Sunday, August 3, 2014

Ten Little Indians (1965) - Six (-ty) Five, Four, Three...

There is Nothing Like a Dame!  We mean Dame Agatha Christie, of course!  Here in our latest series of blog posts saluting the talented and prolific films based on the novels of  Mrs. Christie, this time we’re watching one of our favorites, Ten Little Indians, the 1965 version (1966 in some posts). Our favorite brother act, The Popkin Brothers,  (Impact; D.O.A.) again produced the film, along with co-producer Harry Alan Towers (who deserves an article or even a book, but that, too, is another story). We’ve watched and enjoyed the 1945 version, And Then There Were None, but this time, Mrs. Christie’s chilling tale gets even more exciting, thanks to screenwriters Peter Yeldham and Towers himself, under the nom de plume “Peter Welbeck”; talk about a man of many faces!

George Pollock, who directed the delightful Miss Marple films starring Margaret Rutherford, blends suspense, action, humor and sexy romance with this swell cast, produced by Harry Alan Towers, who also had the rights to Ten Little Indians:

  • Leo Genn (Oscar-nominee for Quo Vadis; The Snake Pit
  • Daliah Lavi (Casino Royale; The Silencers)
  • Dennis Price (Kind Hearts and Coronets; I’m All Right, Jack 
  • Fabian (The Longest Day; North to Alaska 
  • Shirley Eaton (Goldfinger; The Girl Hunters 
  • Wilfrid Hyde-White (The Third Man; My Fair Lady)
  • Hugh O’Brian  (The Shootist; TV’s Wyatt Earp)
  • Stanley Holloway (The Lavender Hill Mob)
  • Marriane Hoppe (The Wrong Move; Romance in a Minor Key)
    *Mario Adorf (The Tin Drum; The Bird with the Crystal Plumage)
Similarities between the two film versions
abound, like this "keyhole" shot!
This version has it all:  violence, fisticuffs, hot hunks, and beautiful babes; you’ve got Team Bartilucci’s attention, all right!  This time, the beleaguered house party guests with targets on their backs are jet-setters in the Swiss Alps (played by Ireland; give our regards to Barry Fitzgerald!).  Each guest was lured by invitations, ranging from old friends (O’Brian), movie stars networking, like film star Ilona Bergen (Lavi) and such, invitations supposedly sent from old friends, or promises of hobnobbing  with the promise of more movie and/or TV/film roles roles, like film star Ilona Bergen here to hobnob (Lavi); popular but obnoxious rock singer  Mike Raven (Fabian);  and other devilish ruses to keep our party guests around in hope for more roles and such.  It’s the ultimate house-party gone lethally wrong!  Malcolm Lockyer’s gorgeously brassy musical score heats things up, which will come in handy when the lovely Shirley Eaton and the ruggedly handsome Hugh O’Brian have a super-hot love scene!  (I love that this scene is truly sexy and genuinely loving!)

With all the Currier & Ives-style winter wonderland atmosphere, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — except that nobody knows each other, not even hired secretary Ann Clyde (Eaton).  Leave it to a movie star to break the ice, namely renowned actress Ilona Bergen (Lavi):
“How utterly marvelous!  You all came to a house party without knowing your host!”
Hugh: “Well, what about you, Miss Bergen?”

Ilona: “Darling, it happens to me all the time!” (Oh, those jaded jet-setters!

Our absent host U.N. Owen takes his sweet time showing up; what would Miss Manners say?  Luckily,  Judge Cannon (Hyde-White) has a toast for the occasion:  “To absent friends, the ten little Indians, and of course, our host.”   Keep an eye on your guests, you guys and gals; they might not stay very long, and not just because they’re jet-setters!  Soon a chilling, unknown voice breaks the ice with a series of accusations about the guests and the murders in their pasts.  The unknown "U.N. Owen (gotta hand it to the fiend, he (or she?) sure has a great sense of gallows humor!
"We've gotta have a romance, by George!"

Fun Fact:  The mysterious U.N. Owen’s sinister voice was played by the one and only Christopher Lee!

Our stranded guests finally let their fair down and admit their crimes:  General Mandrake sent five men to their deaths to in what turned out to be a tragic blunder, but was decorated anyway; the Grohmanns were accused of a mercy killing by their elderly charges.  Ilona had been a British Army Officer’s wife, bored but sticking with him until she finally got a chance to get a screen test,  then blowing that Popcicle stand and propelling herself to stardom—and when she dumped her sad hubby, he killed himself in despair, the poor guy.  She does seem to have some remorse, though my cynical side has me thinking she was more sorry for herself than anything else.  Mandrake knew all about her because Ilona’s husband had been Mandrake’s superior!  News travels fast in a snowbound Château!   Judge Cannon  had convicted a truly evil man, one Edward Seton, including other wicked things he’d done to save time; there’s multitasking for you!  And then there was Dr. Armstrong, living (but not for long) while he was literally drinking and driving while drunk, resulting in a killing a young couple. And the body count begins...

Hugh and Grohmann get ready to RUMBLE!
Ah, but Owen is far from infallible, at least when it comes to our budding lovers Hugh and Ann!   You see, Ann’s disturbed sister had killed her fiancée, and has lived in a mental home ever since.  Hugh had come to the Château because his friend, one Charles Moreley (note the initials “C.S”), had been had killed himself after in remorse after being responsible for a young woman’s botched abortion.  Oy!  How will Hugh and Ann get out of this fix?

I especially got a kick out of the Whodunit Break to give us viewers one minute to see who the killer is: “The Whodunit Break: “…A First in Motion Pictures!   Just before the gripping climax of the film, you’ll be given sixty seconds to decide to guess the who the murderer is…WE DARE YOU TO GUESS!”

