I’m happy to say I met my original plans for this reading experience (click for reviews), reading some Sherlock Holmes (The Valley of Fear), some Agatha Christie (Murder on the Orient Express), and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I’m also counting Susan Kay’s Phantom and The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente. And of course I participated in The Graveyard Book read-along.
Considering this is not my normal genre, not a bad list! Now, on to the screen…
where there’s a fair amount of overlap.
Northanger Abbey (2007): I like to watch a movie version of Austen before reading a new book by her; it’s not my usual practice for other books, but it helps me sort out Austen’s large casts of characters. I really enjoyed the movie version, which is a bit sillier than the book (and changes a few details) but is still pretty accurate–and enormous fun. I liked that it brought to life some funny moments that Austen skated past, and I loved that Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan) from Doctor Who‘s “Blink” was in this! It wasn’t really a very creepy movie (less creepy than “Blink”) but in a way that’s the point–it’s a creepy setting where nothing creepy is really going on.
Rebecca (1940): This is one of my favorite Hitchcock films. So mysterious, and it’s so brilliantly handled. Joan Fontaine is wonderful as the second Mrs. De Winter, Judith Anderson is terrifying as the creepy Mrs. Danvers, and I just love how Hitchcock makes Rebecca SO PRESENT, when we never see her at all. I can just imagine how awful this would be if they made it today–we’d probably get a bloody flashback of Rebecca’s death. Here, Olivier’s narration is so brilliant and so vivid. This is a wonderful movie for a cold dark night.
Murder on the Orient Express (1974): After reading the book, I was curious about the movie. I found it very accurate, in good ways and bad. Like the book, it takes some time to get started, and doesn’t really hit its stride until murder has been committed and Poirot begins his investigation and interviews. I enjoyed seeing Sean Connery and an almost unrecognizable Ingrid Bergman. Lauren Bacall was in a way lovely as well, but at the same time, terribly cast. Her character felt the most different from the book, and I liked the book version better–but I couldn’t see Bacall playing that part that way. Poirot himself seemed angrier and more forceful in some of his scenes, which I can’t say worked all that well for me. But I did love the way they handled his “here’s what happened” speech. A flashback would have been awful in Rebecca, but here it was a brilliant device to actually show the murder. Almost no blood, but it was still so creepy. This one couldn’t have been made in 1940–the censor board never would have stood for the ending.
I’m still never going to be a fan of horror movies or books…but I’ve enjoyed venturing into the shadow lands a bit! Perfect for getting me in the mood for fall.