Ten Little Indians (1965) – Tuesday’s Overlooked Film

Ten-Little-Indians-DVDWith the news that the BBC are to adapt Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, I thought this might be a good opportunity to look at the original novel and earlier screen incarnations, especially the 1965 cinema version released as Ten Little Indians that changed the island setting to a remote mountain-top.

The following review is offered for Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme over at Todd Mason’s Sweet Freedom blog; Katie’s 2014 Book to Movie Challenge at Doing Dewey (for links, click here); Bev’s 2014 Golden Age Vintage Mystery Challenge; and Kerrie’s Agatha Christie Reading Challenge monthly Blog Carnival.

“‘Ladies and gentlemen! Silence please! … You are charged with the following indictments …”

This may well be Agatha Christie’s best-known and most widely copied story, though it must also be her most atypical – in many ways in fact this feels a lot more like the kind of book that we would have expected from Philip MacDonald with its villain perpetrating a series of elaborate and ingenious murders with victims unconnected to each other (well, with more rhyme than reason). Even Christie’s death-strewn excursion into ancient Egypt, Death Comes at the End, had a more or less conventional sleuth in the figure of Renisenb. Here instead we have no seeming identification figure but ten people who have all been held guilty of a crime in their past. They have been lured to an isolated spot and slowly, but surely, start being knocked off one by one. Conceptually of course this is very Chrstie-Ten-Little-Niggers-fontana‘high concept’ and since the 60s has been a staple of the mystery/horror genre. One of the reasons that it is so appealing is precisely because, like many of her best-known books, it can be summarised very easily. Even non fans will probably know, for instance, which are the Christie titles in which the narrator turns out to be the murderer; or the one where a madman is following an ABC pattern; or the one in which everybody did it. Well, And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians aka Ten Little Niggers) is the one where the crimes follow a nursery rhyme scheme and in which, apparently, despite a vast number of dead bodies, nobody in fact seems to be the murderer by the end as all the viable suspects get knocked off!

“I’ve no doubt in my own mind that we have been invited here by a madman – probably a dangerous homicidal lunatic”

In the book the action all takes place on ‘Nigger Island’ off the south coast of England, which chimed in with the use of the ‘Ten Little Niggers’ nursery rhyme that gave the original UK edition its title. The rhyme was derived from the US version, ‘Ten Little Indians’ which thankfully was the title used for the book in the US, though And Then There Were None may well be a preferable title all round really. To remove the inevitable offence that would be caused, in new editions of the book, under that title, the ten characters now arrive on ‘Soldier Island’ though for this review I am using an older British edition with the original title intact. Thus the book is deliberately created to toy with reader expectations and surprise with a narrative that seems to go against all standard genre formulas. Once established though any adaptations would not be able to do ACC-And-thenthis very easily – and certainly not, as in this case, a remake – so how to vary the formula for a new audience despite an overly familiar premise, then? Well, for starters, with one notable exception (the Russian adaptation for 1987 that I have yet to see), all use a variant ending, one that Christie in fact used for her own stage adaptation, first produced in 1943, which allows for a semblance of a happy ending and which, I have to say, I actually prefer. In 1945 producer Harry M Popkin made an independent movie version directed with his usual humour and flair by French director René Clair and remains easily the best known and most enjoyable. However, the 1965 remake by writer-producer Hary Allan Towers introduced some new wrinkles …

“The first motion picture with a ‘whodunit break'” –

Yes, this is a movie with one of those gimmicks that for a while were fashionable (usually in William Castle pictures) – here, just as Shirley Eaton is about to shoot the person she thinks is the murderer, we are given a 60-second break to review all the killings with a ticking clock and see who we think is the culprit – Chamber of Horrors (1966) had both a “Fear Flasher” and “Horror Horn” to warn patrons that a scary bit was coming (click here to see these). Later on another film inspired by the Christie novel but given a cheeky lycanthropic twist, The Beast Must Die, introduced a 30-second ‘werewolf break’ that pretty much just copies the one on Ten Little Indians (to see how close they are, click here).


