It’s been thirty years since The Cannon Group, headed up by the cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, those daring entrepreneurs who gave us a lot of fun back in the 80s, produced Ordeal by Innocence. Having recently acquired a copy for $5 at Lawsons (Sydney's best second hand collection) I sat down to watch it. I wondered whether in fact the film was ever released but since this note was published I have been advised by Australia's pre-eminent cinephile that he saw it at a screening at the then Hoyts Cinema in George Street in April 1985. I had no advance knowledge beyond what was on the cover. As usual with anything put out by Shock Video, there are errors everywhere on the cover, including the specs which say it is 16:9. Instead there is this shrivelled image occupying about two thirds of the available screen. Oh well, for $5.
Then the credits roll. "Agatha Christie's Ordeal by Innocence" says the main title and we get the cast - Donald Sutherland, (hair dyed a nice reddish tinge), Sarah Miles, Christopher Plummer, old reliables all and etc etc, "and Faye Dunaway" (who appears only in black and white flashback footage for she is the hapless victim who causes all this kerfuffle). The director is the estimable Desmond Davis. He tries to keep some sort of control over a script that races through lashings of plot, misdirects, flashbacks, heavy-handed coppers interfering for reasons that escape you and large numbers of shots of small boats crossing Dartmouth harbour. Here its renamed Drymouth. Ho ho. There are other ho ho moments as well.A bookmaker is called Archie Leach and a couple of film titles are listed as runners in one of the horse races seen in the background in one scene when Donald Sutherland is tracking down 'evidence' at a race track. Ho ho.
But two other credits are interesting. The script credit goes to Alexander Stuart who later wrote the most intense novel The War Zone which Tim Roth filmed and the music credit goes to Dave Brubeck for a tinkly score with many drum flourishes especially created by Brubeck and played by his then Quartet which included his son and not Paul Desmond. From the moment it starts, you wonder how on earth this contribution came about except that you only have to think for a moment about the ambitions of the Go-Glo cousins to know that they would have thought this to be the major cultural coup that it was and so they went for it big time.