DVD Review: THE AGATHA CHRISTIE COLLECTION

Four classic Agatha Christie film adaptions have been digital restored to bring the stories back to life

It’s fair to say that Agatha Christie is the ultimate ‘Queen of Crime’. Best known for creating the fictional characters Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time, with more than 4 million copies of her books bought around the world every year. Yet, despite having read all 66 of her novels, I’ve never actually seen any film adaptations of her stories… until now.

Re-released as part of their vintage classics collection, Studiocanal has digital restored four star-studded classic Agatha Christie film adaptations on EST, DVD and Blu-Ray. Taken from 4k transfers, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974), DEATH ON THE NILE (1978), THE MIRROR CRACK’D (1980) and EVIL UNDER THE SUN (1982) have been digital restored to their highest quality yet, giving fans old and new a chance to rediscover these classic Christie mysteries.

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974)

The first film in the collection is Sidney Lumet’s star-studded adaptation of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS*. Starring Albert Finney in his only incarnation as the Belgian sleuth Poirot, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS takes place on the opulent Orient Express train as Ratchett, a hateful American millionaire, is found stabbed to death twelve times in his sleep. With the train marooned in a snow drift, Poirot must use his ‘little grey cells’ to search for clues and interrogate all the passengers before the killer can strike again.

Beautifully shot, well-acted and incredibly entertaining, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS is an elegant adaption of Christie’s most famous novel. While the film is a little slow to get going, once the murder has been committed, there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested and Finney’s performance as the Belgian detective is highly entertaining, combining comedy with intrigue. The film also features an all-star cast alongside Finney, including Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Vanessa Redgrave and Anthony Perkins, as well as Ingrid Bergman, who won an Oscar and a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress and John Gielgud who claimed the Best Supporting Actor BAFTA for his role.

Considering the high-definition transfer has been struck from a dated source, the film looks surprisingly good for its age. Most of the close-ups boast pleasing depth, colours are vivid and the transfer is free of large debris, cuts, damage marks, stains and warps. The DVD and Blu-Ray versions also come with a number of extras, including art cards of the original press book as well as a 50 minute MAKING OF documentary, an interview with producer Richard Goodwin and a behind the scenes stills gallery.

DEATH ON THE NILE (1978)

If Albert Finney’s Poirot is not to your taste, DEATH ON THE NILE is well worth checking with Peter Ustinov taking on the role of the Belgium detective. Whilst on holiday aboard a luxury Nile steamer, Poirot is called upon to investigate the death of a rich heiress. But just as Poirot identifies a motley collection of would-be murderers, several of the suspects also meet their demise, which only deepens the mystery of the killer’s identity. Once again, the film features a stellar cast of famous actors including Maggie Smith, Jane Birkin, Bette Davis, David Niven, Mia Farrow, George Kennedy and Angela Lansbury.

Visually sumptuous and quintessentially British, DEATH ON THE NILE is a well-paced, classic whodunit with an all-star cast. Like MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, part of the fun is discovering the motives of the various suspects, with Poirot questioning them all personally and laying out how each one might have perpetrated the crime. John Guillermin’s adaptation is also more serious in tone and atmosphere, which in turn makes the characters appear more credible. Anthony Powell’s stunning costume design is also worth a mention, for which he won an Oscar.

Once again, considering its age, DEATH ON THE NILE transfers well to high-definition. While some of the colours are a little muted (mostly the earth tones of the desert), on the whole the film looks good. DVD and Blu-Ray versions also come with five costume design art cards and an array of extras including a MAKING OF documentary, interviews with costume designer Anthony Powell, Dame Angela Lansbury and producer Richard Goodwin, a behind the scenes still gallery and a costume design stills gallery.

THE MIRROR CRACK’D (1980)

MIRROR CRACK’D, Kim Novak, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, 1980

Angela Lansbury moves from her supporting role in DEATH ON THE NILE to centre stage as super sleuth Miss Marple in the third film in the collection: THE MIRROR CRACK’D*. The story takes place on a film set in the fictional town of St Mary Mead where a local woman is poisoned and a visiting movie star seems to have been the intended victim. Miss Marple is called upon by Inspector Craddock to help solve the mystery and catch the killer before they strike again. Lansbury stars alongside a cast that numbers Geraldine Chaplin, Tony Curtis, Edward Fox, Rock Hudson, Kim Novak and Elizabeth Taylor.

While Lansbury’s interpretation of Miss Marple may not be to everyone’s taste, Director Guy Hamilton brings together an outstanding cast for this film, with Taylor in particularly, delivering a beautiful and bewitching performance as the fragile film star Marina. Hudson’s performance is also excellent, his final scenes in the climax particularly standing out.

In terms of quality, the film transfers well to high definition although some of the images are very soft, most likely a result of its age. That said, there’s plenty to keep you entertained on the DVD and Blu-Ray versions, including 5 storyboard design art cards, interviews with writer Barry Sandler, Dame Angela Lansbury and producer Richard Goodwin, as well as a behind the scenes stills gallery.

EVIL UNDER THE SUN (1982)

Peter Ustinov returns as Hercule Poirot for the final film in the collection: EVIL UNDER THE SUN. When a famous actress is found strangled whilst on her honeymoon at a glamorous hotel in the Mediterranean, Poriot is called upon to find the murderer. Guy Hamilton’s second take on an Agatha Christie story sees an all-star cast joined by alumni from DEATH ON THE NILE, Maggie Smith and Jane Birkin as well as James Mason, Roddy McDowall and Diana Rigg.

Fast-paced, beautiful shot and highly entertaining, EVIL UNDER THE SUN gives MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS a run for its money as one of the best films in the collection. The cinematography is handled well, the suspense is kept high and there are occasional touches of humour. Add to this a fine supporting cast, a grand mystery and the magical tunes of Cole Porter, and you’re onto a winner.

That said, the quality of the transfer is good, the colours are bright and vibrant, and the contrast is good throughout. DVD and Blu-Ray versions also include 5 cast photograph art cards, as well as a MAKING OF documentary, interviews with costume designer Anthony Powell, writer Barry Sandler and producer Richard Goodwin, a behind the scenes stills gallery and a costume designs stills gallery.

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, DEATH ON THE NILE, THE MIRROR CRACK’D and EVIL UNDER THE SUN are available to own on EST, DVD and Blu-Ray from 23 October 2017.

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About Donna

Donna is the Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she is a digital marketing whizz, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage, The Public Reviews and ScreenRelish. Loves Shakespeare, prosecco and Formula 1