09 Apr 2014
(Yes, I am ashamed to write that headline. Let’s move on and pretend it never happened.)
What keeps a writer like Agatha Christie alive once she is no longer around? Writers and other artists seem like firewood to be used and consumed. Some burn like oak: long-lasting and giving off an even heat. Some go up like flash paper. Then there’s the damp twigs and worm-riddled logs that never catch fire at all.
Agatha Christie has been gone nearly four decades, and she seems to be burning like well-seasoned pine. It’s been a steady flame, with the stately progressions of TV adaptations and continued sales of her books. Every now and then, she gives off a pyrotechnic pop, emitting a shower of multi-colored sparks that catch your attention.
There have been several sightings of sparks lately that has caught my attention. The biggest one came from Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose movie “Sabotage” failed to find an audience when it premiered last week. It’s the story of a DEA agent and his squad who find themselves in an isolated place and being slowly killed off, one by one.
Can you guess that it was “inspired by” a Christie book? Can you guess which one? Can you watch the “red band” trailer below, with added dollops of violence, cursing and general Arnoldish-ness, before deciding that life is too short to spend with this?
I admit that I was skeptical about the Christie connection, but it was repeated so many times that I had to accept it as fact, especially after it was revealed that the movie’s first working title was “Ten.”
What I can’t imagine is the producers thinking that it was worth paying Agatha Christie Ltd. for the right to use her book as the skeleton for Arnold Freakin’ Schwarzenegger. The concept of a group of people locked away somewhere being slowly killed is hardly original to Agatha, as anyone who has heard of the “Friday the 13th” movies would recognize. And they certainly wouldn’t have revealed the Arnold/Agatha connection without paying the estate.
One could only conclude that the original idea was to remake “Ten Little Indians,” perhaps with another actor in the lead role. Then Arnold was signed, and like a black hole, the light of the story had to be bent around this new gravitational field, distorting it so much that it reworked the title from “Ten” to “Sabotage,” and guaranteeing that the movie would fail. Because “Ten” (now permanently emblazoned “And Then There Were None”) is essentially a tragedy, a tale of revenge.
And Arnold doesn’t do revenge unless he’s dishing it out.
Time to reboot Poirot
What they should have done, you see, is bend the light the other way. They needed to do what Christie did in her time, rewrite the script with Arnold as Hercule Poirot.Imagine it! A Poirot who is fussy and foreign. Arnold could do that. Poirot is a comic figure who no one would believe was that smart. Arnold had been underestimated as a lunkhead with muscle for brains, yet succeeded as a movie star and governor of California.
Admit it, you want to hear “my little grey cells” spoken in an Austrian accent.
Imagine the premiere of “Dead Man’s Folly,” shot where Christie set the story, at Greenway, her home on the River Dart. We’d get to hear David Suchet opinion of Arnold’s performance, which would probably rank among the greatest acting jobs of his life.
And you know what? I’ll bet the producers will still manage to insert a chase scene at the end, with a dapper Poirot taking down a row of baddies with a machine gun while spitting out “let’s see your little grey cells.” Because, after all, Arnold must still be Arnold.
During it’s first week, “Sabotage” took in only $8.9 million. It’s rated 22% by the critics and 46% by the audience on Rotten Tomatoes. Arnold-as-Poirot will certainly take in more than that.