Good film adaptations of Agatha Christie books and plays have popped up every decade or so with varying degrees of success. Lately they’ve been more of a staple on the small screen with a number of British series focusing on her two key detectives – Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. However, by the end of the year Christie will be back on the big screen with the latest film version of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, Kenneth Branagh’s big budget remake of the classic 1974 film. Branagh has assembled a stellar cast that includes Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley and many others for an updated version of what has become one of Christie’s quintessential works. A recent Entertainment Weekly cover story has started to generate interest in what is certain to be one of the big releases of the year but I’m a little guarded in my optimism – there is no possible way to top what Sidney Lumet and his cast did with the 1974 version.
I am hoping though that the new version will be successful enough to prompt another series of Christie adaptions, much as the original ‘Orient Express’ did. For a while in the seventies and early eighties, all-star Christie adaptations every few years were a cinematic staple. Some were good, some not, but they were all very glamorous, they featured great casts, beautiful locations and enough twists to keep you watching. 1928 saw the first film adaptation of one of Christie’s slightly formulaic but well plotted mysteries and over the next 9 decades there have been about 40 more, plus numerous television productions. It’s a lengthy list and not everything is available for viewing, but if you want to immerse yourself in celluloid Christie, these are the top Agatha Christie movies. You can watch these best Agatha Christie movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
10. The Mirror Crack’d (1980)
This one just barely makes the list – and it’s here primarily because ‘Goldfinger’ director Guy Hamilton, in his first Christie adaption, does well with his all-star cast. You can believe Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak as combative movie stars both looking for a comeback, although believing them as Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I (the characters they’re playing in the film within the film) may be a bigger stretch. There’s also Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Geraldine Chaplin and Angela Lansbury as Christie’s spinster sleuth Miss Jane Marple. Set on an estate in rural England, it uses a tragic story from the forties involving real-life Hollywood star Gene Tierney as inspiration.
The murder victim here is a guest who is killed at a reception thrown by the film company for the locals, but it looks like the intended victim is actually Taylor. The director is never able to build the suspense, but there are some slight twists that keep things moving – and Lansbury is very good in a role that’s not too challenging for her. What the film lacks is a distinctive style – something key to a truly successful Christie film. This one is visually flat and, although set in the early fifties, it seems nobody bothered to tell the costume designer.
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