Murder on the Orient Express (Blu-ray) (1974)
Featurette-Making Of-Making Murder on the Orient Express (48:31)
Interviews-Crew-with Producer Richard Goodwin (18:14)
Gallery-Photo-Behind the Scenes (1:02)
|Year Of Production||1974|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Sidney Lumet|
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
|RPI||?||Music||Richard Rodney Bennett|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 mono|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
It is 1935 and on board the Orient Express on route from Istanbul to Paris a wealthy American businessman is murdered. When the train is delayed by snow across the line in the Balkans, it is up to world famous detective Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney) to discover which of the twelve people in the 1st Class Sleeping car is the murderer. However, as Poirot quickly realises, there are far too many clues and too many suspects for a simple solution.
Murder on the Orient Express is adapted from the mystery crime novel by Agatha Christie. Readers of the book, or indeed those who have seen this 1974 film or Kenneth Branagh’s 2017 remake, will not easily forget the resolution of the mystery and the murder’s connection to the kidnap and murder of the young daughter of a prominent couple in the USA five years previously (the plot, of course, draws on the infamous Lindbergh case). However, for those who don’t know what happens I will not go any further into the plot here. In any case, the main reason for watching this film is the fabulous cast of actors from both sides of the Atlantic. The roll call of names elicits magic: Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Sir John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Jacqueline Bisset, Richard Widmark, Anthony Perkins, Jean Pierre Cassel, Martin Balsam, Michael York, Wendy Hiller and of course Albert Finney as Poirot. This is a cast that, I think, has around 29 Oscar nominations between them, and 8 wins in their careers. I am sure there are other films with “all-star casts”, but I would be surprised if Murder on the Orient Express does not define those words.
David Suchet is rightly considered the definitive Poirot, having played the detective on TV for 70 episodes between 1989 and 2013. However, Albert Finney, almost unrecognisable under make-up intended to age him by over 20 years, is superb in Murder on the Orient Express. His Poirot is sly, fussy, fastidious and even a bit child-like in a way that the more robust Kenneth Branagh in his version of Poirot could never emulate; indeed, Branagh in his film makes a point of being more fit and athletic by adding a chase and capture sequence into his film which to my mind is out of character, and something you would never imagine Finney’s Poirot even contemplating. The rest of the cast have their moments, the best being the acerbic Wendy Hiller as Princess Dragomiroff, Lauren Bacall and the mousy Ingrid Bergman, playing against her glamour which won her a best supporting actress Oscar.
The quality of the production continues behind the camera. Cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth won Oscars for Cabaret (1972) and Tess (1979) and was nominated for Murder on the Orient Express while composer Richard Rodney Bennett was also nominated for Oscars on three occasions, including for Murder on the Orient Express. Perhaps the greatest surprise, however, was the choice of director: Murder on the Orient Express is directed by the great Sidney Lumet, who is better remembered before Murder on the Orient Express for gritty dramas such as 12 Angry Men (1957), The Pawnbroker (1964) or Serpico (1972), and after Murder on the Orient Express for Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and Network (1976). Murder on the Orient Express does not seem his type of film and, indeed, producer Richard Goodwin reveals in an extra that Lumet’s agent did not want him to do it but he insisted. What Lumet had shown from these and other films was that he was an actor’s director, with many of his leads receiving Oscar nominations, including a win for Peter Finch (Network), which put him in good standing to direct this all-star cast in Murder on the Orient Express.
Murder on the Orient Express was nominated for 6 Oscars (lead actor / supporting actress / screenplay / cinematography / costumes / music) but only Ingrid Bergman won. Murder on the Orient Express is a lush, sumptuous film with glorious costumes, stunning images of the steam train leaving the station, thundering into the night and traversing the snowy landscape, the opulent train carriage set with its wood panelling and a swelling score. This is a world of glamour; a world a privilege between the wars that may not have existed except in literature and film. Kenneth Branagh’s remake of Murder on the Orient Express was good at eliciting this world, but I think this 1974 film is better. The cast is fabulous, the dialogue witty, the visuals splendid and for a film that runs for over two hours it never feels long.
Murder on the Orient Express looks to be around 1.70:1, in 1080p, using the MPEG-4 AVC code. Various sources give the original ratio as either 1.66:1 or 1.85:1. I can only say that the ratio of this Blu-ray looks fine.
This Blu-ray is advertised as a remastered print. Certainly marks and artefacts are absent, and close-ups and interiors when the glare is absent are sharp. However, whenever there is a light source behind the actor there is substantial glare present giving a soft look to the scene. In addition, there is glare bouncing off white paper and in one place Poirot’s white shirt cuffs. Brightness in some sequences does vary. Blacks, however, are solid, with some stunning vision of the steam engine in the darkness with smoke billowing, shadow detail is fine. Colours are rich.
English subtitles for the hearing impaired are provided.
Audio is an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono; the film was shown theatrically with mono sound.
This is mostly a film of dialogue and effects are limited; even exterior shots of the train are accompanied by the score, not sound effects. Dialogue is always easy to hear, if not necessarily easy to understand due to the accent adopted by Finney, when the subtitles helped. The score by Richard Rodney Bennett is not overused but it is lush when it occurs, suiting the visuals.
There is obviously no surround or subwoofer use.
I did not notice any hiss or distortion.
Lip synchronisation was fine.
|Surround Channel Use|
This consists of four sections which must be selected individually, although all are part of the same Making of dating from 2004. The sections consist of film footage, black and white pictures and interviews with director Sidney Lumet, producers Richard Goodwin and Lord John Bradbourne, cast members Sean Connery, Jacqueline Bisset and Michael York, Mathew Prichard (the grandson of Agatha Christie), production and costume designer Tony Walton, composer Sir Richard Rodney Bennett and Nicholas Meyer (writer). Topics include starting the project, obtaining the rights, the cast, the director, the Lindberg kidnapping, the style of the film, locations, the carriage set, the score and reactions to the film, including the Oscar nominations. This is a good extra, comprehensive and interesting. The four sections are:
Filmed probably about 10 years after the “Making of”, producer Richard Goodwin talks about how he came to make Murder on the Orient Express, the scriptwriter, financing and the director and he adds some nice anecdotes about the cast and the shoot. Some repeated information from the “Making of”, although some of the information here is somewhat different!
10 black and white stills; silent, they advance automatically.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This release of Murder on the Orient Express is identical to the Region B UK release. There is currently no US Blu-ray version listed.
A all-star cast, a witty script, glamorous costumes, luscious visuals and an opulent score ensure that Murder on the Orient Express is old fashioned, first class, sumptuous, entertainment. And cracking entertainment it is too!
The film looks fine on Blu-ray, the audio is the original mono. The extras are genuine and of value.
The previous DVD release of the film, reviewed on this site here, had no real extras and a range of artefacts. For fans of the film, or the stars, an upgrade is definitely warranted. If you enjoyed Kenneth Branagh’s remake you should check out the original.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|