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Murder Movie Monday?

Spoiler Alert!  I’m going to completely give away the plot, solution, big reveal and dramatic conclusion of 10 Little Indians also known as And Then There Were None.

I was in the play version of this Agatha Christie classic, having formerly read the book and the play. Steven and I own a DVD of And Then There Were None (1945).  When they did Agatha Christie Day on TCM, I DVR’d 10 Little Indians  (1966) and finally got around to watching it sometime later (full disclosure:  it was not the first time I’ve seen it).  I wrote about it even later than than, then discovered it in my notebook, and we watched our DVD yesterday with the idea that I could write about both movies today.

The original story is set on an island, the classic isolated place to murder people.  The 1966 version changes things up by bringing the characters up a treacherous snow-covered mountain in  a cable car.  The characters are different, too.  The judgmental spinster is replaced by a glamorous actress.  Fabian plays the spoiled, arrogant young man.  In the original, this character is a rich ne’er-do-well.  In the movies he is a singer hired to entertain the guests.

Both movies make use of this handy character, who sits down at the piano and sings the ditty about the 10 Little Indians.  Both movies also have one character murmur to another to hang in there (or words to that effect), he’s almost out of Indians.

Incidentally, I had never heard of this macabre poem before reading the book.  The 10 Little Indians I know goes, “One little, two little, three little Indians…”  Nobody gets killed; we just count.  That is the kind of sheltered childhood I led.

A little epergne (I’ve never used that word before; I hope it’s right) in the middle of the table depicts the ten unfortunate Indians.  A mysterious hand breaks one off every time a character is picked off.

Of course the characters behave in the time-honored fashion of movie characters confronted with a mad killer.  They lose their cool, they go off alone, they trust or mistrust each other for the flimsiest of reasons.  This is not a 70s slasher flick, so nobody has sex just before meeting a gruesome end.

In fact, none of the ends are particularly gruesome, which to me is another advantage of old movies.  I find a couple of deaths horrifying by reason of empathy.  For example, how would I feel if I was scaling down a mountain and looked up to see a hand chopping away at the rope holding me.  Yikes!

It’s not all chills and thrills, unfortunately.  Things move too slowly for my tastes.   But perhaps I ask too much.

I guess I did not need the spoiler alert after all, because I feel distinctly disinclined to actually give away the ending.  I will say that I like the movie ending better than the play ending.  And I like the very end of the 1966 flick better than the 1945 version.  Anybody who has seen both versions (or either version), feel free to offer your opinion in the comments.  Don’t worry if you give away the big reveal; we’re still covered by the Spoiler Alert.


4 responses »

  1. I know the 1945 version had a much different ending than the book. I never saw the 1966 version so I can’t compare. Did the play follow the book version? I have to say I liked the novel very much and prefer that ending but then I own all of Agatha Christie’s books. (Yes that is crazy.)

    • I don’t think that’s crazy. I adore Agatha Christie and re-read her on a regular basis, although I like her mysteries better than her spy capers. I read the play years before I was in it, and I huffed a little about the ending at the time, being kind of a book purist. Then I read Agatha Christie’s autobiography, and she said that she started adapting her own works because adaptations were TOO faithful to the book. She said different mediums require different treatments. Then I saw the Billy Wilder version of “Witness for the Prosecution,” which adds considerably to the short story to great effect, and it’s one of my favorite movies. Oh, I never answered your question: the play is closer to the movie than the book, but I just can’t bring myself to just tell is. Read the play or go see it if you can.

      • Interesting. I understand some changes or additions are needed to translate a book to a movie (I agree “Witness” was a great movie) but I am not cool with totally changing the ending of “Ten Little Indians” which rather changed the heart of the story. I like Christie’s mysteries the best too. I am reading all the Miss Marple’s in order right now.

    • I see what you mean about 10 Little Indians, but I really don’t see how they could have put that ending on stage or in a movie. That is one reason I prefer plays and movies that are original stories, not adaptations. Incidentally, now that I think about it, what Christie said about different mediums may not have been in her autobiography. It may have been in an introduction to a collection of her plays that I have.


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