A Movie A Day: Quint on TEN LITTLE INDIANS (1965)
’Drop Dead!’ ‘That’s not funny…’
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
The connection from yesterday’s JUDGE PRIEST to today’s is a tad bit of a stretch, but still there. Dudley Nichols wrote the screenplay for the 1934 movie we covered yesterday and he also gets a credit on this film, 1965’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s TEN LITTLE NIGGERS, which, understandably, was changed to TEN LITTLE INDIANS.
But Nichols didn’t write the adaptation for this film, but rather he wrote the adaptation for a 1945 version called AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. If I had that particular version on DVD I would have viewed that as a more direct link, and probably have watched it back to back with this version, but I didn’t so I made the jump directly to TEN LITTLE INDIANS.
It’s about time I finally see some of these mysteries. I grew up loving spoofs of these movies, but haven’t seen many and my literary escapades haven’t taken me to Agatha Christie territory yet. It’s an odd thing to watch a movie like TEN LITTLE INDIANS with some childhood favorites like MURDER BY DEATH and CLUE running through my mind.
Those two movies did such a good job deconstructing the Agatha Christie murder mystery formula that it puts the actual serious-in-tone mystery in jeopardy when I revisit it.
But I dug the hell out of the movie, so there’s no worries. The story survived its spoofs!
Plus I’m no good at guessing endings. I’ve talked about this at length before, but it’s true. It’s not hard for a movie to trick me. I don’t tend to watch movies or read stories and deconstruct them as they go, trying to figure out where they’re going to end up, so I get the benefit of being tricked by twist endings or surprise reveals most of the time. Unless the movie is just really shitty at setting these things up they can get me.
So I didn’t guess the ending to this story, but I did suspect how the murderer hid him/herself for the final reveal, which is a mini-victory for me.
The setting is a remote mansion or castle… big, old house… up in the snowy peaks of a high mountain, as a group of 8 people are invited by a Mr. Owen, known only by reputation, but having never met any of the group.
Each actor gets a single shot during the credits sequence, as they’re all on the lift ascending the mountaintop… I love it when movies do this, each actor getting a moment as their name pops up in the opening credits.
When they get up to the mansion, they are greeted by two hired servants, a husband and wife, who are naturally newly hired and don’t know their employer.
All told there are a 10. You have the servants (Marianne Hoppe and Mario Adorf), a handsome leading man type (Hugh O’Brian), a beautiful actress (Daliah Lavi), a hip musician always letting loose with ‘60s hipster slang (Fabian), a General (Leo Genn), a Doctor (Dennis Price), a Judge (Wilfred Hyde-White), a detective (Stanley Holloway) and a beautiful blonde secretary (Shriley Eaton, who you’ll remember as being the golden girl victim in GOLDFINGER).
Of course we all find, via a recording from “Mr. U.N. Owen”, that they’re all accussed of murder and have been gathered for an unknown reason. Speaking of “unknown” it is pointed out that if you phonetically sound out Mr. Owen’s name, U.N. Owen, that’s exactly what it sounds like. Unknown. Mr. Unknown.
In everybody’s room there is a poem posted called Ten Little Indians, each verse ending with the death of one of the little Indians. It starts: Ten Little Indians went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine. It gets lower and lower until there is only one Indian left who hangs himself.
The guests start dying in the same (or at least similar) way to the poem and the survivors are left suspecting the rest and doing everything they can to figure out the mystery before they’re all dead.
Knowing that this story was always cited for the paranoia of Carpenter’s THE THING and, I’d assume, the original story Who Goes There?, I was one step ahead of the film for the first half hour, waiting for the guests to stop looking for Mr. Owen and realize that Mr. Owen was one of the group. I think watching the comedy takes on mystery stories growing up also had me waiting for the movie to catch up with me, since it was always one of the group who done it.
After that, I was completely into the movie, following the twists and turns and trying to fit the puzzle pieces together.
I won’t spoil the ending if there are people reading who might not know the story and want to visit it, but I will say that it is a good twist and one that you can figure out, not cop-out bringing in some unknown character or something.
The acting is solid all across the board, with Fabian perhaps the weakest link in the chain, but even he is perfectly fitted with this annoying, loud and too-cool-for-school hipster douchebag rock star character. He also, thankfully, is the first to go, unwittingly drinking arsenic… hence the little Indian choking and leaving nine.
