We hadn’t seen this movie in several years, so we watched it the other day and it was just as wonderful as ever.
It isn’t always easy to get an all-star cast to work together, but in Death on the Nile, the stars are out in force. What a cast! Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, supported by David Niven, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, Lois Chiles, Maggie Smith, Simon MacCorkindale, Jack Warden, Olivia Hussey–whew! With Angela Lansbury, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of an alcoholic romance writer who’s seen better days. Fantastic performances all around.
And if you like movies with lavish sets, exotic locations, and a plot that twists and turns all over the place–well, this one’s for you. Want escape? This film’s got it. For 140 minutes, you’re out of here. Much, much better than the David Suchet remake.
In a little while, we’re going to follow our New Year’s custom of watching George Pal’s 1960 classic, The Time Machine. Followed by Patty’s heavenly pork casserole for supper.
Tiger swallowtail: nothing to do with the post, really, but well worth seeing. We do love God’s handiwork.
The hospital just called to get my consent for another medical procedure for Aunt Joan. Her blood pressure, which was so dangerously low, is coming back up toward normal–a very good sign. I am sure God has heard our prayers for her.
The pain in my neck has subsided. It’ll just be stiff for a while.
I’ve been working on that assignment I told you about last week, reviewing Agatha Christie’s Curtain. Absorbed in my work, I hardly noticed that an hour and a half had passed.
I had a bad moment when I discovered that the infamous dinner scene I planned to focus on is not, in fact, in the book! It’s only in the movie. But reading the novel carefully, it seems I’m all right, after all: what the screenwriters did, very cleverly, was to gather up certain bits of conversation scattered throughout the text and put them all together to make the dinner scene. This allows me to proceed as planned. You may remember that I’m interested in the fact that a novel written in London in the midst of World War II features characters, all of them English, talking like Heinrich Himmler–sort of a mystery within a mystery novel, and maybe indicative of some spiritual toxins that have seeped into Western Christianity.
Anyway, that’s it for now. See you again at cat video time.
Some of you know me as the contributing editor for The Chalcedon Foundation’s print magazine, Faith for All of Life. For a coming issue of the magazine, I have taken on the task of reviewing, of all things, an Agatha Christie mystery novel–Curtain, Hercule Poirot’s last case.
Christie wrote the novel during World War II and then locked it away in a bank vault, waiting until 1975 to have it published–an unusual procedure which, to my mind, has not been fully explained. Why wait 30 years to publish it?
My review will focus on a single scene in the novel: a dinner. All the characters are seated around the table, and the conversation turns to the topic of what ought to be done with–or to–people who are no longer “valuable to society”–the old, the sick, the retarded, etc. Remember that this was being written during World War II, with Britain fighting for its very life against the Third Reich.
At the table, the more forceful characters declare that people who “don’t matter anymore” ought to be disposed of, somehow. And everyone else just sort of meekly nods and mumbles “of course you’re right,” etc.
When I read that, my hair stood on end. “Whoa! Uh, folks, you’re, like, fighting for survival against the Nazis, and the Nazis, well–they stand for the very ideas that you’re bandying about and tepidly agreeing with! Why are you fighting Hitler and Himmler, and at the same time talking like them?” I was astonished.
Although the novel was written during the war–and we are told that Christie feared she might be killed in a German bombing raid or V-2 strike, which is why she stowed the book in a bank vault, just in case–its setting in time is left quite vague. There’s nothing in it to show in what year, or era, the fictional events occurred.
Why this conversation at the dinner table? Christie often drew her fictional characters from life. It seems more than likely that she had heard such conversations among people she knew, either during the war or just before it. She was writing about certain ideas that certain people, who were not Nazis, actually had. One is left wondering: can it be said that Britain really won the war, if key elements of Nazi ideology were left festering in British culture? What was happening to Britain’s Christianity?
I also wonder what other Curtain readers think of this. Tell me if you like. I’d love to know.
Well, we’ve just passed the 12,000 mark, and whoever posts Comment No. 13,000 on this blog will win an autographed copy of one of my books.
