Murder on the Orient Express Thoughts

by Julie, thinking about pulling out my winter hat in Boston

Friends and family have felt compelled to email and text me this past week. “Saw the movie today! Have you?”

“No,  Crime Bake weekend,” I’ve replied.

“Call me after you see it!”

Crime bake 8 selfie station
Channeling Poirot and his mustache

I am, you see, a bit of an Agatha Christie aficionado, and have strong feelings about Murder on the Orient Express. I wrote a thesis about Agatha Christie’s use of point of view, and Murder on the Orient Express was one of the novels I focused on. For writer friends, I recommend reading it to see how moves from distant third to close third throughout the novel, and uses POV to confuse the reader. She is a master at deception.

I am also a huge fan of the 1974 movie. Albert Finney was a wonderful Poirot, though over the top. That said, it really holds up and is very faithful to the novel. It also brought a resurgence in interest in Agatha Christie’s work, and since it was towards the end of her life, the timing was great in making sure she’s remembered.

David Suchet was the best Poirot ever, but I didn’t like his version of Murder on the Orient Express.  They changed some character motivations that changed some plot points and took away from the strength of the story. (Julie’s Rule of Thumb: don’t mess with Agatha Christie plots. Just don’t.) I won’t discuss it on the blog (spoilers), but am happy to have the conversation in person.

So, I still haven’t seen the new version of the movie, but I will. Will it be as good as the 1974 version? That’s a tough bar. But it has a wonderful cast, most of whom I would watch in anything. I love that Agatha Christie may be finding a new audience, ensuring that her popularity will continue for another generation. One of my nieces is a recent convert, which thrills me beyond measure.

For me, as a writer thinking about a career, the fact that Agatha Christie’s 1934 (!) novel is being made into a movie forty one years after her death blows my mind. Christie is sometimes dismissed as a writer, but never by me. I aspire to write one Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, or And Then There Were None in my career, never mind all three of those plus sixty-three other novels, a dozen or so plays and dozens of short stories.  It has been said that she created characters with broad strokes, but I think that is part of what makes her relevant. Every generation can add their “take” on the characters, and on the story. (Just don’t touch the plot.)

As a writer, do I aspire to be of my moment, or timeless? Did she think about that?

I do wonder if this movie will bring forth a new phase of Agatha Christie films.  The Man in the Brown Suit gets my vote for consideration. Which books would you like to see adapted?

As part of our month long celebration of our readers, I will pick one winner randomly to get a signed copy of any of my Clock Shop mystery series.

67 Thoughts

  1. I clearly need to do some re-reading! I grew up reading my mother’s Christie books, which were part of the wall of books that lined our living room. And I going to put seeing the new movie on my must-do list.

  2. I really want to see Murder on the Orient Express but I feel like reading the book first.

    I haven’t read enough Agatha Christie to say which ones I’d like to see adapted. I really need to change that.

  3. I totally agree with you on the Albert Finney vs the David Suchet versions of the movie! Now, I have a better idea why I didn’t like Suchet’s version as well. Haven’t seen the newest one yet, but will.

  4. I feel like a bad mystery lover as I have never read any Agatha Christie novels but I do have a couple on my kindle…lol. I do want to see the new movie though and have watched the series based on her books on netflix. 🙂

  5. I read all her books, saw the 1974 movie and saw the new one last weekend. Although I prefer the 1974 version, I enjoyed the new one enough that I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

    And now I want to reread all her books!

  6. Like so many people, I grew reading the Christie mysteries and still go back to them on occasion as a comfort read. I actually like the “gathering in the library where all is revealed” endings. I loved the 1974 movie and I plan to see the new one for comparison. I’m not sure if Christie was writing to be timeless. In many ways I find her personality to be as mysterious as her writings

    1. She is a woman of her age, and the effects of WWI are deeply felt in all of her novels. With that context, some of her work needs to be framed. But, the soldier deeply traumatized by work, the wife who is ignored by her husband, the unkind person in charge, the gossip, all of those characters live today too. She was very, very shy. I read her autobiography, but also read a couple of biographies that gave context to her. An interesting woman.

  7. Julie, I’m with you on the Albert Finney version of “Murder on the Orient Express.” And while I also think David Suchet IS Poirot, I didn’t like his adaptation much, either. For what I suspect are the same reasons.

