ALPHABET MURDERS, THE (director: Frank Tashlin; screenwriters: David Pursall/Jack Seddon/based on Agatha Christie’s novel “The “The A.B.C. Murders”; cinematographer: Desmond Dickinson; editor: John Victor Smith; music: Ron Goodwin; cast: Tony Randall (Hercule Poirot), Anita Ekberg (Amanda Beatrice Cross), Robert Morley (Hastings), Maurice Denham (Japp), Guy Rolfe (Duncan Doncaster), Sheila Allen (Lady Diane), James Villiers (Franklin), Julian Glover (Don Fortune), Grazina Frame (Betty Barnard), Clive Morton (“X”), Cyril Luckham (Sir Carmichael Clarke); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lawrence P. Bachmann; MGM; 1966)
“It was really as simple as ABC why this film was a dud, most of the suspense was lost in Tashlin’s poorly conceived comic interpretation.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

In England, this adaptation of Agatha Christie was known as The ABC Murders. Hercule Poirot (Tony Randall), the famous Belgian detective, investigates a lunatic killer murdering his or her victims in alphabetical order. Frank Tashlin (“Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?”/”Son of Paleface”/”Hollywood or Bust”) directs it as a farcical comedy. He spoofs the famous detective, which might not please the purists (I’m no purist, but it certainly didn’t please me). Unfortunately, Mr. Randall’s Poirot is neither funny nor is he persuasive as a sleuth, the gags are lame and the plot line is not inventive as much as it’s muddled. The screenplay by David Pursall and Jack Seddon has the less than brilliant Poirot being overly concerned with his appearance and trying to get his affected accent straight. Robert Morley plays an inept British intelligence agent named Hastings who fails at every opportunity to protect Poirot, the one he was assigned to protect. The bumbling slapstick comedy Morley offers, is sometimes getting locked in the closet or futilely running after Poiret in the London streets without shoes.

While Poirot is in London, an aqua-clown, Albert Aachen, is found dead in a swimming pool apparently killed by a poison dart fired from an airgun. Poirot visits a Turkish bath while accompanied by Hastings, and he’s almost choked to death by the Amazon Queen, Amanda Beatrice Cross, played by Anita Ekberg, who tells him she can’t help killing. She escapes leaving behind a handbagwith the initials A. B. C. and a bowling alley score card. It leads the detective to bowling instructor Betty Barnard, who will later become the loony’s second victim. Poirot correctly tells Scotland Yard Inspector Japp that the next victim will have the initials C. C. and it will be Sir Carmichael Clarke.

In the disappointing conclusion, Poirot nabs the murderess and uncovers the motive is because she’s a schizoid who has an obsession with the alphabet.

Not much seemed to work in this uneven film, that couldn’t navigate the course it charted for itself of mixing comedy with a whodunit. The only pleasant surprise was a cameo by Margaret Rutherford, another Agatha Christie creation who plays Miss Marple. It was really as simple as ABC why this film was a dud, most of the suspense was lost in Tashlin’s poorly conceived comic interpretation.