The story in this iteration (Towers would film the book twice more in each successive decade, varying the setting each time) remains essentially unchanged, with the same beginning, middle and end. The action is relocated to a castle in the Austrian Alps that can only be reached by cable car (that is spectacularly taken out of action with the second murder). We are introduced to the cast of ten as they arrive courtesy of some spectacular snow-bound second unit footage. The film was in fact shot in its entirety at Kenure House (since demolished), an ancient manor in Rush, near Dublin in Ireland which Towers also used for his sensational thriller, The Face of Fu Manchu, which starred Christopher Lee, who makes an uncredited appearance in this film too as the voice of the mysterious host, UN Owen.

Eaton-Ten-Little-Indians Eaton2-Ten-Little-Indians

Shirley Eaton and Hugh O’Brian take the lead roles in this version. She was the original golden girl from Goldfinger and also the object of much lust in Jonathan Coe’s What a Carve Up!, which took its title from the British comedy of the same name in which she starred (and a review of which is coming to Fedora soon-ish). Here she gets to look fabulous a lot (easy) but otherwise seems to spend most of the film either screaming, throwing herself into Hugh O’Brian’s hairy chest or appearing in her underwear on several completely gratuitous occasions (not exactly disagreeable but it’s pretty unsubtle frankly) – on the other hand she does get to take charge of proceedings at the finish and handles the equivocal elements very nicely indeed.


O’Brian (the star of Wyatt Earp on TV) mainly has to act butch and manly and does a fine job and even gets to have an extended bout of fisticuffs with Mario Adorf, who plays the butler. This is also the film that introduced sex into the Christie world on screen, thus consolidating early on the partnership between Eaton and O’Brian, which does pay off nicely in the finale. Flavour of the month teen-sensation Fabian plays (what else?) a pop star and is the first to die, which is a good thing as he’s pretty obnoxious. On the other hand Leo Genn leaves soon after, which is too early as he is great as the cowardly major.

Genn2-Ten-Little-Indians Genn-Ten-Little-Indians

This leaves Stanley Holloway, as a dodgy private eye, Dennis Price as the alcoholic surgeon and Wilfred Hyde-White as the guilt-ridden judge to pretty much steal the scenes – which they do over and over again. The scene during the power cut over the billiards table is closely modelled on the equivalent one in the Clair version but is none the less very well put together. Daliah Lavi as a German actress responsible for the death of her husband gets to look sensational in several great outfits but is given too little to do, though her death scene by hypodermic is certainly shot with imagination by George Pollock (director of the Margaret Rutherford Marple films) and his cameraman Ernie Steward, one of the busiest and ablest men in British cinema at the time.

White-Ten-Little-Indians Lavi-Ten-Little-Indians


The film feels more like an Edgar Wallace German krimi in its oppressive atmosphere, use of dark shadows, occasional suggestions of violent death, intimations of decadence and the never-never atmosphere. Sadly it mostly lack the irony and black humour of the 1945 version and is saddled with an appropriately cheerful score by Malcolm Lockyer that tries but fails to emulate Ron Goodwin’s jaunty score for the Marple films. It is however much, much better that Towers’ subsequent remakes, And Then There Were None (1974) set in a hotel in Iran and starring Oliver Reed, Elke Sommer and Richard Attenborough (with Orson Welles as ‘Owen’) while the 1989 Ten Little Indians stars Frank Stallone and is set on an African safari, which does however return the story to its 1930s origins.

For an astonishingly detailed look at the cast of characters, look no further than the exciting collaboration between Patrick and Curt published over at the fine, At the Scene of the Crime

DVD Availability: Easily available internationally on DVD, the best  region 2 edition is probably the DVD release from Italy in widescreen unlike the pan and scanned version released in the UK though for some scenes the subtitles are not removable sadly. In the US it is now available in widescreen as a Warner Made on Demand release having previously released by the company as a more preferable pressed disc that is now out of print. This is probably the best edition overall.

