Tag Archives: Agatha Christie

Knives Out — First Trailers

I think I must share a common sensibility with Rian Johnson, the writer/director of the upcoming movie Knives Out, because the film so perfectly matches my idea of what a purely entertaining movie should be. It’s a murder mystery set in a posh but isolated location, peopled by diverse and glamourous characters who are all hiding secrets.

The plot to my dream movie should be reminiscent of an M. C. Escher print. One big switch isn’t enough—there should be switches-on-switches.  And switches-on-switches-on-switches.

And the location matters. A snowbound English country house is an ideal setting, but a snowbound train works as well. Even a luxurious boat will do if it’s in a suitably exotic part of the world, just as long as there’s a room large enough to assemble all the suspects and expose the killer(s) in the closing moments of the film.

Let’s think. Who’s famous for that sort of thing? (Hint: Her initials are “A. C.”, and she’s not Al Capone.)

Knives Out has Agatha Christie’s bloody fingerprints are all over it, and Rian Johnson happily acknowledges his debt to the best-selling fiction writer of all time, with the possible exceptions of Shakespeare and the authors of the New Testament. Johnson has improved on his inspiration by adding a dash of wit to the mix; Christie’s works are conspicuously devoid of humour.

He’s also assembled the kind of All-Star cast that brings in an audience for those remakes of Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile that earn nice profits every decade or so, even though everyone in that audience found out whodunit years ago.

And what a cast it is! The film has Chris Evans,  Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette(!), Lakeith Stanfield, and Christopher Plummer. Best of all, there’s James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, playing a detective with the intriguing surname of “Blanc”.  I can only hope he introduces himself as “Blanc. Benoit Blanc.” For reasons yet to be explained, Craig plays the part with a Southern accent.

Here’s the latest trailer for Knives Out:

And here’s the original one:


Knives Out opens on 27 November 2019, the night before (US) Thanksgiving Day. Can’t wait for this one.

Professor Plum, in the Library, with the Candlestick

Toni Collette

Toni Collette

Michael Shannon and Chris Evans

Michael Shannon and Chris Evans

Daniel Craig and LaKeith Stanfield

Daniel Craig and LaKeith Stanfield

Jamie Lee Curtis

Jamie Lee Curtis

Murder on the Orient Express — New Trailer

I posted an item about the new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express back in June, when the first trailer was released. Today we got a new one.

That earlier posting has a good deal of information about the 2017 version, and a video of the trailer for the 1974 film, as well, so I won’t repeat it here.

Instead, a personal note:

When I was a kid, I had three Dream Trips:  A cruise on the Nile, a ride on the Orient Express, and a visit to Schloss Neuschwanstein.

The inspiration for the first two is pretty obvious. At a certain age, Christie’s books were much more interesting than my earlier favourites, the works of the great Franklin W. Dixon. Her detectives had more depth than Frank and Joe Hardy, too, although, in retrospect, not all that much.

I know now that I’ll never cruise the Nile, because I’ll never go anywhere in the Middle East, for obvious reasons.

The ride on the Orient Express is out as well. The original Orient Express is long gone. Its successor, the Venice-Simplon Orient Express train, tries to remind passengers of the glamour of international train travel in the early 20th century. Its London-Venice trip, leaving at 10:30 AM and arriving at 6:25 PM the next day, costs £2,365 ($3,205). I’m just not that nostalgic.

But one dream came true. I spent Thanksgiving Day 2005 at Neuschwanstein. You can walk up the winding road to the castle in about 30 minutes, or you can do as I did, and pay €5 to be carried up in a horse-drawn carriage.

It was off-season, with few visitors and no lines. Because of the sparse crowd, Neuschwanstein’s tour guides let us linger in the magnificent rooms as long as we wanted.

An unforgettable experience. It was one of the highpoints of my life.

International Agatha Christie Festival

The 2017 International Agatha Christie Festival will take place from Wednesday, 13 September through Sunday, 17 September, in Torquay, the British seaside resort where Christie was born. This year’s festival emphasizes her connection to the Middle East, where she spent considerable time with her husband, archaeologist Sir Max Edgar Lucien Mallowan.

The full schedule for the festival has just been posted, and it includes readings, films, concerts, tours, performances, and workshops. One of the highlights is likely to be the weekend-long Garden Party at Torre Abbey,

Torre Abbey

Torre Abbey

The historic Torre Abbey gardens “… will come alive with music, films, stalls and gastronomic delights for all the family.” There will be a garden marketplace and an open air screening of a classic Agatha Christie film.

Mathew Prichard, Agatha Christie’s grandson, will be on hand to discuss his memories of the writer.

Given the setting and the theme, I wouldn’t be the least surprised if someone is the victim of murder most foul during the weekend. If festival guests are in search of clues clews, they’d be well-advised to begin by looking in the herbaceous borders….

Single-day passes start at £15, and top out at £150 for the Grand Tour Ticket.

