Collecting: Christie Film Memorabilia. Part 1: 1928-37
For many fans of Agatha Christie, films related to her works are a core part of the overall Christie experience. As a separate genre from television productions, there are 40 known theatrically released films based on Christie's original works and 1 film based solely on a Christie character (Murder Ahoy). It is a herculean task to try to view all these films as many are incredibly hard to find copies of and thus will require tremendous patience or visits to national archives. Collecting copies of all of these for home viewing is also a near impossible task - certainly in a single format. But over the years copies of most of these films have found there way onto VHS, DVD or downloadable formats. Many of the earliest films are missing, though related ephemera still exists. For the collector, these items are the holy grail as associated material is also incredibly rare. For the later films, ephemera is more common (and thus affordable), but still desirable. For this first part in a series of four on 'Film Memorabilia', the focus in on those films produced in the 20s and 30s.
For those who just want to watch the film, a note has been added for those where there is no known copy so you don't waste fruitless hours of searching. However, the hope is that one day an archived copy will be found... somewhere! For the rest they can be found either through purchase or on various streaming channels (which can be different by global region). Generally though YouTube, NetFlix and Amazon are the better places to start for streaming options.
The first motion picture of a Christie work was in 1928, with only one other film produced in the 20s which was a German production. However, since it was a silent film it was easy to release in the UK though under a different title. In the 1930s there were five films made from Agatha Christie's work, one of which was French.
Film / Movie Posters: Perhaps the most common film related collectible is the poster. When collecting posters there are a few basic terms to be familiar with and there are plenty of good online resources discussing how the printing, distribution and recirculation of posters has evolved over the years.
Regarding terminology, the following is a simple primer:
1. Film / Movie Stills: These were generally 8 x 10 inch photographs and were often distributed to print outlets. Photos in the 1920s - 1930s would generally be of the actors, director of film sets. Sometimes there were used in lobbies in the 1920s.
2. Front of House (UK) / Lobby Cards (US): In the 1920s, expect these smaller cards to be 8 x 10 inches. In the 1930s onwards, expect them to be commonly 11 x 14 inches. A few larger 14 x 17 inch cards were also produced. If not reusing film stills, they would be a small poster using art work.
3. Half Sheets: Generally sized 22 x 28 inches in a landscape format.
4. One Sheet: Generally 27 x 41 inches for Christie's films. Displayed portrait. They will have been folded at some stage. Very collectible size.
5. British Quads: Generally 30 x 40 inches and displayed landscape.
6. Three Sheets: Generally 41 x 80 inches and comprised of two items joined together. Displayed portrait. They will have been folded.
Many other sizes and variations existed, but these are the most common. For each size many variations may have existed and collectors will often refer to them as the 'A' or 'B' sheets, etc...
Christie's films from the 1920s and 1930s are as follows:
1928: The Passing of Mr. Quinn. This film was based on the story "The Coming of Mr. Quin". There is no known surviving copy of the film nor script. Publicity photos can be found, along with period reviews. Film stills can be purchased from the British Film Institute (BFI). A book based on the film was published contemporaneously, which Harper Collins recently reprinted in 2017. The original 'Detective Club' cheap printed version in jacket from c.1928-29 is valued at ~£150.
1929: Die Abenteuer GmbH (German). Translated, the title is essentially "The Adventurers, LLC (or Inc.)". This film was based on the novel "The Secret Adversary". It was later released in England under the title of "The Adventurers". Prints of this film exist with French and German story boards. Publicity photos and period reviews can be found. A later DVD version was produced.
1931: Alibi. This film was based on the novel "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd". There is no known copy of the film, though the playscript (which is available) is generally considered to be the main source of the film script. Various publicity photos, advertisements and period reviews can be found.
1931: Black Coffee. Based on the play of the same name but filmed prior to the publication of the playscript, which was in 1934. There is no known surviving copy of the film though the script is believed to follow the play closely. Advertisements, lobby cards and publicity photos, along with period reviews can be found.
1932: Le Coffret de Laque (French). Translated, it means 'the lacquered box'. Also based on the play "Black Coffee". The film likely does not survive, though rumors it was once produced on DVD exist. If anyone knows of a copy please advise. Both original and reproduction film posters can be found for this play. There are several versions - three main French styles but also a few in other languages. Originals are valued ~€300 for very good condition examples. Publicity photos and other typical ephemera are available.
1934: Lord Edgware Dies. Based on the novel of the same name. The film survives, though finding a screening or copy is difficult. A file copy can be viewed at the British Film Institute. Copies of film stills can also be purchased from the BFI. Typical film ephemera can be found.
1937: Love From a Stranger. Released in the US under the title "A Night of Terror". Based on the short story "Philomel Cottage". The film still exists and can often be found on streaming sites and is available for purchase on DVD. Copies are also at the BFI, who also have various stills, articles and related ephemera. Original posters can be found and are valued at £300 for 'one sheet' or 'British Quad' sizes in very good condition.
Values: Posters for any of the first four films listed above would be 'pay what you are willing' as they are unknown and thus any acquisition should be sought. For the last three films, posters can be found and condition and size determine value. All are uncommon, and so while values are generally in the £300 range, scarcity could push values much higher. Photo stills, unless vintage, have little value and they can be sourced and reproduced. Period correct stills, ephemera and lobby cards are all highly desirable but will generally be in the £50 (period images) - £200 (lobby cards). Long-term appreciation potential is significant as collectors become more aware of the scarcity of these items, especially as items related to later films are much more common.