Ten Little Indians (1965)

TEN LITTLE INDIANS (1965)
Article #1775 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-23-2006
Posting Date: 6-22-2006
Directed by George Pollock
Featuring Hugh O’Brian, Shirley Eaton, Fabian

Several people are invited to a party at a mansion by a mysterious man named U. N. Owen. They discover that they have all been found guilty of murder, and are going to be executed one by one.

I’ve read the play version of this movie. I’ve also seen the Rene Clair version AND THEN THERE WERE NONE several times. I mention this to underline the fact that I have a good familiarity with the story, and (especially) the ending. The trouble is – if you know how a mystery ends, it takes some of the fun out of watching it. And this is a rather famous mystery at that.

Now, if you’re doing remake of a well-known mystery, there are several approaches you can take. You can do a faithful version of it in the hope of appealing to those who aren’t familiar with it, but this makes it less fun to those who are. You can change the ending to add a surprise element for those who do know the story, but the problem I have with this is that it potentially underlines the arbitrariness of the resolution; in a good mystery, the identification of the killer should make you realize just how logical it was that this (and only this) particular person was the guilty party. A third approach is to make a totally different story, but if you want to do that, why do a remake? Quite frankly, none of these are really satisfactory.

This movie opts for the first approach. Sure, some of the characters have different backgrounds (the prince of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE gives way to the rock star here, for example), some of the names have been changed, and the ways that many of the characters meet their demise is different; nevertheless, the movie stays pretty close to the original story. As a result, the movie was a little predictable to me, and the mediocre direction does little to recommend it. However, the cast is quite good for the most part, and it can be a little fun to play the game of choosing who you ended up preferring in certain roles between different versions (Mischa Auer or Fabian? Barry Fitzgerald or Wilfred Hyde White? Stanley Holloway or Roland Young?). I’ll still prefer the elegance of the Clair version myself, but those who don’t really have an affinity for Clair or prefer movies in which both Shirley Eaton and Daliah Lavi appear in their underwear may opt for this one. To each his own.

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