I’m thinking of re-opening the contest to earlier winners, so they can win again. If this is not a stupid question, are you in favor of that?
Maybe I should also offer a prize to anyone who can figure out what happened to my Facebook and Newswithviews referrals–a mystery that has so far baffled all attempts to unravel it. Where’s Hercule Poirot when you need him?
There’s a reason why Agatha Christie was the best-selling novelist of all time.
I’ve been re-reading “Taken at the Flood,” an Hercule Poirot mystery from 1948. You have to re-read Christie because, the first time you read one of her books, you get caught up in trying to solve the puzzle and you miss a lot of the nuances.
This is a spectacularly good book. Oh, the murder mystery is very nicely complicated. In fact, it’s so difficult because everything about it seems so simple. And of course there is Christie’s unsurpassed gift for creating characters and making them come to life.
But there are also all sorts of things to see in the background.
The setting is an English country town, immediately post-World War II. You’d think everyone would be overjoyed the war was over, but there’s very little joy to be seen here.
Instead, we are shown what a mess England was left in by the war. Everything has been thrown into disorder, and they’re nowhere near digging out of it. We are shown government policies, new regulations, and new taxes that burden the people (and doesn’t that sound familiar?) while also contributing to a general atmosphere of “ill feeling” that permeates the whole nation.
I’ve often wondered what has happened to the United Kingdom, spiritually. Well, here we see some indication that the nation was spiritually gutted by the two world wars.
I hope I haven’t made it sound like Christie does this easily. No: she does it masterfully. She doesn’t lecture the reader. By adroitly maneuvering her characters through all different situations, she shows you post-war England through their eyes. You experience it with them. This technique succeeds because the characters are, for all intents and purposes, real people. Trust me on this–there are an awful lot of writers who couldn’t begin to do what Christie does.
But don’t take my word for it. Treat yourself to Taken at the Flood. Enjoy a great book that doesn’t fly a Great Book flag.
Are you tired of movies with dialogue like “Yeeeowp!” and “Aaaaagh!”? Are you tired of movies focused on bodies flying through the air, improbable people having sex, and protagonists who act like they’re about 12 years old and need a way-overdue trip to the woodshed?
Murder on the Orient Express, vintage 2010, starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot (made for British TV as part of the mostly excellent Agatha Christie’s Poirot series) raises sharp moral questions and leaves it up to you to answer them. You won’t be able to play if you watch The Kardashians and spend a lot of time with video games.
To set it up for you: a cruel and notoriously heinous crime is committed; and because the undoubted perpetrator knows how to rig a corrupt court system, he is acquitted in a sham of a trial and he walks free–leaving a trail of death and sorrow in his wake. He has wiped out a whole family of innocent people, and the law can’t touch him anymore.
Under the circumstances, is anyone justified in taking the law into his own hands and rubbing out this unpunished villain? The problem is not as easy as it sounds.
As Agatha Christie wrote it, Murder on the Orient Express was one of her best and most popular books. But egged on by David Suchet–he’d only been playing Poirot for 20 years, and was the Christie family’s original choice for the part–screenwriter Stewart Harcourt takes the story to a higher level still.
The 1974 film version, with Albert Finney as Poirot, focused on the glamorous passengers on the Orient Express. This version locks into the spiritual conflict in Poirot himself.
For those who complain about “that religion stuff” being injected into the story–well, every dedicated reader of Agatha Christie knows that Hercule Poirot is a devout Catholic. Christie seldom showed this side of him, but she let you know it was there. Suchet’s idea was to make it visible. By doing so, the story rises above the “interesting puzzle” category to challenge the viewer morally.
The whole cast is excellent, the background music is brooding and sinister, and the snowbound train makes an excellent venue for claustrophobic camera angles. Even if you already know the story, you’ve never known it quite like this.
I think Christie would have approved of the changes made to her plot. If there ever was an author who believed in the spiritual dimension of human life, it was Dame Agatha.
You can order this gem from amazon.com, or subscribe to Acorn TV and watch the whole series (and then some) on line.