Ten Little Indians (1965)
Director: George Pollock
Producer: Harry Allan Towers
Screenplay: Peter Yeldham and Harry Allan Towers (as ‘Peter Welbeck’)
Cinematography: Ernest Steward
Art Direction: Frank White
Music: Malcolm Lockyer
Cast: Hugh O’Brian, Shirley Eaton, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Daliah Lavi, Dennis Price, Mario Adorf, Fabian, Stanley Holloway, Leo Genn, Marianne Hoppe and (uncredited) Christopher Lee

I submit this review for Bev’s 2014 Golden Age Vintage Mystery Challenge in the ‘Number in the Title’ category:


***** (4 fedora tips out of 5)

This entry was posted in 2014 Book to Movie Challenge, 2014 Vintage Mystery Challenge Bingo, Agatha Christie, Harry Alan Towers, Philip MacDonald, Tuesday's Overlooked Film. Bookmark the permalink.

74 Responses to Ten Little Indians (1965) – Tuesday’s Overlooked Film

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Sergio – This is such a Christie classic – I’m very glad you’re profiling it. The novel works on so many levels, and the original story has a great deal of Christie’s trademark plot twists. I never could understand all of the major changes made to the story in the various film versions although of course I agree completely about the title. I must confess I’m quite fussy about this one and I’ll be interested to see what BBC does with it. And quick to mutter if they get it wrong. 😉 – Thanks as ever for an excellent review.

    • Thanmks Margot – would be amazing if they kept the original ending (albeit without the message in a bottle perhaps – always thought that was a bit too stupid myself)

  2. Curtis Evans says:

    “Here she gets to look fabulous a lot (easy) but otherwise seems to spend most of the film either screaming, throwing herself into Hugh O’Brian’s hairy chest”

    Maybe she was looking for clues in there!

    I’m pretty certain I saw this on TV when I was quite young, but can’t really recall much. I saw the original version when I was an adult and enjoyed. Am looking forward, however. to seeing a good version that is true to the original. It’s such a fascinating novel for Christie. Had it been written by a hard-boiled author we would call it noir!

    • I certainly agree that it strays closer to what we might associate more with Millar maybe Holding and (at a pich) Highsmith – I did love your analysis with Patrick – amazing job you guys did. The 1945 film version works wobderfully well on its own terms.

  3. Colin says:

    Terrific! I have a real soft spot for this and find it difficult to choose between the 1965 movie and the earlier Rene Clair version. I guess the 40s film is overall stronger, but there’s something very attractive about the remake too – Shirley Eaton and Daliah Lavi are very, very easy on the eye.

    I’m glad to hear you say you like the film ending. I do too. Probably because I saw the films before I read Christie’s book, I found the ending of the novel too much of a downer. I’ve heard people get sniffy about this aspect but I don’t care – the movie ending works fine and it’s far more satisfying.

    I really miss those “fright break” gimmicks you mentioned too – they’re hokey but fun.

    • The 1945 version is classier I think and obviously had the virtue of getting there first but I did enjoy this remake (much more than the 70s version, which annoyingly is the first I ever saw, like you before reading the book). The thing about the whodunit break is that it does feel completely tacked on, fun though it is – at least with Beast Must Die (the werewolf break film, which i rewatched and may post on) you are prepared fromt he outset though neither feels like a film that in other respects is ironically trying to break the fourth wall – it’s goofy and makes it less serious, which given the body count is a good move but does dissipate the tension too a bit …

      • Colin says:

        Yeah, that’s true. I think that I saw this film, and the others with similar gimmicks, at a fairly young age so the goofiness didn’t bother me in the least at the time. And of course now there’s the element of nostalgia.

        BTW, I fired of an email last night to say everything arrived safely and thank you. Hope you got it OK.

      • Colin says:

        And yes, the 1974(?) version is disappointing compared to the earlier efforts. Annoyingly, it seemed to turn up on TV much more often too.

