Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins, Ingrid Bergman, and Lauren Bacall team up and surprise me

poirot4Usually, these movies crammed full of stars old and young aren’t very good, but that wasn’t the case when I saw Murder on the Orient Express (1974).  However, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins, Ingrid Bergman, and Lauren Bacall all pale in comparison to Albert Finney, the guy who plays the famous detective, Hercule Poirot. Who the hell is Albert Finney?  Yeah, that’s what I said.  The guy is literally the best thing about this movie and nobody knows who he is.  He’s a British actor and he was nominated for an Academy award for his performance in this movie.  I can see why.

poirot3I’m not saying this movie is the best thing since sliced bread, because it isn’t.  It is a little slow and way talkative.  I think the stars competed to see how many times they could squeeze themselves into the frame.  Few people know this movie and less appreciate it.  It’s kinda slow, but it has this old-fashioned charm I like.  I like how the actors fit into their roles nicely, and I even like Sean Connery as your typical Scottish angry guy. As you might guess, Lauren Bacall is the sassy, rich lady.  The movie is pretty obvious with the characterizations.

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Albert Finney and David Suchet

I’m not sure who is better at Poirot, David Suchet or Albert Finney.  Suschet was the Poirot I grew up with, and he was a PBS regular, a British actor imported to deliver on the works of Agatha Christie.  His take on the detective is sharp and classy, like he’s the most intelligent French guy in the room.  He waddles about and bows in a crisp way, with a sort of theatrical presence that makes him seem like a funny little man.  Albert Finney has all that, but his mannerisms are more flamboyant, and I’m not sure if that’s a better take or not.  All I know is that the last twenty minutes of the movie are spectacular, where Poirot is the only one speaking, driving the script forward, on and on as he explains how the murder happened.

poirot6For a bonus, this movie uses the real life story of the Linbergh Baby as an inspiration and as the plot point that links everything together.  This is very clever, as the use of this story makes the movie seem contemporary and topical.  It flashes newspaper headlines as an introduction to this part of the careful plot.  The use of the news in this way reminded me of the Linbergh Baby, but the topic itself is not a coincidence, as Agatha Christie purposefully linked the story and all the characters to a kidnapping event, though not the famous one I thought of.

Overall, this is a good movie.  It has an old-fashioned vibe and the sets are great.  Nothing looks cheap.  The only thing I didn’t like about it was the music, which doesn’t match the suspense or the notion of train travel.  Lauren Bacall is a little bland, but I didn’t mind, because Albert Finney made up for all the weaknesses in everyone.  The movie is a little old-fashioned, but Roger Ebert praised it for this reason, and I agree with him.  It is underrated and understated fun.

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