This is the first "grown-up" mystery I ever read, and it remains my absolute favorite to this day--which is why whenever I encounter a new film adaptation, I keep hoping it would do the book justice--but none of them ever do, and this particular version is the worst of the lot.
The story should be familiar to everyone: ten people are assembled in an isolated location, are accused of murder by their unseen host, and are executed one by one, with the methods of their deaths corresponding to a child's nursery rhyme. And one thing this version does have going for it is that it avoids tampering with the rhyme as the 1965 and 1974 versions do. Likewise, the crimes each of Mr. Owen's guests have committed also remain largely unchanged from the novel (the sole exceptions being Blore's and Marion Marshall's).
But what makes this version so thoroughly unwatchable is how badly the plot is served by the locale, and how badly one has to stretch credulity to believe that something like this could happen as the script writers tell us it does. For example, in her first scene, Mrs. Rodgers complains about "lions and tigers" all around the camp, and later, during the search for Mr. Owen, several characters see one--and yet, immediately afterward, one of the characters is willing to spend the night on an isolated hilltop, without any fear of becoming a lion's midnight snack. In fact, we never see or hear the lions at all after the search; once they've served their purpose of creating tension during the scene in question, they apparently vanish into thin air.
Another reviewer has pointed out that too much is out of Mr. Owen's control, and that's 100% accurate; there's simply no way Mr. Owen could have arranged for all of this, especially so far from his home country. The character has no contacts nearby, no agents, nobody to set up the safari, no way to get the natives to isolate the doomed party, no way of making sure everyone meets the end s/he deserves. Moreover, Owen is strangely passive throughout the story; he doesn't set in motion the chain of events that lead to the fifth, sixth, and seventh murders, but relies entirely on chance and opportunism, and it's simply impossible for him to commit the second.
Lombard is finally the soldier of fortune he is supposed to be, rather than the engineer of previous adaptations--but it completely strains credulity to the breaking point to think that he would not have had his own supply of ammunition, rather than having to filch Marston's. And when Lombard finally succeeds in radioing for help, and is told that a rescue plane would be launched "in the morning," it doesn't occur to him to tell whoever's sending it that four people have already died and they need that plane NOW. He takes the delay far too passively for a man of his temperament--or at least, for a man of what his temperament should be.
The acting is uneven among all the actors, with the sole exceptions of Neil McCarthy, Sarah Maur Thorpe, and Yehuda Efroni--and in Efroni's case, it's because he's uniformly bad from start to finish. His caricature of a performance starts out as distracting and ends up being just painful to watch.
Finally, the international cast of characters - three English, five American, one Romanian, one German - is a problem that plagues all four English-language adaptations and especially this one, because how would Owen even have heard about all of them in the first place? The whole point is that no one knows that these people have committed murder; all of the deaths in their pasts have been put down either to accident, natural causes, or the normal course of war or the legal system, but Owen, owing to his position *in his own society,* is able to find people to tell him what really happened. How would Owen have discovered the "truth" about the deaths of both Beatrice Taylor and Heinrich Domeratsky - deaths that take place 6500 miles and 15 years apart?