And I will say the film is a lot more risqué than I was expecting, at least considering the time frame. Today it’d be PG material, but Shirley Eaton undresses and walks around in her underwear. She also sleeps with one of the other guests, which is a pretty shocking bit of free love pre-Summer of ’69.
George Pollock directed the film, a veteran Christie director, having helmed the adaptations MURDER MOST FOUL, MURDER SHE SAID and MURDER AT THE GALLOP. I’ll have to seek those out. He does a good job with this one, which comes off as very theatrically staged and could have been really stiff if it weren’t for his use of widescreen to create interesting compositions. He has an eye for framing and even though there’s not much camera movement the film doesn’t feel locked down.
Final Thoughts: It’s not the most exciting movie, but Agatha Christie’s story holds up even by today’s standards. The acting and envelope-pushing sexuality are more modern than expected and thus keeps the flick from feeling too locked into its era. Also, if you give it a view keep an ear out for a recording by “Mr. Owen” revealing the guests’ pasts. That voice is none other than Christopher Lee’s, who went uncredited. Interesting, no?
Here’s what we have lined up for the next week:
Wednesday, November 12th: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974)
Thursday, November 13th: DANIEL (1983)
Friday, November 14th: EL DORADO (1967)
Saturday, November 15th: THE GAMBLER (1974)
Sunday, November 16th: ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA (1984)
Monday, November 17th: SALVADOR (1986)
Tuesday, November 18th:
Hell yeah, a James Woods-a-thon coming up! Tomorrow we continue following Agatha Christie adaptations, moving to the 1974 MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS directed by Sidney Lumet and starring… pretty much everybody in the world. See you tomorrow for that one!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
November 2nd: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
November 3rd: Flying Tigers
November 4th: Executive Action
November 5th: The Busy Body
November 6th: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World
November 7th: Libeled Lady
November 8th: Up The River
November 9th: Doctor Bull
November 10th: Judge Priest
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Nov. 12, 2008, 8 a.m. CST
From the NYT review of And Then There Were None: "As for the murderer's performance—well, you must judge for yourself."
Nov. 12, 2008, 8:06 a.m. CST
So people screamed at the screen their guesses? How odd! Well, sounds like this one is a good whodunnit. Never heard of it until now, might take a look!
I remember seeing this movie as a kid when it first came out - I loved it at the time. I'll have to find it and watch it again, to see how it held up!
Nov. 12, 2008, 8:30 a.m. CST
See the HMAD mystery "The Beast Must Die" with the werewolf clock, allowing you to voice your guess.
Nov. 12, 2008, 8:46 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
then, go see the movie. Otherwise, the movie will ruin the ending to a great book.
Nov. 12, 2008, 9 a.m. CST
that's some very good films ahead Quint (the gambler, salvador, OUATIA) the best adaptation of '10 little indians' (strange eh that to change the original title to indians, like they can't be offended) was made in Russia in 1987 and is called 'Desyat negrityat' (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092879/). Very grim yet unfortunately nowhere to get....
Nov. 12, 2008, 9:01 a.m. CST
Wow, I think your in for a treat!
Nov. 12, 2008, 9:04 a.m. CST
by Karl Childers
If you're going to go that far, at least photoshop a different picture of her without the gap in her teeth.
Nov. 12, 2008, 9:18 a.m. CST
Well, it's all smiles for me today. I'm sure AICN has covered A.C. movies before, but I've not been around to see it. I think there's room in this century for a nonparody "everybody show up for a murder" movie, isn't there?<BR>I'd love to see a proper whodunnit with some suspense and not too much gore or shock ( I think we're done with the SAW genre for awhile)
Nov. 12, 2008, 9:54 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
as there seems to be less talkbackers each day. He's been going strong since this summer. Damn, the guy's a machine.
Nov. 12, 2008, 9:58 a.m. CST
I recall digging TLI when I saw it on tv as a young lad. The blonde on the poster looks a lot like Anita Ekberg. Yum. Recently watched Orient Express. A classy ride I think you will enjoy. I also recommend Witness for the Prosecution. Another excellent Agatha Christie film adaptation.
Nov. 12, 2008, 10:01 a.m. CST
Glad to see the Spanish poster kept the original title. Then again, calling someone a "negrito" in Spanish-speaking places doesn't carry the same emotional weight as doing the same in the US. BTW-- looking forward to "Orient Express". I remember first seeing it as a child, and it still holds up for me to this day.
