August Murders: A Not-so-Respectful Reel Review #2


Ten Little Indians




Mystery (It’s a mystery to me why it was made), Thriller (Oh no it’s not)


Donald Pleasence, Brenda Vaccaro, Frank Stallone, Sarah Maur Thorp, Herbert Lom, Warren Berlinger,Yehuda Elfroni, Moira Lister


Alan Birkinshaw


Ten strangers are invited to go on an African safari, only to discover that the someone that invited them believes that they should all be dead for having committed various crimes. All claim innocence, but as they are eliminated — one by one — they begin to think that the killer must be among their number.


Ten unique individuals, strangers to each other, are invited to an African safari hosted by a Mr. Owens. Six arrive by train and are greeted by Mr. Lombard, their guide, who is waiting with a number of local natives who assist with the luggage. As they traverse the jungle, they arrive at a clearing where another of their number, Mr. Marston, arrives via plane.

After getting close to the camp, the natives drop the luggage and disperse, leaving the eight people to cross a perilously, rickety bridge line. As the final person crosses, the lines for the bridge are cut by another band of natives. The eight are now left isolated on a hilltop with a married couple hired by Mr. Owens to serve as waitstaff for the hunting camp which is made up of flimsy tents. Mr. Owens is strangely absent.

After the guests make themselves comfortable, they eat dinner prepared and served by Mr. and Mrs. Rodgers. During their meal, a gramophone is turned on by Mr. Rodgers and a disguised voice (Mr. Owens) proceeds to list each of the ten people and accuse them of committing murder and escaping justice.

Rodgers admits that he was told to play the recording on the gramophone and to immediately destroy it after by Owens, whom he has never met. He is concerned because he and his wife have also been accused by the recording.

When Marston chokes to death after drinking a poisoned martini, one of the guests, Vera Claythorn, realizes that this death mimics the death in the poem, Ten Little Indians. She had found a copy of the poem earlier in one of the tents, but had not made the connection until the first death. “Ten Little Indians went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine.” To underscore the point, one of the ten clay indian figurines which had been set out on the table is now missing a head.

The next morning, Mr. Rodgers has cooked breakfast himself without the assistance of his wife because she had been feeling poorly after the evening fright. She had requested from Dr. Werner a sedative to help her sleep and had overslept. Rodgers let her sleep to make up for her poor sleep. When he goes to rouse her, she is found dead. “Nine Little Indians sat up very late; One overslept and then there were eight.”

The movie continues pretty much in this way until the end. The characters are picked off, the number being whittled down. Suspicion and paranoia are prevalent. The audience has a number of red herrings to choose from, as is typical of the genre in general and Agatha Christie in particular. Clearly one of their number is the predatory “Mr. Owens.” I will leave the plot here in order not to give away spoilers.


To be completely honest, I was in the mood to watch a murder mystery a couple of weeks ago, and was flipping through Amazon Prime’s mystery category when I saw that Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (1989) was available for free. I had recently re-read the Christie novel, so I knew who the killer was, but this was supposed to be a fresh reimagining. (My Goodreads page says completed May 18, 2021.)

I immediately had reservations when I saw the cast, but I love Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis in Halloween (although admittedly a one-note character) and I thought he must do a good job with Brenda Vaccaro also in the cast.

Brenda Vaccaro is a bonafide star, but I did not realize that this was on the tail end of her career and she plays Marion Marshall with such overtly emphatic tones that the grace of the character is lost in the laughable dross of a cardboard cut out. Watching Pleasence was unbelievably boring. Frank Stallone makes his brother seem Shakespearean by contrast, and these are the better ones. Everyone else was going through the motions, clearly just happy to receive a paycheck.

The story is intended to be an adaptation of the play based on the novel written by Agatha Christie, but it is a piss-poor attempt at improving on Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None. The writing is supposed to be suspenseful. These people are being picked off and it seems as if the characters are so hopeless that they are content to wait for their imminent demise.

You would think that the change of setting from an island off the British shore to an African jungle hilltop would give the director and cinematographer plenty of vistas and jungle tableaus to film, but they could not even get that right.

Worst than everything else is that the writer does something that I hate. Followers of the blog know this about me, because I am consistent. If you are going to take the work of a well-established writer and you are going to change it, you better indicate that change somewhere because you will have fanatics like me pissed off.

What hubris!?! How dare you call this movie, “Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians” and then have the audacity, the cojones, the unmitigated gall, to change the ending! As if you, a no-name hack writer could improve Agatha Christie. It is ridiculous. You, Jackson Hunsicker, and you, Gerry O’Hara, how dare you?!? You did a $#!++y job of attempting to improve Agatha Christie. And this movie should be avoided like the plague.

Followers of the blog know that I take no joy in giving a negative review. I go into every movie hoping to love it. Last year when we at the Mustache and the Beard initiated August Murders, the first post of the month was about Agatha Christie. I do not believe in sacred cows, but seriously, if you call it Agatha Christie’s gobbledygook, should you not let it be Agatha Christie’s gobbledygook?

Let us be completely honest. The creators attempted to capitalize on the name for the sake of the money. So you got me. Good for you. Now you have to deal with me warning people not to fall for your shenanigans.

This is one tiny Grey Geek out of our Five Grey Geek scale. I would give it less if I could, but in any case, DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE. IT BLOWS!

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