Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Halloween Treat: A Haunting In Venice

Kenneth Branagh's first outing as Agatha Christie's brilliant sleuth Hercule Poirot was in Murder On The Orient Express in 2017, but was hopelessly overshadowed by the original 1974 film by Sidney Lumet, which was the last movie made of her works to gain Christie's full personal approval. Albert Finney was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal, Ingrid Bergman won an Oscar for it, and the flick is a cinematic classic.

Branagh followed that up by remaking Death On The Nile for a COVID-delayed 2022 release, this time comparing unfavorably with Peter Ustinov in a career tentpole role in the 1978 film, playing Poirot flawlessly in the first of six movies, three onscreen, and three for TV. Even Branagh couldn't compete with Peter Ustinov, David Niven, and Lois Chiles getting her head blown off half a dozen times in different flashbacks, and he probably shouldn't have tried.

This time, Branagh selected Christie's Hallowe'en Party as the novel to loosely base this film on in his third outing as Poirot, a book which no one else has adapted for the screen before. It was an excellent choice, and he has finally hit his stride.

If you're a fan of old Hollywood, and want to see a solid whodunit, perfectly selected for a Halloween season release, with a solid cast, clever plot twists, by a brilliant actor/director, and with none of the woketarded nonsense that infects currently and happily on-strike Hollyweird and every piece of crap they burp out, preferring instead great entertainment for your time and money, this is your movie.

Branagh's earlier attempts had him doing the role of Poirot well, but not superbly, and making decent remakes, but it wasn't anything like career-best work, certainly not up to his earlier standards, and comparing second-best even to the earlier versions.

A Haunting In Venice is more like his work back in his Henry V days, when at 29 he was rightfully described as the Orson Welles of the era, and for which film he was nominated for Oscars for both Best Actor and Best Director, back when the award denoted actual merit. If he keeps churning out adaptations of Christie's novels and playing Poirot like this, he will be back on that perch to stay.

Rating: ★★★★ - Enthusiastically recommended. And frankly, the best flick of the paltry four offerings we've bothered to see this year, to date. You should only go if you like good movies.


Plague Monk said...

In some ways I think that Branagh is a better filmmaker than Welles; certainly more consistently high standards in his work than Welles(Citizen Kane is one of the best movies of all time, however).
Branagh's Henry V is outstanding, and when I was teaching history some years ago I showed it in class, as I'm a Hundred Years War buff(along with the Byzantine Empire).
Thank you for the suggestion.

T-Rav said...

I really disliked Branagh's "Death on the Nile" due to all the race- and gender-swapping (compared to the book), so I had been on the fence about going to see this one. Maybe I will now; a smaller cast and less well-known story might be a good thing in this case.

John Wilder said...

I'll give it a look.

Wayne said...

In addition to Henry V where Branagh's St. Crispin Day speech far outshines Olivier IMHO, he was brilliant as Benedick in the 1994 film version of Much Ado About Nothing. Only theatrical release I've seen this year was Sound of Freedom which was as outstanding as Caviezel's best known performance as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ.

Aesop said...

It didn't hurt that when he made Much Ado, he and Emma Thompson, who played Benedick's nemesis Beatrice, were also married in real life.
And Michael Keaton's Dogberry portrayal was one for the books.