Ten Little Indians (1974) | The Agatha Christie who’s next whodunnit gets the Harry Alan Towers treatment
Ten strangers are invited to the luxurious Persian desert hotel owned by the wealthy, but absent, Mr Owen where they learn, from a mysterious voice, that retribution is at hand as each one of them is an unpunished murderer…
1974’s Ten Little Indians (aka And Then There Were None) which screens on ITV3 HD tonight at 1.15am was the third film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s best-selling 1939 novel (whose original title was latter changed for being racially insensitive) by legendary exploitation producer Harry Alan Towers, whose Euro thrillers were all bankrolled on the back of deals made with hoteliers and government tourism ministers around the world, and getting big name stars to sign up for a glorified paid holiday.
For this ‘international movie mess’ which is how Vincent Canby of the New York Times described the film, the fabulous Abbasi Hotel (then known as the Shah Abbas Hotel) in Isfahan, Iran stood in for the desert home of U.N. Owen (voiced by Orson Welles, who played Long John Silver in Towers’ Treasure Island in 1972).
But aside from the opulent hotel and a haunting score from an uncredited Bruno Nicolai, the most entertaining thing about the film (which was directed by Peter Collinson of The Italian Job fame, but who ended up helming genre fare like Fright, Open Season and Straight On Til Morning) is the starry cast, which included two former Bond villains Gert (Goldfinger) Fröbe and Adolfo (Largo) Celi, as well as Oliver Reed, Charles Aznavour, Herbert Lom, Richard Attenborough, Elke Sommer, Stéphane Audran and Maria Rohm (aka Mrs Harry Alan Towers). And as for the award to the best ‘worst’ performance – well, if you can stay awake until the end, then it’s a toss up between Reed and Aznavour (who lip-synchs his trademark song The Old Fashioned Way).
Fans of the classic mystery might like to know that an all-star three-part dramatisation is heading to BBC1 over Christmas.
Our Man In Marrakesh (1966) | Tony Randall dodges bullets, babes and baddies in an amusing Euro spy spoof
A MATTER OF MURDER IN MARRAKESH
American architect Andrew Jessel (Tony Randall) arrives in Marrakesh for a short break, but unwittingly ends up helping the mysterious Kyra (Senta Berger) dump the body of her recently murdered boyfriend. What the hell has he got himself into? Well, it soon transpires that Kyra is a CIA agent trying to flush out sleazy gangster Mr Casimir (Herbert Lom), who is waiting the arrival of a courier carrying $2million in cash to pay him to fix an important United Nations vote. But who could the courier be?
BANG! BANG! YOU’RE DEAD!
Produced and written (as Peter Welbeck) by Harry Alan Towers, who was legendary in the 1960s for a slew of B-movie Euro thrillers, and directed by Don Sharp, who also helmed Tower’s Fu Manchu movies with Christopher Lee, Our Man In Marrakesh (re-titled in the US as Bang! Bang! You’re Dead!) is an amusing spy farce that spoofs Hitchcock’s 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much by way of 1959’s North by Northwest and Carol Reed’s Our Man in Havana.
Laconic Hollywood star Tony Randall, best known for Pillow Talk and the 7 Faces of Dr Lao at the time, got a busman’s holiday under the Moroccan sun along with a host of famous faces including Herbert Lom, Klaus Kinski and Terry-Thomas, as well as Wilfred Hyde White, John Le Mesurier, Senta Berger and Towers regular, Margaret Lee.
Shot on location in and around a very cosmopolitan-looking Marrakesh, including the luxury La Mamounia hotel (which was also used in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much remake), as well as the city’s souks, a grand Riad, and the El Badi Palace (for the big climax), this entertaining slice of Euro silliness keeps you guessing over the identity of the courier.
Could it be John Le Mesurier’s mysterious travel agent or Wilfred Hyde White’s sanitary china salesman or someone else entirely? Terry-Thomas is simply hilarious as an aristocratic Berber with a love for cucumber sandwiches; while Gregoire Aslan, as cheery trucker Achmed, is the film’s unsung hero (he later appeared in Gordon Hessler’s The Golden Voyage of Sinbad). Another highlight is Malcolm Lockyer’s Euro spy score (all harpsicord and bongos), which has shades of his Dr Who and the Daleks film score lurking in the stirring strings.
‘Nothing to do with money is vulgar’ Mr Casimir (Herbert Lom)
‘The Windmill theatre now a cinema? Dreadful!’ El Caid (Terry-Thomas)
THE UK DVD RELEASE
Our Man In Marrakesh is presented in a new transfer from the original film elements from StudioCanal, and is released by Network Distributing. A trailer (featuring all the exciting bits), image gallery and pdf promotional material are also included.
IF YOU LIKED THIS… CHECK OUT…
My reviews for Harry Alan Towers’ House of 1000 Dolls, starring Vincent Price; The Girl From Rio, with Shirley Eaton and George Sanders; and The Bloody Judge, starring Christopher Lee. The UK Blu-ray of Don Sharp’s 1963 Hammer horror Kiss of the Vampire is also reviewed here.
