridley is charming and Leslie Odom Jr. tries but let's be honest, they're no Vanessa Redgrave and Sean Connery. Not their fault, they are who they are but they can't fill those shoes.

  12. Oh I realize I'm in the minority on this one and yes, the film has style to spare. I don't want to give the impression I think it's a BAD film, I don't and it's not. It's just not my favorite in the "series." I tend to get a lot more enjoyment out of those that followed.

    Thomas T

    Maybe it's because I tend to be performance oriented but everyone seems to be relishing their turn at bat and only Lauren Bacall disappoints. The look of the film is ravishing,

    It's funny because, as much as I love Lauren Bacall, I think she's the weak link as well, She pulls me out of the story every time because she's the only one who refuses to be "period." It IS a ravishing production, and I think she sticks out like a sore thumb amidst all the marcelled hair in an otherwise meticulous production design.

    I ordered the Studio Canal remasters of DEATH ON THE NILE and EVIL UNDER THE SUN and both of them advance significantly on the older blu-rays. NILE is the real revelation because the old master was sooooo bad that it's like night and day watching the new one, it's a real stunner. EVIL is less of an advance because the old blu-ray had a strong image to begin with. Even with that, the new one has great, deep color (fantastic reds!) and sharpness levels. The image is a little "washed out" in the exterior daytime scenes, oddly, but still a stronger experience. I bring this up only because Studio Canal has really upped their game with these so anyone who's on the fence about ORIENT and can play region B releases should get it immediately. I'm planning to order this one eventually (the old blu-ray was the worst of the bunch and I actually watch the DVD when I want to see it) I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

  13. I love this film. 1974 was one of Hollywood's best years and this is near the top. Albert Finny is delightful. The only sore point for me is the celebration sequence at the end. It seems to be just an excuse for a final close up of all the great actors. If they had to keep the cameras rolling after the story had ended, then, IMO, Lumet should just have focused on Jacqueline Bisset for the final five minutes. As Poirot says, la belle femme.

Leave a Reply