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Bisset on the Orient Express at The Golden Apricot film festival in Yerevan


by Alex Deleon


British actress Jacqueline Bissett, 72,  was the special guest this year at the 13th Golden Apricot film festival in Yerevan and three of her early films were screened.  

Viewed here as part of the Jacqueline Bissett tribute, "Murder on the Orient Express" (Sidney Lumet, 1974) is so bad it looks like a dress rehearsal for a film that never got made. If the Agatha Christie novel had suspense and snappy dialogue Lumet's film has neither. No suspense and painfully strained stiffly mannered quaint dialogue.  Albert Finney's Hercule Poiret is so hammy that he is literally a burden to watch. The cast is practically a who's who of top ranking actors of the time from a fading Ingrid Bergman to an up and coming Jacqueline Bissett (as a sidekick of 007 Sean Connery) in a nothing role, via a still saucy Lauren Bacall plus two escapees from Hitchcock's Psycho, Martin Balsam and a very clean cut young Tony Perkins. Also seen John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard  Widmark, Wendy Hiller, Rachel Roberts, etcetera .etcetera.

The film starts promisingly with Widmark, a wealthy American of shady background, meeting renowned Belgian detective Hercule Poiret in the dining car of the train, trying to hire Poiret to do a delicate protection job for him, getting turned down, and soon after getting himself murdered in his sleeping berth as the train comes to a halt blocked by a snowslide covering the tracks.
From there it is straight downhill, lapsing into the coma of an enclosed space talkathon in which each star recites their part as if doing a reading for a theater audition -- all actors in early 1900s period costume. The costumes are just about the only thing about the picture that is even remotely interesting.
Unbelievably boring considering the talent on view with the major interest being the attempt to identify the persons behind the heavy maquillage. Connery is particularly ridiculous in a bushy handlebar moustache straight from his roles as early James Bond. 

Fortunately, the print screened at the Moskva Kinoteatron was in such bad condition that it broke several times causing long delays and providing  windows of opportunity for a quick escape through the side doors.

Strange that the Yerevan festival picked minor Bissett film appearances such as BULLITT (although third billed her part was minuscule) and Orient express, but overlooked the one that made her famous, or at least made her breastwork famous --The Deep -- in which her underwater scenes in a tightly clinging T-shirt emphasizing her upper curves caused masturbatory syndromes world wide in 1977.



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