First Nighter: Agatha Christie's "and Then There Were None" in Smashing New Treatment

According to some statistics, And Then There Were None is bestselling Agatha Christie's all-time bestseller. It's been filmed more than once, perhaps the favorite adaptation until recently being the 1945 20th Century Fox version.

Now Acorn is putting in a bid to snare the "favorite" title with a version shown as a three-part miniseries on Lifetime in March and available today on DVD and Blu-Ray ($19.99). If you like Christie and if you like her tale of eight strangers and two retainers -- each guilty of a crime never resulting in a conviction -- invited to a remote island where they're bumped off one by one, you'd better avail yourself of this version.

There are several reasons why the latest undertaking is highly recommended. At first, the most obvious is the cast of top-drawer British actors rounded up to play the dastardly parts -- Charles Dance, Miranda Richardson, Sam Neill, Toby Stephens, Aidan Turner, Maeve Dermody, Burn Gorman, Douglas Booth, Noah Taylor and Anna Maxwell Martin.

Not only is each of the above ideally cast, but as an ensemble they represent a group of people so nervous about the implications of the intensifying situation that their faces seem to age visibly as they're sequentially bumped off. It's a rare and amazing acting phenomenon.

The credit for that chilling effect certainly can be attributed in large part to director Craig Viveiros, who keeps the suspense tightening. Others responsible for the period look -- the time is August 1939, only weeks before World War II breaks out -- are Sophie Becher with her production design, Charlie Lynam with his set decoration and Lindsay Pugh with her costumes. Also a big bow to John Pardue's cinematography where at times the ominously gathering black clouds are metaphors for the coming international conflict.

Maybe, though, the crucial plus here is Sarah Phelps's script. Whereas the popular 1945 version was filmed when Hollywood endings predominated and therefore a happy fadeout was inserted. (The two new lovers survive.) Phelps hasn't operated under that assumption. Her finale is unflinchingly final. Christie makes a point of not holding out hope for these murderers, and here they're offered, well, none. Yup, if you're a Christie fan, you'll eat up this dark vision with a gilded spoon.