Saturday, 9 January 2016

And Then There Were None (2015)

"Superb adaptation of an Agatha Christie classic"

Probably Agatha Christie’s most famous novel not to feature either Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple gets an absolutely cracking new television version courtesy of the BBC, now available on DVD from RLJ Entertainment.

England, 1939. Eight people who have never met one another are invited for a weekend on an isolated island retreat just off the Devon coast. On arriving they, and the two servants who have been employed to look after them, are informed by a recording that they are each guilty of a murder for which they have gone unpunished. As the weekend draws on their numbers dwindle as they end up murdered in a variety of gruesome ways. Who is the killer? Why is there an odd poem in everyone’s room? What is the significance of the ten jade figurines on the dining table that decrease in number by one every time someone is killed? And who exactly are Mr & Mrs U N Owen who invited them all there?

Filmed before in 1945 and 1974 (on that occasion by Peter Collinson under the auspices of Harry Alan Towers), it’s a delight to report that the BBC’s new version is by far the best of the lot. Indeed, if this was a new movie release it would be an early contender for one of my top ten films of the year. 

Agatha Christie wasn’t known as the Queen of Crime for nothing, and while her 77 novels are well known for influencing much of modern crime literature and cinema (and especially the Italian gialli of the 1970s), one of the movies I was most reminded of during this was John Carpenter’s THE THING. There’s a deliciously gloomy feel to the proceedings, and even though the running time is nearly three hours, this allows the mounting feelings of suspicion and paranoia to be wound tighter and tighter, with the tense atmosphere being regularly punctuated by some gloriously splattery murders.

Always an opportunity to put together an all-star cast, this particular Christie adaptation puts together a fine collection of familiar faces including Toby Stephens and Sam Neill (Bond villain meets Damien Thorn!), Charles Dance channelling Christopher Lee so beautifully you just wish he had more screen time, Aidan Turner and Douglas Booth as the eye candy, Anna Maxwell Martin superb as the housekeeper (I’d love to see her in a Sheila Keith role), Noah Taylor as the butler, and Miranda Richardson deliciously objectionable as a hypocritical religious zealot. Add in TORCHWOOD's Burn Gorman and an appropriately haunted-looking Maeve Dermody and the ensemble is a treat. 

RLJ’s disc has a couple of picture galleries and a Behind the Scenes as extras. AND THEN THERE WERE NONE was broadcast over Christmas on the BBC and a right treat for television viewers it was. In a marketplace swamped by Christie adaptations over the years, this stands head and shoulders over almost all of them. Highly recommended, and if I see a better TV adaptation of novel this year I’ll be very surprised indeed. Top marks, BBC. 

RLJ Entertainment are releasing Agatha Christie's 
AND THEN THERE WERE NONE on Region 2 DVD on 11th January 2016

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