Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

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Released 20-Jun-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Photo
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Easter Egg-Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 122:13 (Case: 127)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:09) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sidney Lumet
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Albert Finney
Lauren Bacall
Martin Balsam
Ingrid Bergman
Jacqueline Bissett
Jean-Pierre Cassel
Sean Connery
John Gielgud
Wendy Hiller
Anthony Perkins
Vanessa Redgrave
Rachel Roberts
Richard Widmark
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music Richard Rodney Bennett


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Universal Pictures Home Video are releasing two Hercule Poirot movies at the same time - one is Murder On The Orient Express, the other is Evil Under The Sun (see that review here).

    Hercule Poirot is one of Agatha Christie's two most famous detectives, and he has been portrayed by a variety of actors. I really like David Suchet's interpretation in the TV movies, because I think it is perhaps the most true to the original stories, but Murder on the Orient Express has Albert Finney, who does a marvellous job. Evil Under the Sun has Peter Ustinov, who does an excellent job of capturing many of Poirot's mannerisms, but he is the wrong size, shape, and hair colour.

    Both movies have a star-studded cast - a common term, but one very applicable. Have you ever noticed the distinction of whether an actor's name appears before or after the title of the movie in the opening credits? Appearing before the title is part of being a star. In this movie, there are fourteen names before the title of the movie!

    Albert Finney is clearly having a ball, and Wendy Hiller is playing her part with a touch of the Lady Bracknell's. Vanessa Redgrave has a sparkle in her eye, too. Michael York looks a little out of his depth, which is understandable - he's a lot younger, and not as good an actor as most of the cast. I think Wendy Hiller gets one of the best lines: "You never smile." "My doctor has advised against it.".

    The plot, as is typical for a good Christie, is complex. I do not wish to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it, so I won't talk about it. Suffice it to say that all the clues are presented, but you could easily wear out your "little grey cells" trying to untwist it. Much easier to sit back and wait for the revelations when Poirot gathers all the suspects for the big finish.

    If you like Agatha Christie, then let me recommend this film - this is one of the best efforts made at translating one of her books to the big screen.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer is rather good. Not perfect, but really quite good. Unfortunately, it is in the wrong aspect ratio.

    The movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. This is not close enough to the original aspect ratio, which was 2.35:1, but it looks nice on a widescreen display. I would really have preferred to see this movie in the original aspect ratio.

    The picture is a little soft almost all of the way through. There are a few moments of clarity, but they are few indeed. Shadow detail is excellent, and there's no low level noise to see. One of the benefits of the softer image is that it hides aliasing that might otherwise have jumped out at us.

    The colour is good. Because the movie is set in 1935, clothes are somewhat muted in colour, but what colours we do see are well-saturated.

    There are numerous tiny film artefacts, which is perfectly understandable in a movie that is 27 years old. None of them are troublesome. Aliasing is nearly invisible, aided by the softness of the image. I saw no MPEG artefacts. There's a touch of telecine wobble in the opening credits, revealed by the choice of font for the credits (I can never remember if that style is Art Nouveau or Art Deco - it's one or the other).

    Much of the investigation takes place on a train stopped by a snow drift, so there is a lot of light glaring in the windows from the snow. This makes the lighting a little unusual, and causes a sheet of paper on a table in front of Poirot to appear almost glowing. On a couple of occasions the light shining off the paper shows in the bottom of the shot, and looks like a flaw in the film - it's not.

    The disc is single sided and dual-layered (RSDL-formatted), with the layer change at 66:09. There's a visible pause in the middle of the scene, but it is not bad.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    I hope you can hear and understand English, because that's all there is on this disc - an English language soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. The soundtrack is perfectly acceptable for a murder mystery.

    Dialogue is clear and readily understood, without any errors in audio sync.

    The score by Richard Rodney Bennett is fine - it supports the story without intruding.

    The soundtrack is not surround-encoded - it is a straight mono mix. As such, the surrounds and subwoofer were not called upon. I didn't really miss them - this movie is more about plot than noise.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are quite basic - we get a trailer, some photos, and bios.

Menu

    The menu is static, with some music. Nothing special.

Trailer

    The trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. The video quality is acceptable.

Photo Gallery

    We get 8 black-and-white and 10 colour stills. I suspect these were promotional photos. The quality is not all that good.

Biographies

    There are a lot of biographies (each including a filmography) here. As well as eleven of the actors, we get a bio for Agatha Christie - in her case the list of films covers many of the films made from her novels.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as  I can tell, this movie has yet to be released in Region 1.

Summary

    Murder On The Orient Express is a great movie on an acceptable DVD.

    The video quality is rather good, but a little soft, and in the wrong aspect ratio.

    The audio quality is fine for a mono soundtrack.

    The extras are basic.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Sunday, June 10, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-737, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics matte white screen with a gain of 1.0 (280cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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