    I’m sure I’ll see Branagh’s version eventually – this is, after all, my absolute favorite Christie novel.

    The minseries adaptation of And Then There Were None was excellent. Didn’t they do Witness for the Prosecution, too?

    Adaptations: maybe The Blue Train? For the holidays, perhaps Poirot’s Christmas?

    1. I like The Blue Train. She didn’t love it–it was the first book she wrote after her husband had left her, and she realized writing was the way she was going to take care of herself and her daughter. Maybe that’s one of the things I admire about her–she hustled to make a living, and did it.

  8. My 27 year-old niece says to me, “Aunt Judy, there’s a new movie out that sounds good, Murder on the Orient Express!” And I say, “Leah, did you know that book was written in the 1930s.” And she had NO idea. Thought it was a new screenplay. I gave her a bit of an education on Agatha Christie! My favorite Poirot is definitely Suchet. I don’t think I ever saw the Finney version. And what about The Murder of Roger Ackroyd?

    1. My niece discovered her recently as well, and Aunt Julie is feeding her habit. The Finney version is wonderful–the cast alone is amazing, but the direction is perfect.
      The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of my favorite books. It is such a strong ending for a reader. My sister just listened to it as a book on tape, and called me afterwards. She loved it!

  9. No, no, no the new movie — this is not, I hope, a spoiler as this information was in a promo for the new movie. The Poirot of my imagination when reading the stories is NOT a “man of action” — his little gray cells move at a remarkable rate, but not his body. Nor are his “mustaches” long and luxuriant…but neatly and tightly trimmed. Echoing an earlier post: ” David Suchet IS Poirot.” I also admit to a firm prejudice against movies and TV shows based on novels. Some of the BBC/PBS Miss Marples and Suchet’s Poirot were good. Other TV shows and movies may be fine on their own, but for me, are too unfaithful to the writing on which they claim to be based. Will step off my soap box, now. Thankful for this place to vent.

    1. I agree with you about being faithful to her plots. It is one of my pet peeves as well. Christie said that if she’d known how popular Poirot was going to be she would have made him much younger. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but yikes, he isn’t a man of action. That’s what Hastings was for.

  10. I was just so happy with this adaptation! My 13 year old daughter is now a fan too! She knew of Agatha Christie from Doctor Who. Now she’s picked up my copy of Murder on The Orient Express. There was a mention of another Poirot mystery in the movie… I’ll take anything they want to give us as long as it’s just more Christie!

  11. I have to admit it has been years since I read Agatha Christie. I keep meaning to read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd since you have talked about it to me before.

  12. I saw the 1974 version and loved it. I’ve watched the BBC movies with Suchet and have enjoyed them as well. But in my opinion, there is nothing like reading a Christie – I think I’ve read them all, multiple times. She was the first author that captured my attention and showed me how readers can be pulled into a story. Love her books and happy that a new generation will get to learn about her. I’d love to see a new adaptation of The Mirror Crack’d, would love to see who is cast as Miss Marple.

    1. The Mirror Crack’d is a great choice. Did you see the version with Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple? Chock full of stars. I remember reading that book, and the woman who had cyanide in her nose drops. Amazing scene.

      1. Yes I saw that version, Angela Lansbury was quite good in it. The book is one of my favourite Miss Marple books.

  13. I just saw the movie this past weekend, and while I didn’t LOVE it, I did like it fine. I’m a big Kenneth Branagh fan, and I think he took the character and gave him a bit of a modern sensibility that might annoy the purists out there. Acting wise, Michelle Pfiefer was AMAZING. Plus you can’t go wrong with the train setting. Christie knew how to ramp up the tension that way. “And Then There Were None” is my all time favorite Chrisite book, and I though the BBC version of that was pretty good as well.

    1. I love the 1940’s movie of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. I liked the mini-series as well. Yeesh, is that book dark. That said, I love it.

      I think the train has to be the star of the movie, don’t you? Looking forward to seeing the movie.

  14. I’m going to see this movie, for sure. Three years ago in Paris I got to climb around in the actual train cars of the Orient Express which were on exhibit at the Institut du Monde Arabe. There was a long line everyday for the exhibit and most of the people in line were Christie fans. To have given so much pleasure to so many people over so many years…it’s incredible.