        • The first time I saw it I remember that during the broadcast the bBC actually had a caption running apologising for how poor the sound quality was – I rememember it being on screen for a huge chunk of the movie!

          • Colin says:

            And there’s a pretty good cast – although the judge isn’t nearly as engaging. It’s just flat though and hasn’t the spirit of either earlier version.

          • I remember being very disappointed at the time and then loving the 1945 version. Of course, since the original Friday 13th movie, which is actually a whodunit (because Jason’s isn’t the killer) nearly all these so-called horror films are really knock offs of the Christie as filtered through violent gialli and krimi iterations – amazing how many ‘horror’ films today lack any actual supernatural element …

          • Colin says:

            True, though I’d question whether many of the so-called modern horror movies actually belong in that category/genre. I think of them as more psycho killer/slasher films myself.

          • Yeah, true, but those have become a subsection of horror now, surely? I’m thinking of the Saw and Scream franchises especially … I hasten to add that when it comes to horror I am a fan of the less is more approach and have friends who know this terrotory incredibly well as they teach it at universoty and they would swat me with their machetes for saying thinsg this broad about their beloved genre …

          • Colin says:

            Oh they’re definitely grouped under “horror” is various subsections. It’s just a personal thing – I think of horror movies as those which scare me or make me uneasy. The slasher/torture/psycho varieties don’t scare me, but they can make me feel unwell at times.

          • And I blame Dame Agatha for starting it all!

  4. I saw this years ago, and am looking forward to a new BBC version. The book itself is excellent, and you can re-read it even when you know all…. I love the top still above, the three men in evening dress looking at each other sideways, their expressions are priceless.

  5. Patti Abbott says:

    It was after seeing this version as a teenager that I began reading Christie. I never found another book of hers I liked as much as this one though.

  6. Barring the Poirot (David Suchet) television episodes, I don’t think I’ve seen full-length movies based on Christie’s novels. In spite of having this book, lying unread as yet, I was unaware of the political correctness behind the three titles. Every time I read a Christie novel (and it’s been a while since I did) the first thing that comes to my mind are the many layers in her plots injected not without a little subtlety. Thanks for another “terrific” post, Sergio.

    • Thanks Prashant – there are only a few decent movies from Christie’s work (principal of which is the 1957 Witness for the Prosecution starring Tyrone Power, Marlena Dietrich and Charles Laughton) – mostly TV has proved the best place for he, in my opinion.

  7. Richard says:

    I really prefer the 1945 version. First, I think black & white serves the setting better, I like the directing and I like the cast, especially Barry Fitzgerald who is perfect for the role.

    • Well I agree with you Richard as I think it gets the tone just right, though ~i wish we’d had Ray Milland or George Sanders instead of Hayward, though the 1965 version is in black and white too, in fairness.

  8. John says:

    This is the only remake I like. The first of course will always be the best. But this one of the many remakes at least is fun and has some great acting as you mentioned above. The neat twist of putting them on a moutaintop resort accessible only by cable car was very clever. I think the one in the desert with Richard Attenborough as the Judge and Elke Sommer as Vera is the worst of the lot. Boring and dull. I have tried to forget much of it and can’t even recall anyone else in the cast. (Thankfully!) How can Ten Litle Indians ever be dull? Somehow they all managed to ruin it completely. I’ve never bothered to see the 1980s one set in Africa. Sounds horrid! Could that one be worse?

    If it ever gets remade again (I’m shuddering just imagining it) someone should be daring enough to stick with the original ending. The time has come, don’t you think?

    • Well yeah, if it’s good enough for the Russian version, why not? However, when it comes to remakes I may disagree with you John – after all, there is John Huston’s remake of The Maltese Falcon, Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven, David Cronenberg’s The Fly, John Carpenter’s The Thing, the Denzel Washington version of Man on Fire, the Judy Garland A Star is Born, the Pierce Brosnan Thomas Crown Affair, His Girl Friday from The Front Page, the James Cagrney Strawberry Blonde, remade from One Sunday Afternoon, a 1933 Gary Cooper picture nobody even remembers anymore …

      • John says:

        Oh dear. Am I that unclear these days? I meant it was the only remake of TEN LITTLE INDIANS I like! I didn’t mean to imply it’s the only remake I like out of *all* remakes. I agree that many of those you list above — especially Cronenberg’s THE FLY — are much better than the original films.

