ABOUT OUR GUEST
Another colleague from the "We Belong Dead"/"Unsung Horrors" group and another great contribution to the countdown! Matthew Banks first said while he would like to participate, he wasn't sure he'd have time. Yet look what he sent! It's a fine example of his writing and I hope it whets your appetite for reading more of his work. Thank you, Matthew!
Many years ago, I sat in front of the television and was awestruck by a black and white adaptation of Agatha Christie’s famous novel "And Then There Were None" (Originally titled, "Ten Little Niggers," then "Ten Little Indians" before the current title.) As I watched, it dawned on me that the content of both the film (and the book) had had an influence on the horror genre and yet there was nothing in any of my film books. Why, I wondered, was Silence of the Lambs called a horror film, when it is in fact a tense psychological thriller, then I realised that the same could be said of Psycho and many others. Yet this film, with its isolated setting, criminally stained characters, a serial killer and a poem foreshadowing their demise, not counted. What makes a crime/thriller a horror film or not? That question, I’m still not sure of, but Christie’s work influence on the horror genre in undoubted.
Based on the Agatha Christie novel and released in 1945, And Then There Were None is probably one of the most influential Crime/Horror films of all time, that has been neglected by the horror genre and over-shadowed by those films that it has directly or in-directly influenced. In fact, almost every genre has crossed over one way or another with the horror genre, but none more so than the crime genre. For instance, M (1931), Psycho (1960) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) are all crime films but have been absorbed into the horror genre. Even films like The Crimes of Dr Crespi (1935) and any of the adaptations of The Hound of the Baskervilles have fallen into the horror category, yet And Then There Was None, for whatever reason, has not.
The story centres on a group of people being invited to a remote island and once there, via a gramophone record, they are accused of various crimes. And one by one they are murdered in accordance to a nursery rhyme that hangs in each of their bedrooms, and after each death a porcelain Indian (one for each guest) is found broken. After a search of the island of any other people, it dawns on those there that there is no one else and that one of them must be the killer. The isolation builds up the tension and fear until the end. BARNES, N.Y Herald Tribune said of the film in a review:
“… Superbly matched cast and consummate direction distinguish a contrived melodrama … Rene Clair has staged it with an artful blend of humour and terror …Acting such as you will see only very rarely in a picture… The crescendo of suspicion, fear and violence that builds steadily to an arresting climax … An excellent melodrama.”