First There Were Ten….And Then There Were None”, or so the poster says, but for anyone who knows this AGATHA CHRISTIE thriller, a more accurate title would be And Then There Were Two!
I always blamed Hollywood for changing the ending of the book on which the film is based. No one was left alive at the end of the novel , but it was Agatha Christie herself who changed the ending when she adapted her 1939 book for the stage in 1943.
The story goes that she wanted a more upbeat ending for audiences during wartime. She also changed the name of the character played by C.Aubrey Smith (General Macarthur in the book, General Mandrake in the film).
On the boat to the isolated island off the coast of Devon. All strangers to each other and all invited by Mr.U. N. Owen – whom none of them know. But their host thinks they have committed crimes for which they escaped punishment.
The ferry has left the island and wont be back till after the weekend. There are no phones. The stage is set, and one by one, they are killed in various ways (though the deaths are not too graphic!). And each death bears some relation to the nursery rhyme, Ten Little Indians.
The centre piece of the dining table,ten little Indian figurines. One by one, after every death, they topple over. It’s eerie!
On arrival, Rogers the butler puts on a gramophone record , and their crimes of murder are laid out for all to hear. There’s some controversy over whose voice is heard on the record. I read that it was an actor called Victor Travers.
June Duprez, an English actress whose career in Hollywood only lasted over the war years. She is best known for THE FOUR FEATHERS, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD and THE SPY IN BLACK.
French director Rene Clair also didn’t linger long in Hollywood. Long enough to make this great thriller and THE GHOST GOES WEST, I MARRIED A WITCH and THE FLAME OF NEW ORLEANS.
Is this the murderer? The doctor looks a little crazy.
The devilish Christie twist in the plot. Fitzgerald and Huston are excellent.
Emily Brent (Judith Anderson) doesn’t seem too concerned as she continues knitting. Judith’s character is minor and not really worthy of this actress.
Richard Haydn brings some humour to the murder mystery,playing Rogers, the butler. Like the guests, he and his wife (Queenie Leonard) have never met their employer.
And Then There was None was an independent film by producer Harry M. Popkin.
Lapsing into public domain, it has been out on DVD from various distributors over the years.
My recent copy is a Spanish Blu-ray from Cinema International Media. The quality is ok.
Even when you know the ending of the film, it is so well made , you want to watch it again – just not on your own on a cold, dark night!
I watched the recent BBC adaptation and wasn’t impressed. This is the one to watch. It has everything – red herrings, crashing waves,mystery,chills, deception,suspicion and a ton of suspense. It could only be in black and white.
And if you haven’t seen it, Bosley Crowther’s 1945 New York Times review ends with –
“As for the murderer’s performance, well, you must judge for yourself!”