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  Ten Little Indians A Genuine Whodunit
Year: 1965
Director: George Pollock
Stars: Hugh O'Brian, Shirley Eaton, Fabian, Leo Genn, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Daliah Lavi, Dennis Price, Marianne Hoppe, Mario Adorf, Bill Mitchell
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: High in the mountains is a mansion house, and currently as it is winter the building is snowbound, so why on Earth would anyone invite ten guests, seemingly at random, to this location? There are eight guests really, six men and two women, while the other two are the staff, but they are as in the dark as each other as to what they are doing there, including as they do the host's secretary (Shirley Eaton), a doctor (Dennis Price), a film star (Daliah Lavi) and a judge (Wilfrid Hyde White). The man who has sent for them is someone none of them have met, and he is nowhere to be seen so they cannot ask him. So what is going on?

As Agatha Christies go, Ten Little Indians (latterly called And Then There Were None, as opposed to its more offensive original title) is probably one of her most famous, given that it set up the template of the slasher movie which assembles a bunch of characters and has them bumped off one by one. It is a cast iron, design classic, no matter that there is some dispute whether Dame Agatha concocted the premise herself or was influenced by others - this is the classic format. But it can still catch the unwary off guard, those who have somehow avoided the solution to the mystery despite all the versions since she penned the novel in 1939.

She described the bestseller as toughest to write, probably because, as the Second World War had become an inevitability, the mood of the planet was gloomy and the story reflects that, concluding in a nihilistic, nothing matters downer. When she wrote the play of the story, she allowed a more optimistic ending, and that is the one that is most often implemented, although even then there are variations - the 2015 television miniseries opted to retain the bleakness of the novel, for example. The classic 1945 Hollywood incarnation, having been so successful, is probably why most adaptations resort to the theatrical narrative as it did.

Here Harry Alan Towers was the mastermind for the project, a somewhat notorious character who got up to various dodgy dealings in his long career, his favourite trick being to take a property in the public domain and rustle up some low budget telling of it with some stars who were either past their prime or simply fancied a vacation in one of the many destinations he secured for filming around the globe. This one was filmed in Ireland, with second unit material to make it look as if it had been shot in the mountains, probably the Alps, and he had assembled a pretty impressive cast for one of his penny-pinching efforts, suggesting the Christie name had by association generated some kudos - this was shortly after Margaret Rutherford had enjoyed a run of four big hits as Miss Marple at the movies.

Christie has been popular for decades, after all, and continues to be a draw, but the pleasing whodunit stylings here, captured in atmospheric black and white, was probably the best film of the story, not bringing in television, after the René Clair forties favourite. If you genuinely did not know who the killer was, the cast were adept enough to keep you guessing, and most amusingly there was a break in the last act for the audience to guess who they thought was the culprit, just at a crucial moment in the action (horror The Beast Must Die implemented an near-identical werewolf break the following decade). There was an air that this was all a bit of a romp, something to be indulged, and performers like Hugh O'Brian (American import for the international market) and Stanley Holloway (a dash of more obvious humour to indicate you should not take it too seriously) enhanced the thriller in a manner that was specific to the era, though has been attempted many times since. All in all, a good show. Music by Malcolm Lockyer (a shade too jolly).

[Network release this on Blu-ray as part of The British Film with a trailer, image gallery and subtitles as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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