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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Ten Little Indians (1965)

I’ve always been a fan of Agatha Christie’s book as well as the first film adaptation of it, And Then There Were None. Though I’ve never gotten around to checking out this adaptation from the sixties. Since I’m in the middle of the murder mystery marathon I figured this would be a good time to correct that.

Ten strangers are sent an invitation to spend a weekend at an isolated mountain chalet by a mister U.N. Owen. Once there they keep waiting for their host to arrive, but he doesn’t. Instead they hear a recording of a mysterious voice (an uncredited Christopher Lee!) accusing them of various murders which they have gotten away with. Almost immediately they begin to get knocked off in ways inspired by the Ten Little Indians nursery rhyme that is hanging framed in all their rooms. The remainder of the movie has the ever-shrinking guest list trying to figure out who is the killer and stopping them.

As I’ve already stated I love the source material. I’m sure someone will correct me, but this is the earliest use of the everyone trapped in a house murder mystery motif I can remember. It certainly inspired many other movies/books/television shows with its simple setup. That said I have a couple of complaints about this version.

Here the filmmakers move the story from an island offshore to a mountain with a cable car access. While I suppose that works, they don’t do a good enough job showing why the guests wouldn’t just try and hike out. We do get one character that tries climbing down a sheer rock face, but that seems forced. I mean they clearly state that a sleigh is coming on Monday with supplies. So, there must be an easier way, right? They don’t even do the easy thing and have a snowstorm trap them in. Nope they just can’t walk down the trail for reasons unexplained. That kind of bugged me.

The other thing that annoyed me was the uneven tone of the adaptation. You have some odd music choices with some inappropriate groovy tunes playing throughout, and all the lovely ladies have their own romantic style jazz when they enter a scene. This carries thru even during the murders, which just seems odd. It messes with what should me a tense situation for our characters. Not once during the movie do I feel like any of them seem to be in fear for their lives. Well except for the housekeeper/cook who screeches thru her scenes before collapsing and dying offscreen.

I will give the movie credit for a solid cast. Teen heartthrob Fabian appears as a rocker who ran some people down and got away with it. Hugh O’Brian is our hero with Shirley Eaton as his love interest. Eaton might not be familiar to many of you, but I’ve been getting into the Carry On movies so I recognized her right away. Dennis Price who did a lot of genre flicks in the sixties and seventies is decent as Dr. Armstrong. But the most familiar face other than O’Brian is Wilfrid Hyde-White as Judge Cannon. That guy was in a ton of stuff and is always a pleasure to watch. All in all, this is a very good cast that is totally wasted by this poor attempt at a script.

I’ve gone out of my way to avoid talking too much about the story. Mostly because it follows that of the book closely and to say much more would possibly spoil it. While I’m not a fan of this one I can wholeheartedly recommend the original adaptation from nineteen forty-five. That is a much better movie so check it out. This one I’d pass on.  

 

Ó Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

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