  9. Yvette says:

    I’ll be a dissenter and say that I thought this screen version of the book rather laughable. Probably because of Hugh O’Brian (so out of place) and Shirley Eaton. But I did love Wilfred Hyde-White (always did in any role he played). This is not my favorite Christie book – in fact, in trying to deny my feelings (never a good thing) I listened to an audio version of the book read by one of my favorites, Hugh Fraser. But even that didn’t make me like the thing any better.

    I have a feeling that this is one of those books that doesn’t improve on re-reading. It’s meant to be a one-off. A gimmick. After that the bloom is off the rose. 🙂

    However, I did kind of enjoy the first movie version I ever saw, the one with Louis Hayward as the hero. That was a top notch cast all around. But even that I couldn’t really watch more than once or twice. Call me contrary.

    • Thanks for all your wisdom Yvette – it’s not my favourite Christie book or movie either in fact. I know where you are coming from and as I was re-reading the book and wanted to find a less obvious adaptation to focus on that the ’45 edition I picked on this one – I don’t think it’s as good but I obviously found it a lot more fun that you did! But then I also quite enjoyed re-reading la Christie walk down the wild side …

  10. TracyK says:

    I am going to have to read the book soon so I can read these things without worrying about learning something I don’t want to know. Although I probably read it years ago and just forgot. And saw the movies too. Anyway, I did read most of this and I would enjoy watching it just for the actors. Lovely post, Sergio.

  11. Jeff Flugel says:

    Glad to see you cover this one, Sergio – nice work! While I like the 40s Clair version of the story, this is my favorite (surely helped by it being the first version I saw). I know many readers of the novel criticize both films for straying from the text re: the ending, but personally, I prefer the way the movies tackle it. No complaints from this corner regarding Ms. Eaton’s cavorting around in her underwear for most of the film…she’s utterly gorgeous and it’s nice to see her as the center of attraction here. Agreed on the obnoxiousness of Fabian but Hugh O’Brian is a good stalwart lead, and the rest of the cast are great fun (including the criminally underused Lavi). I actually like the 60 second “murder break” gimmick at the end; it’s a charming relic of the times. All in all, this is a really fun flick and for my money is the best adaptation of Christie to come out of the 60s.

  12. Ela says:

    I vaguely remember seeing the 1974 film, probably when I was a kid, but I’ve read the book a couple of times. It’s really cleverly done, and interesting for the murderer’s justification, too; none of the characters are entirely likeable, if I recall correctly.

    If the ending’s changed in the film, does that mean, essentially, that they get away with their earlier crimes? Or that they were innocent to begin with? (trying not to be too spoilery for anyone else who hasn’t read it!)

    • Thanks Ela – the revised ending, which Christie first used in her own stage adaptation of the novel, comes up with a clever alternative – let’s say (**** slight spoiler warning ***) a couple of the original invitations from Owen didn’t reach their destination!

  13. neer says:

    for this fine post Sergio on my favourite Christie. I can read it umpteen times and still be enthralled. However, I read a play by Christie in which she had changed the ending by giving it a romantic conclusion. I hated it because it took away the entire purpose of the book. If the movies have endings like the one in the play than I am simply not interested.

    • Yeah, ‘fraid so – all the English-language versiosn use the same ending she created for the play. I actually don’t mind the ending at all and makes the adaptation more manageable by taking a more blackly comic approach – I’ve never been convinced that the book, as clever as it is, can quite support the nihilistic conclusion it is striving for.