Nov. 12, 2008, 10:07 a.m. CST
That picture of Lauren Hutton is horrible. The head just doesn't fit, man! <br> This version of "Ten Little Indians" is good, but I rather like "And Then There Were None" with Barry Fitzgerald. Then, again, the original "Friday the 13th" is a very loose adaptation of this novel... and I kinda love that.
Nov. 12, 2008, 10:13 a.m. CST
I think the talkbackers will be here in full force when Quint does something a little closer to their frame of reference. Please notice the talkbacks for "The Black Hole", "Salo" and some of the other heavily-debated movies. Quint's getting into some relatively obscure territory, and a lot of people these days don't know who Agatha Christie is, sadly. But with these next few movies, there should be more activity, I think. They're closer to the collective consciousness of this site's demographic.
Nov. 12, 2008, 10:46 a.m. CST
It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was pretty lengthy from what I remember. True... toward the end I did get a bit carried away with casting suggestions for a sequel/remake. But still, from what I can determine, the length of talkbacks greatly reflects the popularity of the films that are reviewed on that particular day. I look forward to the reviews of films I've never seen. Keep up the great work Quint!! If you ever burn-out, please at least do a movie a week. Thanks!
Nov. 12, 2008, 11:03 a.m. CST
by Napoleon Park
I just don't post when I have nothing to say except "I read this every day." I'd assume it would help to either see or read something of Christie's in order to appreciate the many spoofs of her ouvre.<p>And I LOVE "Best Seller" and find it stands up to repeat viewings. Maybe not three times in one week, but once very few years. The very creepy James woods character reminds me a lot of my best friend frm grade school who took the dark path as he grew up. You know, that old childhood friend you still bond with even though he's a little scary and you're not sure how much you trust him amy more?
Nov. 12, 2008, 11:16 a.m. CST
will make you happy. It's a congo line of happies.
Nov. 12, 2008, 11:22 a.m. CST
rene clair's version is so dynamic & modern feeling. the deep focus photography keeps you aware of all the characters in the room & allows you to scan their faces for possible hints @ who the killer is. the camera moves are all designed to show new bits of information; it's so smooth the way these reveals are executed. there's one sequence where the paranoid characters are spying on one another & every time you think you're in the room w/ one, the camera pulls back through a keyhole to reveal that we're actually in the next room over spying on the spy. it's like david fincher traveled back in time to direct this fucker or, more likely, he saw it as a kid & the aesthetic stuck w/ him. really fun movie.
Nov. 12, 2008, 11:24 a.m. CST
for "a movie a day", is there a favorite? which stand out (top 10)? Which is your biggest disappointment?
Nov. 12, 2008, 11:25 a.m. CST
- and it scared the pants off of me, and gave me nightmares.
Nov. 12, 2008, 11:51 a.m. CST
The original ending from the book needs to be put, which is much more grim than this film's ending. Remake casting anyone?
Nov. 12, 2008, 11:51 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
True, and granted I've been away a while. My work schedule has changed, and I'm trying to get back into a routine. I fondly remember The Black Hole talkback. It was beautiful.
Nov. 12, 2008, 11:55 a.m. CST
to hear your thoughts on El Dorado, I find that most people are either El Dorado people or Rio Bravo people<P>me I'm an El Dorado person<P>I'd love to see the '45 vrsion of this, as i've never seen it before but this version you're right does feel as if it were structured like a theatre performance, similar to Hitchcock's Rope
Nov. 12, 2008, 11:57 a.m. CST
I love Lumet's Murder on the Orient Express (read Making Movies, it will give you some interesting insight into its making), Once Upon a Time in America, and Salvador, and have found memories of Best Seller. El Dorado, if you've seen Rio Bravo you've seen El Dorado. <p> Curious, Quint, if you've ever seen Michael Mann's Thief with James Caan. If not, definitely add it to your list.
