Murder on the Orient Express 1974 ***


Albert Finney was an unlikely choice to play diminutive Belgian detective Hercule Poirot for Sidney Lumet’s 1974 all-star re-enactment of Agatha Christie’s famous who-dunnit, but he makes a decent fist of the role in the heavily-padded style of Brando in The Godfather. Paul Dehn’s screenplay features the murder of Richard Widmark’s Ratchett played out over and over again, allowing each of the stars to been seen holding the knife. Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Rachel Roberts and Jacqueline Bisset are amongst the suspects, and the resolution is strongly delivered through a lengthy exposition by Poirot. Lumet handles his cast well, and Richard Rodney Bennett contributes a notable score; while the mystery isn’t hard to solve, the trappings on this murder mystery make it worth returning to; even Agatha Christie was happy with the result.


The Last of Sheila 1975 ****


It’s hard to imagine Stephen Sondheim getting behind the typewriter alongside Psycho’s Anthony Perkins, but they share the writing credits on Herbert Ross’s playful take on an Agatha Christie who-dunnit. Millionaire Clinton Green (James Coburn) invites a group of friends to holiday on his yacht, including Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, James Mason, Raquel Welch and Ian McShane, and they are presented with nightly mysteries to solve, but the real intent is to uncover the culprit of the murder of Sheila. Cannon’s character is based on famously tough Hollywood agent Sue Mengers, and there’s plenty of in-jokes and references to enjoy. It was Sondheim and Perkins’ interest in puzzles and games that inspired the film; The Last of Sheila’s twist and turns are a joy to unravel.