  14. Patrick says:

    Well, Sergio, it’s a strange little movie to be sure. For all the good performances in this movie, we have one that’s positively terrible. Fabian is particularly laughable in what amounts to a cameo performance — this guy was a popstar??? (Oh, 1960s, never ever change…) I did think that the change of setting was a clever twist, but I also thought that the scenes that it copies from the earlier movie — such as the conversation between the doc and the judge over the billiard game — made the twist much more obvious to spot.

    I still do not understand why so many characters had to be changed around — like why did Miss Brent need to be a glamourous German movie star? (And goodness gracious, that hair!) But I kind of like this movie. Kind of.

    That being said, how dare you not recognize the superiority of the 1989 version? Master thespian Frank Stallone put in his finest performance ever, and how can you not laugh at scenes like the judge dropping down dead from a tree for the purpose of jump-scaring the heroine???

    Incidentally, as good as the Russian adaptation is, it screws up the revelation royally by giving you one key piece of information about 20 seconds too soon. Remove that small clip from the film, and you have a masterpiece.

    • Really want to see the Russian version now, thanks Patrick – yes, you do imagine that the 60s version was written around the kind of actors they could get and altered the book without a second thought – but then, Harry Allan Towers was a bit like that in that he clearly enjoyed putting classic mysteries and thrillers on screen (Third Man and Sherlock Holmess on Radio, Christie, Harry Palmer and Fu Manchu on the screen) but the deal always came first!

  15. Bobbi says:

    I vaguely remember watching one of movie versions back in either the late 1960’s or the 1970’s but not much more than that.
    For those of you who have never seen one of my favorite private eye movies “Farewell my Lovely” starring the late Robert Mitchum you can see the entire movie on You Tube.
    To me this is by far and away better than the earlier “Murder my Sweet” in my opinion.

  16. Bev Hankins says:

    Love this book (and can reread it over and over, knowing the ending, and still love it). The version with Fabian is a decent remake, but I’ll always love the version with Dame Judith Anderson best. [probably because I saw it first]

  17. Santosh Iyer says:

    The novel is one of my favourites and I regard it as a masterpiece.
    I have seen 3 of the English film adaptations and I was disappointed with the “happy ending” variation. All the English adaptations and the stage adaptation have this variation. I do not see the reason. This is not a romantic story but a grim and dark tale of murders.
    I have also seen the Russian adaptation Desyat Negrityat (1987) and I regard it as the best. Much better than the English versions. The acting, direction and photography are all excellent. The inner turmoil and conflicts of some of the characters are superbly explored.
    The Russian film is the most faithful adaptation. The names of the characters, the past crimes, the way of of committing the murders and, most important, the grim ending are all the same as in the book.
    The film was shot at the Crimea peninsula on the Black Sea. The island is actually a cliff with the house perched on top of it slightly jutting out and with steps leading up to it from the bottom.
    There is an interesting feature regarding the flashbacks of Vera’s past. While the film is in colour, the flashbacks are shown in black and white. However, the last flashback just before Vera’s final act is shown in colour, indicating that at that moment the memories come back with such force that she confuses past and present and this propels her to her final act.
    The nightmare scene of Lombard is another superb scene.
    At the end, there is no putting a letter in a bottle. Instead, the murderer appears and explains to the audience. Actually, the murderer does not speak but the thought process is conveyed aloud to the audience. After that, the murderer ………(same as in the book, but without the trick).
    I urge those who have not seen the Russian version to do so. It is really outstanding (despite the key information being revealed 20 seconds too soon).
    There is also a Hindi film adaptation Gumnaam (1965) which does not even bother to give credit to Agatha Christie. Gumnaam means Unknown. The film is full of comedy, dance and music in sharp contrast to the grim and dark Russian version. It has an even “happier ending”——-the butler and his sister (wife is replaced by sister) also survive.

    • Thanks for all the fascinating detail Santosh, greatly appreciated.

      • neer says:

        Santosh, I too thank you for all that interesting detail. Now I really want to see the Russian version since it doesn’t have that awful ending of making heroes of two despicable characters.

        And I agree, Gumnaam is a travesty. Though I must admit I quite like the songs esp. the haunting “Gumannam hai koi…” and the playful “Kitty Kelly”.

