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Warner Home Video presents
Ten Little Indians (1965)

"Mr. Owen seems very interested in Ten Little Indians."
- Ann Clyde (Shirley Eaton)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: March 13, 2006

Stars: Hugh O'Brian, Shirley Eaton, Fabian, Leo Genn, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde White
Other Stars: Daliah Lavi, Dennis Price, Marianne Hoppe, Mario Adorf, Christopher Lee
Director: George Pollack

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language, cheesecake, violence)
Run Time: 01h:29m:56s
Release Date: March 14, 2006
UPC: 012569764378
Genre: mystery


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-C-B- C-

DVD Review

The serial killer film has been a staple of cinema for the last 30 years or so. There's a certain glee in watching the cast being picked off one by one in oddball ways. But one of the earlier efforts in this genre was the 1939 novel by Agatha Christie, Ten Little Indians, first made into a film in 1945 as And Then There Were None. This 1965 remake takes a more all-star approach to the story.

Eight disparate people are invited to a party at a secluded and virtually inaccessible ski chalet, the home of Mr. U.N. Owen. Among them are engineer Hugh Lombard (Hugh O'Brian), Owen's secretary Ann Clyde (Goldfinger Bond girl Shirley Eaton), pop singer Mike Raven (pop singer Fabian), General Sir John Mandrake (Leo Genn), detective William Blore (Stanley Holloway), Judge Arthur Cannon (Wilfrid Hyde White), actress Ilona Bergen (exotic Eurocult starlet Dahlia Lavi), Dr. Edward Armstrong (Dennis Price). The two domestics, Joseph and Elsa Grohmann (Mario Adorf and Marianne Hoppe) make for a party of ten. The chalet is done up with numerous references to the nursery rhyme Ten Little Indians, who die in various appalling ways. A recording from Mr. Owen (voiced by an uncredited Christopher Lee) over dinner accuses each of them of murder, and warns them of judgement and punishment to come. He's as good as his word, for they all begin to be killed in accordance with the rhyme. Who is Mr. Owen and what does he have against these ten people? Or might he actually be one of them?

What the picture excels at is the growing sense of paranoia and the group dynamics of a collection of diverse people under serious stress. At the same time as the dread deepens, there's a palpable sense of need for confession and expiation. Each of the characters meets their demise in a variety of more or less creative ways after confessing the truth about their respective sins. As the group gets smaller and smaller, they find it more and more difficult to trust one another. Adding to the tension is the theme of the ten Indians, symbolized by a table centerpiece with figures of Indians who are broken off as each one of the victims expires.

As a mystery, however, the film is less than satisfying. Its denouement comes out of nowhere and feels completely arbitary; no clues (other than the process of elimination) are dropped along the way, so armchair detectives will fare just as well as those blindly guessing at the identity of Mr. Owen. Those favoring logical puzzles will find the finish deeply disappointing. In the film's original release, there was a William Castle-influenced Whodunit Break where the film stopped and gave you 60 seconds to guess the killer; that's omitted here (though the break is included in the extras) and probably was just frustrating in its uselessness. To add insult to injury, the film cheats on the mystery; if you watch it again after knowing the identity of the killer, it will be apparent that things happen that do not at all fit.

By and large, the cast is excellent, with such notables as Leo Genn, Stanley Holloway and Dennis Price turning in more than capable performances in the finely arch British tradition. The weak links are the American quota cast, O'Brian and Fabian. The former is a half-dazed stiff and the latter is utterly dreadful, overacting to the extreme. The most surprising performance is turned in by Shirley Eaton, who gives an intelligent reading of Ms. Clyde, who constantly seems to have more going on that she's revealing. In light of that, it's regrettable that director George Pollack (who had capably handled the Miss Marple mysteries the previous few years) wastes no opportunity to find excuses to strip her down to her underwear or less. Not that I mind, but such cheesecake only serves to distract from the merits of her performance. The exploitative nature of these scenes just detracts from the mood. The other significant weakness of the film is a grossly inappropriate score by Malcolm Lockyer, which seems as if it were intended for a Rat Pack caper movie rather than a suspense thriller. As a result, the film is a serious disappointment and not half as effective as it could have been.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Although the transfer is reasonably good in some aspects, with very nice greyscale and decent detail, there's quite a lot of aliasing visible throughout. The most serious problem is that the source print is rather ragged, covered in wear, scratches, nicks and speckling. At least two major tears are readily visible. After so many gorgeously restored releases from Warner we may have gotten spoiled, but this certainly doesn't measure up to other releases from the studio.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: On the other hand, the 1.0 English track sounds reasonably good for its age. Hiss and noise are limited. Low bass is unsurprisingly missing, but dialogue is quite clear throughout. A decently clean, if undistinguished, mono track.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Murder She Said, Murder at the Gallop, Murder Ahoy, Murder Most Foul
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:35m:09s

Extra Extras:
  1. Whodunit Break
Extras Review: As noted above, the Whodunit Break gimmick (3m:15s) is included with segments of the surrounding footage. It would have been nice to be able to insert it into the feature through seamless branching, but that doesn't seem to be an option. Anamorphic trailers for this and the four Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple movies are the only other extras.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

A rather disappointing effort at the oft-filmed story, with an equally disappointing source print and few extras.

 


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