Not only was this 1974 movie a brilliant adaptation of one of Agatha Christie's most famous novels, but the score by Richard Rodney Bennett also scored a nomination for Best Original Dramatic Score. A moving and stirring score, this one evokes all the emotions and drama of the unfolding story on screen.
A Brilliant Score Beautifully Recorded...For MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, Richard Rodney Bennett could have arranged a 1930's pastiche score and left it at that. Instead, he created an entirely original score, by turns melodious and atonal, to enhance the classic murder mystery on screen. The Overture certainly does, to quote Bennett himself, "give one the sense of excitement and anticipation that one felt in the theatre, as a child, before the curtain went up," while the main theme of "The Orient Express" combines a joyous waltz with an ominous woodwind motif that tells of dark deeds to come. "The Reenactment" and "The Murder" consist of some of the eeriest music ever heard in a film (as frightening - if not more so - as much of Bernard Herrmann's score for PSYCHO).
At other times, the score is impressionistically beautiful, as in the Puccini-esque "Stamboul Ferry." Bennett impressively handles both music under dialogue (in "The Orient Express," for example, or "Princess Dragomiroff") and leitmotifs (the nervous string motif associated with the villain of the piece, acted by Richard Widmark). In short, this is a brilliant score. But what truly raises the soundtrack to the highest level is the grandly scaled playing of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, led by Marcus Dods. The 1974 recording matches the orchestra in quality, with each instrument clearly audible. Thus, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS is a remarkable original soundtrack recording in more ways than one.