The Alphabet Murders
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Tashlin
Written byDavid Pursall (screenplay)
Jack Seddon (screenplay)
Agatha Christie (novel)
Produced byLawrence P. Bachmann
StarringTony Randall
Anita Ekberg
Robert Morley
CinematographyDesmond Dickinson
Music byRon Goodwin
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • August 1965 (1965-08) (UK)
  • 17 May 1966 (1966-05-17) (U.S.)
Running time
90 min
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Alphabet Murders is a 1965 British detective film directed by Frank Tashlin and starring Tony Randall as Hercule Poirot. It is based on the 1936 novel The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie.


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

As Poirot and Captain Hastings look into the crimes, a beautiful woman with an interesting monogram named Amanda Beatrice Cross becomes the focus of their investigation, at least until she leaps into the Thames.


Production background

The part of Poirot had originally been intended for Zero Mostel but the film was delayed because Agatha Christie objected to the script; amongst the things objected to was the intention to put in a bedroom scene with Hercule Poirot.[1] The film varies significantly from the novel and emphasises comedy, the specialty of director Frank Tashlin. Poirot is given buffoonish characteristics, while still remaining a brilliant detective.

The film features an uncredited cameo by Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple and Stringer Davis as her friend Mr Stringer. The pair had previously appeared in a series of four films as the characters produced by MGM between 1961 and 1964.[2]

Austin Trevor, who plays the butler Judson, had played Poirot in three British films in the early 1930s: Alibi (1931), Black Coffee (1931) and Lord Edgware Dies (1934).


Leonard Maltin gives the film 2 1/2 out of 4 stars, calling it an "odd adaptation" of Christie's book. Maltin goes on to say, "the strange casting of Randall ... and a little too much slapstick make this more a curiosity than anything else."[3] TCM calls Randall's Poirot "an Inspector Clouseau-style bumbler", noting that the second installment of the Pink Panther series had been well-received the previous year.[4] A. H. Weiler of The New York Times dismissed the film as "a routine run through of clichés and clues."[5]

See also


  1. ^ Osborne, Charles (1990). The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie. Contemporary Books. pp. 116–7. ISBN 9780809241071.
  2. ^ Weiler, A.H. (12 July 1966). "The Screen: 'Alphabet Murders' Opens". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  3. ^ Leonard Maltin (3 September 2013). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Publishing Group. p. n/a. ISBN 978-1-101-60955-2.
  4. ^ TCM, The Alphabet Murders
  5. ^ The New York Times, July 12, 1966, page 36