Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

And Then There Were None

(Ten Little Niggers, 1945)

Wow! First thing, if we’re going to make a movie out of this book, we have to lose that title! I gather that the, ahem, “N-word” is not such a linguistic bomb in England as it is here, or at least it wasn’t in 1939, when the book was published. Even back then, in America, that word was not used in polite company except in the South, where I grew up.

I have never read the book. It was the most successful of Agatha Christie’s many novels, and in fact, the most successful mystery book ever published, to this day. She also said it was the most difficult to write.

I had never seen the movie, either, but I knew the plot, in broad terms. Ten not-very-nice people are gathered on an isolated island, only to find that a crazy man plans to kill them all, one by one, for past offenses, and do it according to one of those terrible children’s poems. They soon conclude that the killer is in fact one of them, because there is no place on the island or in the mansion on the rock where he could hide. They then all proceed to do all the insanely stupid things people do in such literary situations.

One should not reveal the ending in a story like this, but I have to say that from the very first scenes I was sure that the last two left would be the young man and the young woman. Sure enough … Oh, hell, I have to reveal some things, so if you don’t want to know, bug out here, okay?

Several very large changes were made between the book and this movie, but I guess that’s okay, as Christie herself made most of them for the stage adaptation she wrote in 1943. In the book, these young people were no better than any of the others, and at the end they were dead, as well. No one was left alive on the island. In the movie the young man and young woman are innocent of any wrongdoing, and naturally they fall in love and survive. It was all dictated by the goddam Code of that time, of course. Evil could not prosper. Myself, I’d like to see the thing re-made with the original ending.

What I hadn’t expected was how funny the movie is. I’m sure this was intentional on the part of the director, René Clair. It’s just too much to believe that we were expected to care about any of these idiots, or to feel much in the way of tension concerning their fates. It is a puzzle story, the sort Christie excelled at, without one believable word in its entire length. So if you like this sort of cozy mystery (and I do, if it’s well done), this should be right up your alley.