Torquay is about four hours from London, by car or train. While it’s certainly proud of its most well-known daughter, the city’s greatest claim to fame is probably that it was the (fictional) home of Fawlty Towers, Basil Fawlty, prop.

Take a break and watch as Basil, suffering from a concussion, tries to avoid embarrassing some German guests by not mentioning WWII.

Murder on the Orient Express — First Trailer

The trailer for the new film version of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express was released yesterday, and it looks awesome!

Kenneth Branagh, who directed, also stars as Hercule Poirot. His revisionist interpretation of the famous Poirot mustache must be seen to be disbelieved.

Others in the (of course) all-star cast include  Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Tom Bateman, and Olivia Colman.

I loved the big budget, all-star Christie movies of the 1970s, and was a bit shocked to realize that the Albert Finney version of Murder on the Orient Express was released 43 years ago. There have been at least two television adaptations since then. The David Suchet version, which ITV ran on Christmas Day, 2010, is currently available on  US Netflix, The less said about the 2001 version starring Alfred Molina, the better.

A large part of the probable target audience for Murder on the Orient Express will go into the theatre already knowing whodonit. We see Christie movies for the same reasons we watch new versions of A Christmas Carol or the Sherlock Holmes stories:  Not to see how they end, but to see a new interpretation of an old favourite.

The film will be released on 10 November 2017. If it’s reasonably successful, can Death on the Nile be far behind?

The 1974 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express starred Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean Pierre Cassel, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Rachel Roberts, Richard Widmark, Michael York, and my god, can you believe the talent in that cast?

Here’s the original 1974 trailer:

The first few times I saw this movie, I was uncomfortable with the scene in which Poirot gathers all the suspects together and reveals his solution to the mystery. It felt airless and claustrophobic, and seemed to go on forever.

It was only later that I realized how successful the director had been. He’d made me feel as if I were one of the suspects, itching to get out of there, and hoping it would all end soon.

And Then There Were None — First Teaser

In the United States, the week between Christmas and New Years is pretty much a TV dead zone.  Not so in the UK, where the BBC and ITV bring out their four-star specials.   This year, the schedule looks particularly rich.

I’ve already posted items about the début of Dickensian (26 December 2015, on BBC One) and the return of Holmes and Watson in The Abominable Bride (1 January 2016, on BBC One), the one-off episode the takes Sherlock back to his Victorian roots.   Many popular series have special extended episodes around the holidays:  Doctor Who and Call the Midwife* are set for Christmas Day on BBC One, and the final episode of Downton Abbey** will play on ITV the same day.

The plot thickens.  BBC One will follow the Boxing Day début of Dickensian with the first episode of a three-part adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.

And Then There Were None is Christie’s best-selling book, and the best-selling mystery of all time, with over 100 million copies sold.  It’s arguably her best work, and the one that Christie said it was her most difficult book to write.    (She wrote something like 85 novels, but I’ve always thought of them as five or six original stories and 80 variations of the same tale.)

There have been numerous adaptations of the book for film, theatre, and television.  This new version is supposed to be darker and more graphic than the others, with language that might make the rather prudish Dame Agatha blush.  The stellar cast includes, well, all the usual suspects: Sam Neill, Miranda Richardson, Charles (Is there anything he isn’t in these days?) Dance, Aidan Turner, Douglas Booth, and Toby Stephens.

Should be fun.  And if it doesn’t work out, just wait:   20th Century Fox has acquired the feature rights to And Then There Were None.  A new movie version should be out in the next year or so.

*How long will it be before Bravo launches a series named Call the Real Midwives of Orange County?  Since that sleazy Andy Cohen has made the network unwatchably trashy, it’s only a matter of time.

**In the spirit of the holidays, I’m not going to write anything snarky about Downton Abbey. Besides, I just slimed Andy Cohen, so I’m feeling mellow.

The International Agatha Christie Festival

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie

Queen Elizabeth isn’t the only British grande dame to reach a milestone in September.  If Dame Agatha Christie were still alive, she’d be able to celebrate the 125th anniversary of her birth next week.  Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie was born on 15 September 1890.

Guinness calls her the best-selling novelist of all time.

An International Agatha Christie Festival takes place each year in the fashionable seaside resort town of Torquay, where she was born.  Torquay, sometimes called “the English Riviera,” was also the birthplace of Richard Burton (the explorer, not the actor), writer and Dudley Moore collaborator Peter Cook, and actress and comedienne Miranda Hart.  Its second most famous resident, after Christie, is probably one Basil Fawlty, innkeeper and bon vivant.

The 2015 Festival opens on 11 September and runs for nine days.  Each day has a theme.  Here’s a sample:

You can view the full program at the link.  The schedule is a rich mix of film screenings, literary talks from best-selling crime writers, theatre performances, museum exhibitions, writers’ workshops, and cookery demonstrations.  There will also be a birthday garden party, a tea dance, and a glamorous ball.

Although it’s not listed in the program, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if at least one murder will take place, and visitors will be invited to solve it.