DVD Review– And Then There Were None
Terrific novels often get turned into sub-par TV and movie adaptations, sometimes bearing little resemblance to their original source material. Agatha Christie’s seminal 1939 novel, And Then There Were None, has been made into a classic comedy-thriller, an ineffective pallid slog, a campy near-horror flick, and a surprisingly enjoyable Bollywood musical; however, only the superb Russian-language version captured the dark, brooding tone of the novel, though to be fair, some adaptations were mimicking the lighter tone of Christie’s own stage production.
The recent BBC adaptation of And Then There Were None is the closest English-language version to the original book. It even retains the novel’s original ending, while most adaptations have kept the finale of Christie’s own stage adaptation. The production is dark, focusing on the characters and their twisted souls, and is overall a very fine miniseries. The flashbacks are remarkably effective. It takes Christie’s great premise—ten people are invited to an isolated island, where each of them is accused of murder, and one by one they are murdered—and does it justice, which is no easy task.
While the miniseries is really enjoyable, it is not perfect. Some small facets of the plot are skimmed over, important details are blurred, and at times too much attention is spent on minor distractions, but overall the production does credit to the Christie legacy rather than merely trading off of it. Still, I have several little quibbles about the series. The guests’ crimes are changed from acts that mostly aren’t legally murder to obvious, violent slayings. The hiding place for the revolver is clever, but is it really safer than Christie’s original idea? Overt profanity and sexual content seem unlike Christie’s familiar style, and some of the character subtleties are lost, such as the complexities of Emily Brent, a steely, self-righteous figure but not a bigot, unlike other characters. Also, in this adaptation the ten figurines vanish, rather than being shattered. Where were they hidden and why didn’t the search uncover them?
Still, Sarah Phelps’s adaptation shows real respect for the material. The cast is uniformly strong, especially Maeve Dermody, Charles Dance, Toby Stephens, Aidan Turner, and Sam Neill. Visually and tonally, the miniseries shines. If it is not a perfect adaptation of a great book, it is at least a harbinger of good things to come. With at least seven more BBC Christie adaptations planned, And Then There Were None has set a high bar for future productions.
And Then There Were None
$34.99 DVD and Blu-Ray