American playboy Bob Mitchell (Robert Cummings) arrives in Hong Kong, where he is given a message, found on the body of a dead man. The message reads: ‘Five Golden Dragons’. It is Bob’s introduction to an illicit gold-trafficking operation, run by a secretive global crime syndicate who plan to sell out to the Mafia to the tune of $50million.
When stewardess Ingrid (Maria Rohm) is kidnapped by gangsters out to get their hands on the cash, Bob is forced to impersonate one of the five Dragons in order to steal the money and save the girl. But the gang are unaware that Bob is also working with District Commissioner Sanders (Rupert Davies), who is out to nab the lot of them…
This 1967 adaptation of one of Edgar Wallace’s District Commissioner Sanders stories is a breezy comic affair from director Jeremy Summers and legendary B-movie producer Harry Alan Towers, who together made also The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (with Christopher Lee) and House of a 1000 Dolls (with Vincent Price) the same year.
Robert Cummings is perfectly cast as the joker playboy, even though he’s past his prime here. If this weren’t a Bond-esque spoof then he’d come off as rather sleazy trying to pick up the likes of Maria Perschy, Maria Rohm and Margaret Lee with his corny pick-up lines and dodgy dance moves (check out his Chinese Watsui). But he plays the hapless humorist with his tongue firmly in his cheek.
And as for the rest of the cast, well Rupert Davies’s Sanders is a Shakespeare-quoting buffoon with chronic indigestion, and Roy Chiao, who’d go on to appear opposite Bruce Lee in Game of Death (1978), does his best to flesh out his character, as Sanders’ much more capable assistant Inspector Chiao. As sadistic hitman Gert, Klaus Kinski gets to do very little except look über cool, while the film’s big name stars, George Raft, Christopher Lee and Brain Donlevy who, together with Dan Dureya, make up four of the five Golden Dragons, only get two scenes together. But, then again, they probably only agreed to appear in the film so they could head for the greens at Hong Kong Golf Club or in Donlevy’s case the nearest bar.
Shot entirely in Hong Kong, the film makes great use of the locations (before the skyscraper boom), with its chase scenes taking place in the harbour on a flotilla of Chinese junks, a pagoda and the brand new Hilton (which was demolished in 1995).
The film’s interiors, however, which were all shot at the Shaw Brother’s Hong Kong studio, look like they were borrowed from TV’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E or Batman, two shows that were big business at the time of the film’s release. There’s even a powder pink dressing room with a secret passage like the one that Barbara Gordon uses to hide her Batgirl outfit. In another Batman connection, and again in 1967, George Raft also popped up in the Tallulah Bankhead episode, Black Widow Strikes Again
But the highlight of this comic retro adventure is the music. Malcolm Lockyer’s score is a jazzy cocktail of bongos, brass and Hammond organ served up with an oriental twist, while Margaret Lee gets to sing the catchy theme song and famed Japanese actress/singer Yukari Itô guests with a song that will have you searching for her on YouTube.
THE UK DVD RELEASE
The Network Distributing DVD presents the film in a brand-new transfer from original elements, in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio, and includes an hour-long audio interview from 2001 with director Jeremy Summers, trailer and gallery.
ROLL UP! ROLL UP!
Following a bank robbery in central London, Scotland Yard Inspector Elliott (Leo Glenn) tracks down some of the stolen banknotes to a circus stationed near Windsor. When one of the crooks turns up dead, the mystery deepens and Elliott’s suspects include a hooded lion tamer (Christopher Lee), a blackmailing dwarf (Skip Martin), a jealous knife-thrower (Maurice Kaufmann), and a philandering showgirl (Margaret Lee). But with his superior (Cecil Parker) breathing down his neck and a killer stalking the suspects, Elliott has his work cut out for him in finding the stolen loot and the criminal mastermind behind it.
THE GEEK BIT
After making six episodes of The Edgar Wallace Mysteries for UK TV, director John Llewellyn Moxley (who would go on to helm everything from Kung Fu to Magnum PI and Murder She Wrote in the 1970s and 1980s), was hired by exploitation maestro Harry Alan Towers to lens this big-screen adaptation of Wallace’s novel, The Three Just Man, in a bid to compete with Berserk, the Joan Crawford shocker which was also released in the winter of 1967.
Starting off with an exciting bank robbery sequence staged around Tower Bridge, the film settles down into a standard whodunit littered with the usual red herrings (Klaus Kinski’s menacing Manfred being one of them). But thanks to the fine turns from the cast, that also includes future giallo screen queen Suzi Kendall, and Johnny Douglas’s catchy big band soundtrack that gives the film its distinctly 1960s British feel, Circus of Fear makes for an ideal rainy afternoon vintage treat to revisit. Not the greatest show on Earth, but a memorable one.
This re-mastered Network DVD release includes both the long and short versions in their as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio; alternative German ending (in black and white); UK and foreign trailers; image gallery and PDF material.
A might see, for Chris Lee completists and fans of 1960s British thrillers.