The Alphabet Murders (1965)
“It’s really no mystery why this girl is MURDER… it’s as simple as ABC if you look hard enough!”
Director: Frank Tashlin
Cast: Tony Randall, Robert Morley, Anita Ekberg
Synopsis: Hercule Poirot investigates a series of murders in London in which the victims are killed according to their initials.
If you’re used to seeing Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective portrayed by the likes of Ustinov, Finney, Suchet, etc., you’re in for a surprise with this curiosity: this is Poirot given the Clousot treatment. That the makers of this movie were inspired by the success of Blake Edwards’ bumbling detective is beyond doubt; while not as incompetent as Clousot, he is still something of a clown, and even suffers the same problems with his English counterparts struggling to understand his pronunciation of certain words.
The film starts brightly, and I honestly believed that I was in for an unexpected treat after the first ten minutes, but, regrettably, the whole thing falls flat pretty quickly after that. Tony Randall is woefully miscast in the role of Poirot (presumably, he was chosen to increase the movie’s chances in the US), and struggles unsuccessfully with the Belgian accent, while bearing only a passing resemblance to Christie’s creation.
Robert Morley almost saves the movie single-handedly as the UK secret service agent ordered to protect — and then expel – Poirot. Morley only has to appear on screen to crank up the comedy-quotient — he was born with a face and physique that were simply made for comedy. Margaret Rutherford — another British comedy giant(ess) also appears in a brief, but amusing, cameo as Agatha Christie’s other famous detective, Miss Marple. If you feel like watching a comic movie adaptation of one of Agatha Christie’s detectives, I recommend that you catch one of Rutherford’s far superior Miss Marple movies (Murder She Said, Murder at the Gallop) rather than this misguided flop.
(Reviewed 24th April 2002)