Murder on the Orient Express has been an episode looked forward to by Poirot fans for a very long time. And about the first 18 minutes are as close as you can get to a total mess. The movie begins with an uninspired and boring case to account for Poirot’s presence in Istanbul, which is extremely repetitive in insisting the perpetrator lied (How inconsiderate!). All Poirot does is shout about how much dishonour this man has brought—it’s basically a 1930s way of saying “You’re a disgrace to me, you’re a disgrace to your country, and you’re a disgrace to your momma!” It gets very boring, and the actor decides to commit suicide, which finally gets Poirot to shut up and look shocked for a few seconds. Unfortunately, he doesn’t stay silent for very long…
But to get back to the disaster the film’s opening was. I mentioned I hated the credits. If you watch them, you’ll see that the film cannot decide which direction to take the music in. It starts with a solo vocalist singing random, mindless sounds, before fading out in favour of the music. None of this feels like it belongs together. It’s simply awful, and the music that plays is loud, mechanical, and heavy-handed—as though a deaf person was trying to play the Inception theme. It’s a very ugly way to open the movie, and the general atmosphere of ugliness continues for a good 18 minutes.
Poirot: “Where, if you please, were you at the time of the murder?”Dr. Sigmund von Hornswiggle: “I was admiring the landscape from the window in Mr. Ratchett’s compartment. It was the best compartment for doing so.”P: “Ah, but did you not run into the murderer?”S: “I’m afraid not.”P: “Well, I apologise for bothering you, Monsieur. Do you believe in God?”
Now, I’m going to question the wisdom of the adaptation on a point. It emphasizes the whole theme of injustice of the original novel. Unfortunately, I think the novel had a better way of approaching injustice, as Samuel Ratchett is let off on a technicality. Perhaps the DA’s search warrant hurt his feelings. This seemed to be a clear comment from AC that “the law is an ass”. How could the law allow some really monstrous people to go free because of a minor detail that may not have been carried out to the letter? Well, the adaptation goes another way—Ratchett gets off because the DA is corrupt. I personally think AC’s way of commenting on the flaws of a justice system is far more effective.