And Then There Were None (1945)
It’s Halloween week! So for Classic Movie Monday, I decided to feature And Then There Were None. This is the 1945 film adaptation of the Agatha Christie mystery novel and stars Barry Fitzgerald. The book is one of my favorites, and if you’ve read it, you’ll understand me when I say that it scares the living daylights out of me. This is also the reason why I refused to watch the film for the longest time. But I finally got up the courage just in time for Halloween.
In the film, ten strangers are invited for a weekend at Indian Island by their mysterious host, U.N. Owen. They don’t know why they have been invited or even who their host is, but they decide to accept the invitation anyway. The boatman leaves them for the weekend, so only the guests (eight of them, with two household staff) are on the island. Prominently displayed on the dining table are ten Indian (Native American) figurines, with the sheet music for the nursery rhyme on the piano.
Ten little Indian boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were Nine.
Nine little Indian boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were Eight.
Eight little Indian boys traveling in Devon; One said he’d stay there and then there were Seven.
Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six.
Six little Indian boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were Five.
Five little Indian boys going in for law; One got into Chancery and then there were Four.
Four little Indian boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.
Three little Indian boys walking in the Zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.
Two little Indian boys were out in the sun; One got all frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Indian boy left all alone; He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.
(We have to understand that political correctness and cultural sensitivity were not a thing yet back then.)
After dinner, the guests suddenly hear a recording enumerating the crimes of which they are accused: Dr. Armstrong operated on a patient while intoxicated; Mr. and Mrs. Rogers (the butler and cook) killed their previous employer; Gen. Mandrake ordered the death of his wife’s lover; Judge Quincannon was responsible for the execution of an innocent man; Emily Brent caused her nephew’s death; Prince Nikita killed a couple; Philip Lombard killed some tribesmen in Africa; Vera Claythorne killed her sister’s fiance; and William Blore perjured himself on the stand, which led to the death of an innocent man.
Everyone is rattled by the accusations, and at first they deny everything. But suddenly one of the guests takes a drink and dies right in front of them. The next morning, another one is found dead in their bedroom. Everyone is in a panic as they realize that the deaths are mirroring the rhyme and that the figurines on the table are disappearing. They all want to leave the island, but the boat will only come back after two days. The rhyme continues to come true as the dwindling number of survivors wonders – who is killing everyone?
Reading a book is always scarier because your imagination does the work, but the movie did a good job of capturing the mystery and heart-stopping suspense of the book. The film is in black and white, which contributed to the scare factor, because everything just looks so bleak and menacing. There’s hardly any music, which further adds to the terror. Personally, the island setting and the house were exactly as I imagined them from the book. The ending of the movie is based on the original play, which I liked better, and not the novel.
But even if you already know how the mystery pans out, the movie still keeps you on the edge of your seat. This speaks for the pure genius of the story, I think. This is definitely one movie that’s just perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit.