JLFM's Movie Review of And Then There Were None (1945)

Rating of

And Then There Were None (1945)

Inferior to the Novel, but Still Entertaining
JLFM - wrote on 03/07/13

Film adaptions of books must always reach a certain balance of differences and similarities to the book being adapted. Films like Holes (based on Louis Sachar's book of the same name) shows us what it looks like when a film is too faithful to it's source material. The film becomes predictable for those who have read the book, and frankly, the source material for Holes did not need a film.

On the other hand, films like the adaption of the first three books of A Series of Unfortunate Events, shows us what can happen if a film differs to much from the book. It greatly irritates those who have read the source material, and like Holes, the series did not need a film.

And Then There Were None (based on Agatha Christie's novel of the same name) falls a bit more to the "too different" side of the spectrum. And while And Then There Were None is still an engaging film, and doesn't deter too much from the source material, some changes may have pushed it a bit far.

And Then There Were None is about 10 people who are brought to a remote island, each for their own reasons. They are to stay in a house owned by a Mr. Owen, though none of the 10 guests have even met the man! Despite this, most of the guests are enjoying themselves until a gramophone record accuses all 10 guests of murder. The guests are then slowly killed, one by one, in accordance to a nursery rhyme, Ten Little Indians. The guests come to the conclusion that one of them is the murderer, and they must figure out which one it is until they all perish.

There are indeed differences between the book and film. While most of the differences are subtle, there are a few more major ones (specifically, the conclusion which differs dramatically from the book). I won't spoil anything, but I will say that most of the changes (minus the conclusion) are unlikely to be more than irritating to those who have read the book.

There is certainly a difference in tone. While the book is dark, grim, and extremely suspenseful, the film adaption takes a different route. The subject matter is still dark, but there's a lot of humor in the script, which eases the tone to make the film slightly lighter fare. The suspense is also played down a bit, though those who haven't read the book may find this to be a much more tense experience.

Though the humor is agreeable, some changes are less so. While I won't spoil anything, the conclusion was relatively unsatisfactory, especially compared to that of the book. Also, many of the subtleties of the book are completely lost of the film. And at least one of the deaths don't follow the nursery rhyme accordingly.

Another most unagreeable change is the back story of one of the characters. Vera Claythorne's back story is completely changed, despite the fact that in the book, her backstory is quite pivotal to the conclusion (which may also account to the changed ending).

Differences aside, And Then There Were None is still an entertaining film. Characters are well developed, especially considering the fact that there are 10 primary characters that are developed within a film just under 100 minutes. The personalities are given a surprising amount of depth, even those with less screen time, though once again, the books does a superior job at this.

Suspense is well kept up (especially in the last half hour), though less so than in the book. The murders, while sometimes differing to that in the book, can be unexpected and even alarming, while at the same time, eliminating even the slightest bit of gore.

The acting is solid. The general cast is excellent. The only complaints here regard June Deprez's role as Vera Claythorne. She plays the role without much depth or personality. Perhaps this was due to the script, but at any rate, Vera is not the more interesting character she was in the book.

The score, composed by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, has it's charms (and the recurring tune of Ten Little Indians is a nice, if obligatory touch), but it seems a bit lacking overall. There isn't much by the way of character themes, or the music is surprisingly suspense-less most of the time.

Despite my many nitpicks regarding the differences between the book and film, And Then There Were None is still an enjoyable film in many respects. Though the hugely different conclusion and back story changes may be just enough to turn off fans of the book, this is still an excellent mystery film, if a bit lacking compared to Christie's novel.

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