Nov. 12, 2008, 12:36 p.m. CST
Well first of all I'm a HUGE HUGE Agatha Christie fan. I have about half of her collection in paperback (that I happened to find one day from one seller on Ebay years ago who was selling it off in bunches of like 15, I wound up buying 3 of them), and murder mysteries in general are my favorite stories (also a big Holmes fan). "And Then There Were None" I think was the first Christie book I ever read.<br> <br> Perhaps predictably, it's remained as my favorite Christie novel. Well I'm also a screenwriter, and silly as it may've seemed to do this after just moving to LA at 22 years old, the first feature length script I'd ever written was an adaptation of this novel, and I set it in modern day. I thought it was ripe for a TRUE adaptation, and keeping the completely grim ending of the book, which NONE of the adaptations so far have fully done. I've seen all of the different ones (including the TV movie version from CBS that was in the 80's I think) and frankly they've all been a disappointment, especially compared to what I've had in my head as the way to tell this story.<br> <br> Just one of the many examples of why I'm not crazy about this particular one is that fist fight that the young male lead (the sort of love interest of the hot chick) gets into with the male servant, as it seems to go on for about 5 damn minutes of screen time, it seems so out of place.<br> <br> But anyone as a young writer who wishes to also direct someday, I imagine this will always be a pet project of mine to do. I've even been in contanct with a company called Chorion (I *think* that's what it was called, it was years ago that I did all this) that owned the rights, but of course I was told they weren't available, or something like that. Not like I could've legimitately done something. But I thought this story was PERFECT for the "Ocean's 11" type treatment, assemble together an all-star cast of great actors, in fact I even had it broken down into who I'd wanted to play each part. Plus having names like this, it would help a viewer who's not familiar with the book already to not be able to guess who's going to die sooner. And I'm not talking about necessarily movie stars, but real actors. I had names like Kate Winslet, Clive Owen, Anthony Hopkins, William Macy, Vince Vaughn, Donald Sutherland, Kathy Bates. I sooooooo wish I could make this movie the way it's MEANT to be made, and have the first TRULY FAITHFUL adaptation. Someday, maybe, someday...
Nov. 12, 2008, 12:37 p.m. CST
by Lenny Nero
Jet black terrifying.
Nov. 12, 2008, 2:01 p.m. CST
Pick of the bunch is ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA which is simply stunning, though SALVADOR is full-on Oliver Stone plus James Woods angry, and BEST SELLER is a great little noir thriller. Enjoy.
Nov. 12, 2008, 2:09 p.m. CST
That one did not impress me very much - Oliver Reed, Elke Sommer, Richard Attenborough (voice by Orson Welles).
Nov. 12, 2008, 2:17 p.m. CST
by The Reluctant Austinite
This version of the story isn't quite as good, but that twisting maze of a plot is hard to mess up. "Ten Little Indians" is quite entertaining. The two make a nice double dip, and are two of my favorite mystery film. That dvd has a GREAT cover, btw.
Nov. 12, 2008, 3:22 p.m. CST
by The InSneider
The first script I ever tried to write was also an adaptation of Ten Little Indians. Think you could go two different ways with it. A Neal Moritz type teen slasher. Or a genuine A-List prestige picture. Always pictured Hopkins as Judge Wargrave. Always wanted to make Dr. Armstrong black, maybe Denzel. Paltrow as Vera. Norton as Blore. It'd be fucking genius. Seeker I'd love to read your draft. Email me if you want -- mirajeff at aol dot com.
Nov. 12, 2008, 3:26 p.m. CST
by Cap'n Jack
It's great and the end is drastically better than the movie versions.
Nov. 12, 2008, 4:21 p.m. CST
Think about it. Both movies involve killers who murders their victims in ironic/symbolic fashion. <p> Same with the Abominable Doctor Phibes.
Nov. 12, 2008, 4:27 p.m. CST
I loved these global melting pot movies that flourished in the 60'-they featured casts that were wild mixtures of Americans, Brits, Germans, Italians, French.. They all had that deadened, dubbing booth post-synched sound, since most of the foreign actors played the scenes in their native tongues..and most of them shot in Techniscope, the cheapest, most horrendously grainy widescreen process ever conceived. But somehow I couldn't get enough of them. For a superb example of this genre...try "Grand Slam" a robbery caper set in Rio, with Janet Leigh, Edward G. Robinson, ...and Klaus Kinski! With the nuttiest, catchiest Morricone theme you'll ever hear outside of his "Good, Bad and The Ugly"
Nov. 12, 2008, 8:16 p.m. CST
...slasher/horror films does it not? In every movie where the killer turns out to be one of the victims thought to be dead by the killer, which is a few billion movies by now?
Nov. 12, 2008, 8:40 p.m. CST
I ever wrote was in High School called "10 Lil Piggies." It was a "10 Little Indians" parody which we shot on a friends camera. <p> In all honesty, the title of the film was probably the only clever thing about the film.
Nov. 13, 2008, 12:15 a.m. CST
is basically the same story, too.
Nov. 13, 2008, 5:44 a.m. CST
Murder By Death.. Still the best Invite Killer flick. Clue comes in second for me.
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