powered by AFI
On a stormy Friday afternoon, Judge Francis J. Quincannon, Dr. Edward G. Armstrong, Philip Lombard, Vera Claythorne, General Sir John Mandrake, Emily Brent, William H. Blore and Prince Nikita Starloff are taken on a fishing boat to Indian Island, off the coast of Devon, England, for a weekend visit with the mysterious U. N. Owen. The eight passengers, who are all strangers, are greeted by butler Thomas Rogers and his wife Ethel, the cook, who reveal that they have not met their new employer. While eating in the dining room, the guests become intrigued by the centerpiece, which consists of ten figurines of Indian boys. Vera begins to recite the nursery rhyme about ten little Indian boys who are killed, and Starloff continues the rhyme in the parlor. Rogers then puts a record on the phonograph, as he was instructed to do, and the guests are astonished to hear Owen accuse them of various crimes that led to the deaths of others. The guests are shocked by the accusations, although Starloff casually admits to knocking down two pedestrians while driving. After realizing that "U. N. Owen" means "unknown," the group decides to leave the island, but Rogers informs them that the next boat will not arrive until Monday morning. The drunken Starloff collapses, and Dr. Armstrong deduces that he has been killed with poison. Rogers then shows Quincannon that one of the Indian statues has been broken, and the upset guests retire. In the morning, Ethel fails to awaken, and Armstrong realizes that she has died from a sedative overdose. With only eight people and statues remaining, the group determines to find Owen, whom they believe is hiding. After a fruitless day of searching, six of the remaining guests assemble for dinner, while Lombard looks for the missing Mandrake, who years before had caused the death of his unfaithful wife's lover. After Lombard finds Mandrake's corpse, with a knife in its back, Rogers informs the group that another statue is missing. The guests vote on who they think is guilty, and when Rogers receives two votes, the drunken, affronted butler, who confirms that he and his wife "helped" to end the suffering of their former employer, is locked in the woodshed. In the morning, the men find Rogers, who has been killed with an axe, and suspicion falls on Emily, who was walking on the beach. Emily denies their accusations, although she informs them that her nephew was killed after she sent him to a reformatory. Emily is soon found murdered with a hypodermic stolen from the doctor's bag, and the five remaining guests contemplate the five remaining statues. When the generator fails, Quincannon and Armstrong, who are alone together, decide that the incident clears them of suspicion. During dinner, the alcoholic Armstrong confesses to operating while drunk and Quincannon admits that he sentenced an innocent man to death in order to ruin the defending attorney's reputation. Blore reveals that his testimony sent an innocent man to jail, where he was killed, and Lombard carefully states that an explorer named Lombard was responsible for the death of many natives. Vera refuses to admit that she has committed a crime and rushes to her room. When she screams, Blore, Armstrong and Lombard race upstairs, only to discover that she was frightened by a piece of hanging seaweed. Upon their return to the dining room, the foursome discover that Quincannon has been shot in the head. Vera again refuses to discuss her "crime," but later that night, admits to Lombard that she took the blame when her sister killed her fiancé. Upon hearing footsteps in the hall, Lombard, Vera and Blore search the house for the missing doctor, and just as Blore sees something through his binoculars, he is crushed to death by bricks falling from the roof. When the couple then finds Armstrong's body on the beach, Lombard tells Vera that he is really Charles Morley, a friend of Lombard who came to the island to investigate after Lombard received a threatening note from Owen and committed suicide. Vera decides to trust Charles and accedes to his wish that she shoot his pistol in his direction, while he collapses. She then goes to the house, where a noose is hanging in the front hall. Quincannon greets her and reveals that he tricked Armstrong into helping him pretend to be dead, and that he committed the crimes in a search for "perfect human justice." Quincannon then states that he is dying from a serious illness, and, before swallowing a vial of poison, tells Vera to hang herself now, as she will surely be found guilty of killing him and the others. Just before Quincannon succumbs, Charles walks in, and the bitter judge observes that one should never trust a woman. Although the couple are still unsure about why they trusted each other, they happily embrace and dash toward the boat when the fisherman arrives to take them home.