And Poirot Lived Here: Penn And Teller And The Murder On The Orient Express.

Nearly two weeks ago

we went to visit an old friend,

born in 1854,

and thus well over 163 years old,

by last count.

He was taking a small busman’s holiday, you see,

mon Dieu,

on the Orient Express.

Fantastic wide vistas,

a compartment of travelling companions,

mostly all over seventy,

and almost all obsessed with the kidnapping

and murder,


in absentia, but always in everyone’s mind,

the Lindberg baby.

And then, of course there is Johnny Depp,

as a mean-spirited gangster,

Judy Dench and Derek Jacobi

who can play anything they wish any time they wish,

and I will gladly go see it,

doing a fantastic job of playing down,

to be part of what today is often called a “company piece”-

some of the greatest actors on the planet

all “playing down”

to the level of “flat,”  in my opinion,

to fit into the combined effort-

hey, if I want to watch dancing mice,

I will go see the Nutcracker-

these people can act-

let them do their thing.

And, the most confusing of all,

in my opinion,

is the director and star,

Kenneth Branagh,

someone who can be so intense in his performances,

you have to watch them in small bits,

to not overload you emotional circuits.

And as the great papa Poirot?

The one who, according to Christie,

is a good Roman Catholic,

the benign grandfather of young loving couples,

a quirky eccentric with high morals

who believes that right must triumph?

In the novel, Poirot turns a benign eye,

since he has such sympathy with a group of people who have suffered so much.

In the “modernized” version,

he “logically” realizes

that since there are no witnesses,

and everyone on the train but he is a murderer,

there is no chance he can get a conviction.

And that,

in my opinion,

even though this is a brilliant Christie adaption,

and I would definitely suggest that anyone out there

with a couple of hours free during Christmas,

go see it-

(in fact, I have been thinking of going to see it a second time,

just to really admire the brilliance of Branagh,)

is exactly what is “wrong” with the film.

“Wrong” in the sense that:

people who work to near exhaustion all day,

and have problems, and worries, and fears,

need a time out occasionally.

A good time out.

With joy,

and happiness,

and romance,

and a few deep things to think about,

on a higher level,

and maybe, if we are lucky,

leading to a higher level.

Which means that,

for me at least,

with the prices of modern movie houses,

the film I go see,

and I imagine a lot of the rest of you,

had better have joy,

and happiness,

and maybe even quirky screwball comedy,

thank you very much,

Which means,

at least to me,

that the heroes are dedicated to good,


that the basic premise of a murder mystery like the Orient Express,

is righting wrong,

and reestablishing decency and safety

and not somebody’s idea of what is socially relevant

or  that if you all work together you can get by with things.

Like murder.

Or have you ever seen someone come out of the very first Star Wars movie


“gee, if the baddies had only communicated by internet,

and set up a better network,

they might have gotten by with wiping out the entire galaxy.

And killing off all those ‘the force be with you’ types.”

Or to quote ex-Latin teacher R. Teller,

of the magician duo Penn and Teller:

“In the art that lasts, there’s always a balance:  purpose that is action, passion that is feelings, and perception that is intellectual content. In Shakespeare, for example, there is always a level that is just action, showbiz. There is always a level that’s strongly passionate, and there’s always a level that’s got intellectual content.”

Now, I admit that Agatha Christie,

a rebellious Victorian in spirit,

was definitely not the sportive, race around the galaxy type,

(although she did roller skate on Torquay pier,

and go on digs,

presumably with a camel,

like Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody,

but her Poirot did travel,

for the purpose of doing what is right.

And, of course, who has ever read Poirot

who is not fascinated

by his “little grey cells?”

So, is Branagh being true to Hercule?

Is there action,


although in my opinion, pasted with a trowel

as the ubiquitous chase scene.


Of course.

Again, the little grey cells, mon ami.

So the problem is…?


Yes. Of course.

He is passionate in his belief in right.

And goodness.

And correctness.

And is put against a group


passion in their belief in right,

and correctness.

And that is the problem in all of these situations

that come up so often lately.

Where is the goodness in stabbing someone?

Just that hein?

There is none.

There would have been goodness in a trial.

But this is a lynch mob.

A circle.

Who think they have the right

to include everyone to make them a part of their circle.

And Poirot goes along with it.

In the film because he has no choice against a group.

In the novel,

and in real life,

because Poirot is decent.

And kind.

And has seen so much,

that papa Poirot has sympathy

for those who have suffered to this degree.

But still finds it wrong.

And knows, in his heart,

that in the end,


and the individual,

will always win.

copyright 2017  All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “And Poirot Lived Here: Penn And Teller And The Murder On The Orient Express.

  1. It would be hard to improve on David Suchet’s version of “Murder on the Orient Express.” I’m not sure Poirot’s dilemma in the case–whether to turn the private avengers over to the Yugoslav police, or to take their wrongs and sufferings into account and let them go–has a resolution that will satisfy everyone. But Poirot is a private citizen, and under no formal obligation to act on anything he learns.

    I think the screenplay in the David Suchet piece is a bit clearer than Agatha Christie wrote it.

    Liked by 1 person

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