Tuesday, October 3, 2017

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Casting Coup Tuesday: The ABC Murders

It's Casting Coup Tuesday, where we dream-cast an imaginary adaptation of a beloved work. All month long, we're celebrating the Queen of Crime as she and her works appeared on screen, in anticipation of the November 10th release of Murder on the Orient Express. Now, if that movie's a success, they're gonna do a follow-up. May we suggest another Poirot?

Just yesterday, we talked about The Alphabet Murders, a slapstick comedy version of an Agatha Christie novel, with only the faintest resemblance to the original work. That work was The ABC Murders, which pits Poirot's wits against those of a serial killer, all the while receiving mocking letters from the murderer.

Published in 1935, it's a chilling puzzler, sure, but some of the best chapters describe the many conferences held by law enforcement officials who, at a loss for what else to do, gather together to dissect and repeat every detail and theory about the unknown maniac. There are a number of chapters, too, dedicated to witnesses and leads that go nowhere, contribute nothing to the investigation.

Frankly, such chapters are what make the novel genius. With the law, one feels the impotency of not knowing, the need for people to feel like they're doing something, anything. With the leads and witnesses, Christie explores England's class system and the resentments that come with it; public panic in the face of national crisis; casual xenophobia; and the desire for 15 minutes of fame, no matter the context. It's a little bit Zodiac, a little bit Drop Dead Gorgeous.

Which makes it perfect for a film.

The cast after the jump. All italicized descriptions come from the Cast of Characters on page 9 of the Black Dog and Leventhal hardcover edition.

Paddy Considine as Chief Inspector James Japp
Of Scotland Yard. He was inclined to minimize the importance of the first A.B.C. letter.

This is more or less the result of me liking him with a mustache.

Academy Award Nominee Benedict Cumberbatch as Inspector Crome
The official in charge of the case, he had an insular air of superiority that rubbed Hastings the wrong way.

Yes, this is a bit of a send-up of Cumberbatch's own super sleuth-iness on Sherlock. Bonus: played Luke Fitzwilliam in the TV movie Marple: Murder Is Easy.

Simon Pegg as Captain Arthur Hastings
Poirot's earnest mascot and would-be mentor. He had a talent for pointing out the obvious.

The right age, the right approachable handsomeness, the right air of good-naturedness, and can certainly play dumb.

Fiona Shaw as Mrs. Clarke
The third victim's wife. Dying of cancer. It certainly hasn't softened her edges.

As anyone who's seen The Black Dahlia knows, Shaw can increase a movie's quality tenfold with one killer scene. Bonus: played Emily Greenshaw in the TV movie Marple: Greenshaw's Folly.

The Suspects
Jessica Barden as Mary Drower
The first victim's niece. A pretty, dark-haired girl, with a pleasant bucolic simplicity.

Isn't she just wonderful in The Lobster and Hanna and Far from the Madding Crowd?

Daniel Craig as Franklin Clarke
The third victim's brother. Not even the violence of murder could disturb his resolute competence.

The best Bonds do Agatha - Connery in Murder on the Orient Express, Dalton in Marple: The Sittaford Mystery, Brosnan in The Mirror Crack'd. Let Craig be a part of that grand tradition.

Bruno Ganz as Franz Ascher
Husband of the first victim. German. An abusive drunk.

Because he has the look of someone who knows pain and disappointment firsthand.

Eddie Marsan as Alexander Bonaparte Cust
A man with a lost dog look. So unprepossessing as to be almost invisible.

For someone whose looks should be distinctive, he easily fades into the background, with a knack for playing meek men.

Academy Award Nominee Dev Patel as Donald Fraser
The second victim's boyfriend. A bottled-up young man. Quiet, sensitive, but capable of jealous fury.

So broody in Lion. So hot.

Andrea Riseborough as Megan Barnard
The second victim's sister. Her fondness for her sister didn't blind her from seeing what kind of fool she was.

I adore her chameleonic looks and ability to adjust to a project's tone - plus she's so good in Battle of the Sexes! Bonus: played Romaine Heilger in the TV mini-series The Witness for the Prosecution.

Margot Robbie as Thora Grey
A decorative blonde - by way of Sweden. As the third victim's secretary she shared his love for the rare and beautiful.

This one felt right, Robbie playing a beyond beautiful woman whose intelligence is underestimated, and who is not quite the damsel in need of saving people suppose her to be.

Our Hero
Hollmann Award Winner Gary Oldman as Hercule Poirot
The fabulous detective.

Great at accents, great in a moustache, great at drawing attention to himself.

Your turn: who would you cast as Poirot and Hastings? Have you read The ABC Murders? Talk in the comments...

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