And then there was Agatha Christie. Long before “Gilligan’s Island” stranded strangers on a faraway isle, the British grande dame of mystery came up with that idea — with a few murders tossed in for fun — in her novel “And Then There Were None” (aka “Ten Little Indians”), which she later adapted into a play.
Now her tale reappears as a four-hour BBC miniseries that is getting its U.S. premiere on Lifetime March 13 at 8 p.m. and March 14 at 9 p.m. This version, which reportedly stays true to Christie’s novel, is one of several film adaptations. Here are four others, which increasingly strayed further from Christie’s vision.
And Then There Were None (1945)
THE STARS Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Louis Hayward
THE SETTING An isolated mansion on a remote British island that can only be reached by boat. The moody black-and-white camerawork and haunting score added to the mystery.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT Unlike the bleak ending of Christie’s novel, this version concluded on an upbeat, blackly humorous note.
Ten Little Indians (1965)
THE STARS Hugh O’Brian, Shirley Eaton, Fabian
THE SETTING A grandiose mountaintop château in the Austrian Alps that can only be accessed by cable car.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT Both Hugh O’Brian and “Goldfinger” girl Eaton got to show plenty of skin and had a bedroom scene together. Repressed spinster Miss Brent (Judith Anderson in the ’45 film) was rewritten as a gorgeous foreign film star who did in her husband. Fabian’s character was changed from a prince to a pop star. Director George Pollock also added a gimmick near the conclusion: During a one-minute “whodunit break,” the action was suspended so audience members could guess the killer’s identity.
Ten Little Indians (1974)
THE STARS Richard Attenborough, Elke Sommer, Oliver Reed
THE SETTING The intended victims gathered at “the fabulous Shah Abbas Hotel” in the Iranian desert.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT Reed’s character, Lombard, who was accused of killing a group of African tribesmen in the novel and first film, was now responsible for murdering the woman he got pregnant. And for some state-of-the-art technology, instead of a record of host “U.N. Owen” (voice of Orson Welles) announcing the crimes his guests had committed, a cassette was used.
Ten Little Indians (1989)
THE STARS Donald Pleasance, Brenda Vaccaro, Frank Stallone (yes, Sly’s brother)
THE LOOK Instead of a weekend house party, this time 10 strangers were game for an African safari.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT Vaccaro’s actress character was accused of murdering a fellow actress who was also her lover. The ending was supposed to match that of Christie’s novel, but was changed to the play’s ending. This least-seen version only opened in 79 theaters and had a domestic gross of $59,405 according to Box Office Mojo.