Personally, I’d like to think the great William Castle is watching this in Heaven and grinning from ear to ear!


  1. I like the comparison shots with the 1945 film (which is my favorite version). But I think the whodunit break was a cute idea. Fun post.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments about TEN LITTLE INDIANS, Jacqueline! The Whodunit Break tickled me, too! We're also rooting for your Ann Blyth endeavors, too! :-D

  2. I can never watch that "Whodunit Break" scene without wondering if George Pollock studied under Castle, so you're hardly alone in your thoughts on the matter, Dorian.

    And thank you for reminding me that Fabian was also in "The Longest Day". I think about Fabian in usually the same way I think about Frankie Avalon in films such as "The Alamo" and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea": included in the movie for all the wrong reasons. Had I been a member of the cast in "Ten Little Indians" I would've been sorely tempted to off Fabian myself, rather than wait for Mr. Owen. Number-2 on my list would've been Daliah Lavi (look . . . I'm sorry, but she always sort of rubbed me the wrong way).

    (Maybe if she rubbed me the right way . . . ahem, but let's keep focused here.)

    Say, that poster for the film also looks rather William Castle-y. Huh.

    Anyway, I've already said enough (perhaps more than so) in a previous post concerning how I preferred this version of the Christie story to "And Then There Were None" (but only by a nose). Praise Bog the decision was made and maintained to film this in black-and-white. I've always felt this was a story where color would've hampered the overall mood. And, Fabian and Lavi excepted, there's certainly no faulting the cast (Hugh O'Brian, Shirley Eaton, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Leo Genn, Stanley Holloway, etc. and so on). I've never found the overall tension of the film to sag at any moment (if only Pollock could've waited a few more decades, the "Whodunit Break" could've simply been replaced by the "pause" button).

    1. Michael, you make a swell point that in later years, the "Whodunit Break" surely would have been replaced by the "pause button" -- but I'm a sucker for a whimsical gimmick! Do you think the Popkin Bros., Hitchcock, and William Castle would have gotten along? :-) In any case, I totally agree that black -and-white was a wise idea! I'm reminded of a line from the comedy A MIGHTY WIND, where Harry Shearer explains "To do then now would be retro. To do then then was very now-tro, if you will." Thanks for joining Team B's TEN LITTLE INDIANS fun-fright fest, Michael, my friend! :-D

  3. I have this version on dvd in addition to the Rene Clair version. This version doesn't get a lot of respect.I loved the original, but I do think the remake has some good plot points. Also, we need to remember that it was the 1960's, so honestly, for this movie to be commercially feasible, updating to modern times was important. I think the opening is fantastic where we get names to go with faces. In addition, I thought the music was very effective. Thanks for letting us know that Christopher Lee was UN Owen's voice -- I learned something new! Anyway, great blog about an underrated film.

    1. Gilby, I'm delighted that you're giving TEN LITTLE INDIANS well-deserved love, too! All the different versions are quite enjoyable indeed, but the 1965 version was perfect for the 1965 version, with its mores and modern issues, not to mention the modern fashions, especially Daliah Lavi's frocks. I'm glad you enjoyed the jazzy score as much as I did, too. I also loved the sexy yet romantic chemistry between Shirley Eaton and Hugh O'Brian -- yum! Thanks for joining our the TEN LITTLE INDIANS fun and frolic, Gilby, and visit us at TotED anytime! :-D Best wishes to David, too!

  4. My favorite version is from 1945 and frankly any film with Fabian already digs a big hole for itself by adding him to the cast, His acting is not much better than his singing. And then there is the "whodunit" gimmick break which for me is just plain silly. I know this all sounds harsh, but not every "classic" film is wonderful! It's okay at best, worth a watch. I originally, saw this back in '65 at the bottom half of a double feature. Watched it once since then and it's one of those films I do not need to see again.

    That all said, I hope folks watch this version and I think they will clearly see the superiority of the Rene Clair version. Entertaining post as always.

    1. John, the great thing about TotED is that we don't have to love everything -- whether you prefer the 1945 version AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, or the 1965 version TEN LITTLE INDIANS, they're all worth a look, and if you've got your own special favorite, that's fine, too! Some like Misha Auer, some prefer Fabian -- there's always a version to for every taste to enjoy! And eyes, I'm the first to agree that AND THEN THERE WERE NONE is still my favorite, but like having children, we love 'em all in their own special ways! :-D Thanks for joining the Agatha Christie coffeeclatch, my friend! :-D

  5. very fun post as usual, love the comparisons between the casts and the tidbit about Christopher Lee! Indeed he's the "one and only" :) it's fun to see all the diffrent ways filmmakers do a classic work of fiction, especially one with so many possibilities re: actor combos, etc.

    1. Kristina, I'm tickled pink for your enthusiastic comments for our TEN LITTLE INDIANS post, complete with mystery star Christopher Lee! Truly, it was a labor of love for us, and we of Team Bartilucci thank you very kindly indeed -- thanks a million, pal, and warmest wishes and all good things to you and yours! :-D

  6. LOVE the idea of the "Whodunit Break"! Very clever. Now I've GOT to see this version too!

    1. Ruth, we of Team Bartilucci are delighted that you got a kick out of our playful and action-packed take on TEN LITTLE INDIANS, thanks to those fun-loving Popkin Brothers! Glad you got a kick out of the "Whodunit Break," too -- we think you'll enjoy it as much we do! Thanks a million for dropping by and join the fun and mayhem! Thanks for joining the fun, my friend, and here's to fun, movies, and friendship! :-D