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And Then There Were None

CritiqueQuotes • At the movies

First editionFirst US edition, 1940
Publication details ▽ Publication details △

Also known as
Ten Little Indians

First publication

Literature form

Crime, mystery

Writing language

Author's country

Approx. 53,500 words

Ten Little Indians 1959 scene
A scene in the 1959 live-action TV production of Ten Little Indians.

The bodies keep dropping

Ten Little Indians (1959): Live television movie; directors Paul Bogart, Philip F. Falcone, Leo Farrenkopf, Dan Zampino; writer Philip H. Reisman Jr.; featuring Barry Jones, Romney Brent, Nina Foch, Peter Bathurst, Kenneth Haigh, Valerie French

The next noteworthy adaptation of And Then There None, released on video under the novel's older title of Ten Little Indians, is hard to find, though you might discover a poorly preserved copy in the banks of some low-end streaming service.

This is an early, supposedly live production for British TV on a program called Play of the Week. (The episode was actually broadcast with Christie's original title containing a racial slur, though it has been changed in any copy you're likely to find now.)

It looks and sounds like a 1950s television drama. Stagey, with extended camera shots, hollow-sounding dialogue well projected, and melodramatic orchestration swooping in whenever needed to underline the drama.

And rushed. The whole show takes less than an hour. Within minutes of the company arriving on the island, the bodies are falling and they continue dropping at a dizzying rate.

I'm not sure why four directors are listed for such a brief and furious production, though main credit is usually given to Paul Bogart, an American director and producer best known for his later work on hit U.S. sitcoms.

The live show is famously chaotic and is said to feature such mistakes as a dead body getting up and walking off while on camera (though, to be honest, I didn't notice this in a copy I recently viewed).

Yet Ten Little Indians is a pretty faithful and well-acted encapsulation of the story. It's a credit to the director(s) and the actors, a respected though likely unfamiliar theatrical lot, that they manage to pull it off live and make the impact they do with such short screen time.

The speed also brings the advantage that viewers don't have time to dwell on Christie's plot improbabilities.

Again her happier ending devised for the stage is used in this production, although this time presented more energetically—involving the revealed villain attacking the person he thinks is his final victim and being shot.

This is one of the least known adaptations of Christie's novel—more an adaptation of her play actually—but worth a look for anyone who just wants to get the gist of the story without wasting time on contrived atmospherics.

— Eric


CritiqueQuotes • At the movies

1945, 1959, 1989, 2015