Alphabet Murders, The (1965): Frank Tashlin’s British Detective Film, Starring Tony Randall and Anita Ekberg

Frank Tashlin directed The Alphabet Murders, British detective film starring Tony Randall as Hercule Poirot, based on the 1936 Agatha Christie’s novel The A.B.C. Murders.

The Alphabet Murders
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Albert Aachen, a clown with a unique diving act, is found dead, with the murder weapon a poison dart. When Betty Barnard becomes the next victim, detective Hercule Poirot suspects Sir Carmichael Clarke could be in grave danger.

He and Captain Hastings probe the crimes, when a beautiful woman (Ekberg) with an interesting monogram named Amanda Beatrice Cross changes the  focus of their investigation.

The part of Poirot had originally been intended for Zero Mostel but the film was delayed because Christie’s objection to the script, especially to a bedroom scene with Hercule Poirot.

The film varies significantly from the novel with its emphasis on comedy, director Tashlin’s touch. Poirot is given buffoonish characteristics, while still remaining a brilliant detective.

The film features a cameo by Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple and Stringer Davis as her friend Mr. Stringer. The pair had appeared in four films produced by MGM between 1961 and 1964.

Cast
Tony Randall as Hercule Poirot
Anita Ekberg as Amanda
Robert Morley as Hastings
Maurice Denham as Japp
Guy Rolfe as Duncan Doncaster
Sheila Allen as Lady Diane
James Villiers as Franklin
Julian Glover as Don Fortune
Grazina Frame as Betty Barnard
Clive Morton as ‘X’
Cyril Luckham as Sir Carmichael Clarke
Richard Wattis as Wolf
David Lodge as Sergeant
Patrick Newell as Cracknell
Austin Trevor as Judson
Windsor Davies as Dragbot
Drewe Henley as Bowling Alley Attendant
Sheila Reid as Mrs. Fortune
Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple
Stringer Davis as Mr. Stringer.

Credits:
Directed by Frank Tashlin
Written by David Pursall (screenplay)
Jack Seddon (screenplay)
Agatha Christie (novel)
Starring Tony Randall
Anita Ekberg
Robert Morley
Music by Ron Goodwin
Cinematography Desmond Dickinson
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date: August 1965 (UK); May 1966 (U.S.)
Running time: 90 minutes