Ten people travel by aerial tramway to a snowbound mansion, invited there by a Mr. U.N. Owen to spend the weekend. They discover that none of them has actually ever met Owen, including his secretary as well as a married housekeeper and cook, all hired through an agency.
Framed copies of the children's nursery rhyme "Ten Little Indians" are hung on the walls of each guest's bedroom. Dinner is served by the butler Grohmann on a tray adorned with ten little Indian figurines, as well. At exactly 9 p.m., as instructed, Grohmann switches on a hidden tape recording. A man identifying himself as Owen reveals that each of the 10 guests has a scandalous secret, their involvement in various innocent people's deaths.
One by one, the guests begin dying off. Mike Raven chokes after taking a drink and dies, and a little Indian from the centerpiece tray is broken away. In the morning, the cable tram is cut, killing the cook, Mrs. Grohmann who attempted to escape. General Mandrake conducts a search of the chalet's catacombs, splitting everyone into pairs, ultimately leading to his demise, stabbed after being led to a planted distraction (a cat). It becomes clear that their unseen killer is following the nursery rhyme. Ann Clyde, the secretary, enters into a romantic relationship with engineer Hugh Lombard as they and the others begin a deadly cat-and-mouse game, ultimately deducing that Owen is not their host but, in reality, one of them.
After falling under suspicion from the others, Grohmann attempts to make his escape down the mountain peak, Devil's Leap, ending in his death after his lifeline is severed with an axe. Ilona bitterly confesses to having driven her husband to suicide, and is later found dead in her bedroom, killed with a syringe. By now, the five remaining guests fall under distrust of one another, and alliances are formed as the generator shuts down, casting the mansion into total darkness. At dinner, each person reveals the nature of their accusations, but before Ann can attest to her crime, she separates from the group to her room, where she screams upon discovering an Indian decoy hung from the ceiling. In the confusion, Judge Cannon is found with a gunshot wound to his head.
Dr. Armstrong intimates his suspicions of Ann, which Lombard angrily rebuffs. Lombard later comes to Ann's room and confides that his real name is Charles Morley, and that the real Lombard had committed suicide and he took his place for the weekend. Morley gives Ann his revolver for her protection. In the morning, Blore discovers that Armstrong has vanished and the three conduct a search for him. Blore separates and goes outside where he is crushed by a large statue of a bear. Ann and Lombard discover the body of Dr. Armstrong in the snow and conclude that the killer can only be either of them. Ann pulls the revolver on Lombard and shoots at him, before returning to the mansion. She goes upstairs and discovers Judge Cannon very much alive, who explains how he enticed Dr. Armstrong to help him fake his death and that he intends to poison himself leaving Ann the last remaining survivor, who must hang herself and fulfill the rhyme, or be punished by the law instead. As Judge Cannon is explaining his plan, Morley reappears alive, faking his death after the bullet missed. Ann and Morley had planned the fake shooting scene as they had figured out that neither one of them was the killer. Judge Cannon realizes his plan has failed, and Ann and Morley kiss in relief. They see the cat sitting among the fruit tray with only two Indians attached.
This adaptation has been retooled to fit the attitude of the "swinging sixties," adding a lot more action to complement the mystery, a fight scene and even a sex scene. Many of the characters are fundamentally different from their book counterparts, and even the 1945 film. The General is no longer slightly senile and withdrawn, but more effectual with his past crime more similar to Lombard's from the book, giving him the highest body count of 5 soldiers. Lombard's crime is changed completely, to supposedly murdering his partner and unborn child out of wedlock. The character of the repressed spinster, Emily Brent is changed into a glamorous movie star, Ilona, who drove her husband to suicide. The servants are now German and the playboy (Marston in the book) character is now an American pop-star. Only the Judge, Doctor and Blore remain relatively unchanged.
This version makes notable changes to several verses of the lines from the rhyme, particularly the second and third verses:
Nine little Indian boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Indian boys travelling in Devon; one said he'd stay there and then there were seven.
is changed to,
Nine little Indians sat up quite late; One ran away and then there were eight.
Eight little Indians travelling into Heaven; one met a pussycat and then there were seven.
This corresponds to the changed deaths in this version, Frau Grohmann trying to escape in the cable car, and General Mandrake being stabbed after chasing a cat.
The ending was changed to a less pessimistic one, heavily borrowing from the upbeat finale Christie had adapted for a variety of reasons. The less pessimistic ending has been used in almost all of the film versions of the novel, although stage and television works has recently restored the original ending.And Then There Were None (1974 version)
Desyat Negrityat (1987 Soviet adaptation)
Ten Little Indians (1989 version)
Ten Little Indians was released to DVD by Warner Home Video on 14 March 2006 as a Region 1 widescreen DVD and also recently by Warner Archive as a MOD (manufacture-on-demand) DVD available via Amazon.