        • I will add though that Christie’s solution to make two of the characters less unpleasant is a typically clever one – the point being, they don’t deserve their fate – but then, it’s not like I believe in capital punishment, even in fiction 🙂

          • neer says:

            Perhaps my memory is faulty, Sergio (and I read the play ages ago) but I don’t remember Christie’s solution as being clever. Wasn’t it two heroic acts that eventually were in vain?

            But I guess, we are going to disagree on ‘the book vs the play’ and since I love the way we readers disagree about texts, this discussion has been fun. 🙂

          • Well, without giving too much away, in the play / film, two of the guests turn out to be impostors and so are let off the hook, so to speak, which strikes me as smart because it tends to put into relief that aspect of the killer’s plan that is most germane to their previous occupation (and the consequences of capital punishment) – that not how you remember it, Neeru?

    • eddiejc1 says:

      I really, REALLY like the Russian version. The biggest problem I have with the film (which is not the fault of the director) is the horrible English subtitles. There were better subtitles posted on YouTube, but unfortunately those have been removed. Buyers of the DVD on Amazon should be aware of this.

      One notable change from the book, which I approve of takes place late in the film. Ironically, it seems at first to mirror the Hollywood version where the last two characters fall in love. However, in this version it’s less romantic and more animalistic—very close to rape. Furthermore, AFTER this scene one of the characters makes a revelation (which is in the book), but the sex actually makes that person feel MORE vulnerable and suspicious.

      The problem I have with even this film’s ending, is that the director feels that it is sufficient to show the killer committing suicide after making their confession. Of course, whoever comes from the mainland will be easily able to figure out who did it. In Christie’s book, the killer does this in such a way that the death seems like murder instead of self-inflicted. You also have Scotland Yard detectives discuss the case and try–unsuccessfully–to figure out what happened. We know because the last chapter is a suicide note that the killer places in a bottle and throws into the sea. I think this could be done in a film version, with maybe the detectives discussing the case could work as a framing device.

      • It really sounds like the Russian version is the one to go for – thanks for all the great details. I agree that there should, ideally, be a way to present to scene of the crime as an insoluble mystery – as I say, the message in the bottle is a bit too literary a device for me so I wouldn’t mind if they tweaked that

  18. PS The Russian version of the film, Desyat’ Negrityat, that retains the original, more nihilistic ending, can be purchased on DVD with English subtitles from the likes of Amazon – click here.

  19. eddiejc1 says:

    We’re going to have to agree to disagree about the ending. I think that the ending to the book is perfect, and almost all the film versions ruin it. Even the Soviet film, Desyat’ Negritat‘s ending could be improved. (That being said, I highly recommend the Russian film. The English subtitles on the DVD I bought are horrible, but for the most part this movie is so faithful to the book that veteran Christie fans will be filling in the dialogue in their own head.)

    I hope that the BBC film coming out will be the first English language adaptation that preserves the original film. There are enough versions which show two lovers going off into the sunset with an easily solved mystery. What we really need to see—and what Agatha Christie initially wrote—is a story where ten people go to an island, everyone dies, and there seems to be no way for anybody to have committed the murders.

    • It certainly will be interesting to see what they come up with, though on past performance (such as the recent version of THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS) I think textual fidelity will not be high on the agenda.

      • eddiejc1 says:

        Maybe not, but I will be interested in seeing the reviews first. If the BBC version goes with the “happy ending” that is not in the book, then I am uninterested in watching it.

        • Well, at least it is a canonical ending in the sense that it’s an alternate version that Christie herself came up with – and I have a lot of sympahy with it (well, I always thought the message in the bottle was silly). No, if I ruled the universe (or the bits of it controlling BBC drama) then I would start with the island seemingly deserted and then flash back …

          • eddiejc1 says:

            Well, in all due fairness, if they film the “happy ending” but they are the characters Christie wrote, I still might be interested in checking it out. And as even the Russian version proves, it IS possible to make changes to Agatha Christie books and IMPROVE upon them.

