Monday, October 1, 2018

Movie #478: And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None is a whodunit murder mystery starring C. Aubrey Smith, Judith Anderson, Walter Huston, Mischa Auer, June Duprez, Barry Fitzgerald, Louis Hayward, Roland Young, Richard Haydn, and Queenie Leonard. It's adapted from the novel (which was originally published under a title I'm not gonna repeat here) by Agatha Christie.

A group of strangers are all summoned to meet a mysterious host - one that none of them actually know, but are referred to by people they do know - on an isolated island. When they get there, they realize that they've been tricked into appearing and that their host "Mr. U. N. Owen" or "Mr. Unknown", considers them all guilty of murder or murder by inaction or proxy, and intends to kill them in line with the "Ten Little Indians" rhyme that the first victim (Auer) plays on the piano before quaffing a poisoned drink.

From there, people keep dropping like flies in various horrible ways, all vaguely related to the song, until the killer is revealed - Judge Quinncannon (Fitzgerald), killing all these sinners off in a quest for justice. He intended for the final remaining victim, Vera Clayborne (Duprez) to hang herself, but with some help from the dashing young Lombard (Hayward), she tricks the killer and learns the truth and they escape.

Note, however, in the novel the killer's plan works, everybody dies, and the police are baffled. I think that ending would work for a movie now pretty well, but in 1945 that would have been pretty dark.

And Then There Were None is one of those movies that has been remixed and parodied and sampled so much that even if you haven't seen it, you've basically seen it. That said, this version is suspenseful, creepy, and brutal, even considering that there's no gore or violence to speak of (bodies are only shown partially, never faces, no blood or wounds depicted). The performances are perfect murder-mystery, and although Murder by Death lampoons this style of movie and pokes fun at last-minute reveals and adding characters, And Then There Were None plays fair by the audience and doesn't reveal a "twist" at the end that the audience couldn't have foreseen.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: The Nightmare Before Christmas