  15. I haven’t made it to the movie yet, but I plan to. I haven’t seen any of the previous film versions of this one, although I have an obsession with And Then There Were None, and I’ve seen the play multiple times (including both endings) and watched several movie versions. I’ve seen more plays than I have read her books, now that I think about it.

    I listened to this one on audio a couple of years back. Even though I knew the ending, I was mesmerized by it.

  16. Saw the movie Tuesday evening. It’s good but it is not perfect. One has to decide whether or not the expectation is to stick directly to the story. That works for some books, doesn’t for others. Crime Bake had a great discussion of that.
    Great group of actors. The movie is good on its merit but is not a strict adaptation of the book. That said, it is enjoyable for a different view of the story. Also, understanding Poirot’s quirks in style and in personality makes a difference to how you see the story, particularly the ending. Keep in mind that “And Then There Were None” was done in different ways three times.
    Beware-Branagh is hoping to do “Death On The Nile” next and he foreshadows that at the end of the movie.

  17. David Suchet IS Poirot, no doubt about it. But, I am a huge Kenneth Branagh fan and the movie is an adaptation of a Dame Agatha Christie novel. Who could ask for anything more?

  18. I do have this movie on my list to see but i am approaching it with the realization that to transfer a story from a book never quite meets the same feeling as the book does. Being it is adapted from Agatha Christie’s great book only complicates it more. Thanks for hosting this topic on your page.

  19. I am a huge Agatha fan and my Mom started me reading them when I was very young. I have my Moms entire collection now. I just saw the new release of Orient and loved it, every detail was perfection . And Then There were None is the next movie release based on her books. I cannot wait to read this book to !

  20. I am planning to see the movie on Thanksgiving Day (a tradition) after our holiday lunch, with my brother who will be visiting from Houston. We’re going to the newly renovated cinema–with recliners! I wonder if I will stay awake.

  21. I’ve read all the books and seen most of the movies and TV shows. The last PBS ones didn’t follow the plots or the atmosphere of the books. I always pictured Helen Hayes as Miss Marple, and I think she made one movie but as she is dead, they have to cast someone else. Look how many Scrooges and Jane Austen characters there are.

  22. My family & I loved the movie! I’d love to see The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Hallowe’en Party, Murder in Mesopotamia, Death on the Nile or The A.B.C. Murders. Heck, I’d go see ANY Poirot movies! Happy Holidays 🙂
    Kelly Braun

  23. In general I’m not a fan of movie adaptions. I prefer the visual that’s in my head.

  24. Any of the books would make wonderful movies. Too hard to just pick one. Really enjoyed your thoughts on this movie & subject. I loved the 1974 version & can’t wait to see the new one.

  25. I have all the David Suchet as Poirot shows that he filmed. And I have all the audio recordings he did. Yes, he IS Poirot. Both my husband and I have no desire to go see the new movie. Poirot does not have a caterpillar on steroids on his lip.

    I have loved Agatha Christie since I was high school – a very long time ago. I have every video and audio recording that I can find. It means a lot of less-then-wonderful shows (remember Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple?), but they are things I grew up with. I’m too old to adapt to a radically different Poirot.

    1. The Margaret Rutherford Miss Marples aren’t great movies, but they’re fun if you don’t think of them as Miss Marple. I’m becoming more and more of a fan of recordings. And I agree about David Suchet. He was a wonderful Poirot.

  26. I’ve never read “Murder on the Orient Express”, and I’m really looking forward to reading to seeing the movie. Question is, see the movie first or read the book first?

  27. What a great write-up today. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I agree that The Man In The Brown Suit is a wonderful consideration. Hard to choose. Thank you. Cynthia B.

  28. Guess I’ll need to read some Christie. Just familiar with an older version The Orient Express. Thanks for the write up.

  29. I would like to see more cozy mysteries made! I am looking forward to seeing this movie!

  30. Somehow the movie version of the books I enjoy just never stack up well against the actual book. Sadly a good friend saw this movie and suggested I not see it…I would love to hear what you think after you see the movie. Maybe you could do a review of it here J.A./Julianne, that would be welcomed.

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