          • Does all sound fascinating – do you think the worry will be that now that so many people know the premise and even the trick of the ending that there will be a desire to come up with something to catch out even those people? I usually find that pretty annoying …

          • eddiejc1 says:

            The last big movie version of “Ten Little Indians” was in 1989, and I don’t think that did well. Either way you go about it, I think that there are a lot of people who will be surprised. Is the 1965 version of TLI really a hit on Netflix? Have people under 30 ever watched that movie or any of the other versions?

            One safe prediction I have about this new version is that it will be the first English language adaption not to use “Indians.” A couple years ago, the estate of Agatha Christie allowed the book to change the rhyme to “Ten Little Soldiers” and they even changed the remaining references to “the n—– in the woodpile.” It would be hyprocritical for me to condemn a production that used the original title “Ten Little N——” (which is extremely offensive to me, and I’m white) which saying that there’s nothing wrong with using “Indians.” If the production is done well enough, it shouldn’t matter that there are “Ten Little Soldiers” instead of “Ten Little Indians.”

          • We shall have to wait and see – of course, what would be really great of there were real Indians from India – I do want to see the Bollywood version of the book in fact

          • eddiejc1 says:

            The Bollywood version may seem ridiculous to me, but I have to keep in mind that they expect different things from their movies than we do. I hope that if they do have musical numbers that they will be in keeping with the tone of the book.

          • Let’s hope 🙂

  20. Pingback: April 2014: Classic crime in the blogosphere | Past Offences Classic Crime Fiction

  21. DoingDewey says:

    I should really see this film! I loved the book and while I agree that it’s not typical Christie, it is one of my favorites. If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s also a new YA adaptation of this story called Ten which I’d really like to get to too.

  22. Pingback: THE ABC MURDERS (1936) by Agatha Christie | Tipping My Fedora

  23. Santosh Iyer says:

    A new movie version is going to be made by 20th Century Fox to be directed by Morten Tyldum.

    • Thanks for that Santosh – i ti sgoing to be very interesting how they try and make such a well-worn and well-known idea saleable again to the general public – let’s hope they do something clever!

  24. Henry Kujawa says:

    I’ve been re-watcing my Agatha Christie video collection again all this year. I decided to save “TEN LITTLE INDIANS”, “AND THEN THERE WERE NONE” and “WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION” for the finale of the marathon.

    When I first saw “…NONE” I thought the casting was too “obvious”, as, to my young eyes (back in the 80s), the only actors I knew turned out to be the hero and the kliler. My Dad (40 years my senior) assured me it was an ALL-STAR cast. Decades of watching other films have proven him right. It was only the last time I watched “…NONE” that I finally began to notice how much older Louis Hayward had begun to look after the war… it had a bad effect on him (as I’m sure it did many others), and he seemed to be aging faster than he should have. Once I found out about his marriage and divorce, I began to wonder if that’s what let to his marriage (to Ida Lupino) breaking up.

    The ’65 remake is fun, though at time too in-your-face “gimmicky”. But it does have ANOTHER genuine “all-star cast’ for its day. I’d rank it as one of the 3 BEST films Harry Alan Tower was ever associated with (the others being his first 2 FU MANCHU films). Shirley Eaton, my favorite of the Connery Bond girls, has a LOT more time in this. I’ve also enjoyed her in several “CARRY ON” films, and her “SAINT” episode with Roger Moore (the first of that series, out of 120).

    When I read about the original novel’s ending, I was shocked and horrified! Obviously I like the play’s ending better– and WHO better to have the right to make such a change, but Christie herself? About 20 years ago, I saw a local production which was IMMENSE fun. I especially got a kick out of the very last line in the play…

    (*****SPOILER WARNING!!!!!*****)

    While in the ’45 & ’65 films, we know the girl shoots to miss, there’s no such bit in the play. When Lombard turns up alive at the end, even she is pleasantly surprised. He sums it up…


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