Ten people – eight strangers and two married domestics-attend a posh weekend at a remote castle. What’s the occasion? Each has unwittingly been invited to his/her own murder. Who’s behind this dastardly plot? You’ll have a devilishly tense time figuring it out, while watching this clever Agatha Christie adaptation.
Ten Little Indians refers to the ten invitees, the familiar nursery rhyme and to Indian figures affixed to a serving plate at the castle. After the fatal poisoning of a guest, one figurine goes eerily missing. One down. Nine to go. Who’s next? That’s a fate Hugh O’Brien (TV’s Wyatt Earp), British screen veterans Leo Genn, Wilfrid Hyde-White and Stanley Holloway, and Goldfinger girl Shirley Eaton desperately hope to avoid.
Caution: the following contains MAJOR spoilers!
Ten Little Dinner Guests
Ten little dinner guests invited out to dine;
One swallowed poison and then there were nine.
Nine little dinner guests stayed up quite late;
One tried to run away and then there were eight.
Eight little dinner guests scouring the basement;
One got stabbed in the gut and then there were seven.
Seven little dinner guests worried themselves sick;
One fell off a cliff and then there were six.
Six little dinner guests scared but alive;
A needle killed one and then there were five.
Five little dinner guests in an uproar,
A ricochet hit one and then there were four.
Four little dinner guests going out to see;
A statue crushed one and then there were three.
Three little dinner guests shaking in their shoes;
One was frozen stiff and then there were two.
Two little dinner guests in the winter sun;
A bullet crashed out and then there was one.
One little dinner guest was left all alone;
A hangman’s noose awaited and then there were none.
–freely adapted from the nursery rhyme by The Critical Eye
Caution: text above contains MAJOR spoilers!
‘Ten Little Indians’ is considered by many as one of the lesser silver screen productions based on Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t read the book in 25-30 years, but I honestly don’t see why.
Granted, the acting fluctuates from completely catatonic (Daliah Lavi ) to relatively commanding (Wilfrid Hyde-White ), and there are some kitschy moments along the way (Fabian’s brutal rendition of the nursery rhyme, being the key one for me! ), but its pace is swift and it’s a lot of good, clean fun.
Some think that this production is simply not realistic enough, and, admittedly, it’s more slick than grit. My counter-argument, however, is that the concept is already very theatrical: ten people are locked in a chalet and get knocked off one by one by a mysterious killer that no one can find. It’s dramatic, it’s memorable, but it’s hardly realistic.
Furthermore it’s a thriller that was made in the ’60s, and it was clearly designed to be fun. Case-in-point, the “Whodunit Break” that was promoted along with the film: towards the end of the film, a short 3-minute clip would give audiences a chance to review the clues and discuss who they thought were the guilty parties before the film continued.
It’s a few degrees of separation from Scooby-Doo, when you think about it, but it’s hardly a comedy. And it isn’t too light to be taken seriously, to feel the tension build. Sure, it’s sometimes nonsensical, but it never goes down the ‘Murder By Death’ or ‘Clue’ route either (or, mercifully, ‘Murder Most Foul!’ ).
It’s just a pleasant -if novel- murder mystery. I wonder how much replay value it has, but I’ve seen it a couple of times recently and enjoyed it both times (even more so the second time, actually). I suspect that time is one’s best friend when watching this one, though, seeing as the twist is memorable enough to stay with the viewer after the credits have rolled.