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11Aug/120

Telefilm Review: The ABC Murders

The Fourth Series of Poirot from ITV was made up entirely of feature length Telefilms and the first of these was the A.B.C. Murders.

Hastings returns from South America in time to help Poirot solve a baffling and alarming mystery. A murderer sends Poirot a series of letters announcing murders and he's going in Alphabetial Order from A to Z for both the last names of the victims and the cities where the murder is committed. At each crime scene, a copy of the A.B.C. railroad guide listing schedules for trains to each of Britain's cities.

Being somewhat familiar with the plot from a far too abbreviated Poirot-less adaptation of the story on Radio's Supsense, I knew whodunit but even so The A.B.C. Murders still managed to hold my attention. The film did a great job not only maintaining a high level of suspense, but also in creating believable reactions from the victim's family and the genuine warmth between Poirot and Hastings was on display in a way it wasn't usually in the one hour episodes of the series.

Nearly was perfect pitch in this adaptation with solid performance from David Suchet and Hugh Fraser as Poirot and Hastings, and Donald Sumpter turns in a memorable performance as Mr. Cusp. The only performance that seemed a little off was Philip Jackson whose Inspector Japp seemed a little grumpier than usual.

Overall, this was a fantastic telling of one Christie's favorite stories and is rightly listed by Suchet as one of his favorites.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5.0

As of this date,
This film, along with all Poirot Telefilms through Series 6 is available on Netflix Instant Watch as of this writing.

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28Jul/120

Telefilm Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is the oldest Poirot story. In fact, it is the only Poirot story that is in the public domain in the United States (though not the UK). 

Lieutenant Hastings is convalescing and visits some friends at Styles. The matron of the house is killed and suspicion immediately falls on her husband who is Before the matter is officially reported, Hastings seeks the help of Poirot,who is a refugee from Belgium adjusting to life in the U.K. Poirot has to unravel the multiple lies and deception that surrounded the murder and a new will that apparently has gone missing.

I wrote in my review of the Peril at End House, that the producers of Agatha Christie's Poirot opted for a look that made the feature length episode look and feel like just a longer episode of the television. 

In the Mysterious Affair at Styles which led off the third series of Agatha Christie's Poirot, they opted to step it up notch with beautiful shots of the British Countryside and World War I British life. Suchet showed his strength as a performer and his mastery of the Poirot character in his ability to make subtle changes depending on the character's age. In Mysterious Affair at Styles, Poirot is far more obsessive compulsive, and is less adjusted to English life than Poirot did in the episodes set in the 1930s. 

While I think the transition to television lost a little bit of the charm of the book which had you suspecting everyone other than Poirot and Hastings at one point or another, Suchet is still masterful as Poirot and the improved quality makes it a pleasure to watch.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5.0

As of this writing, this film along with all Telefilms through Series 6 is available on Netflix Instant Watch.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchaser.
30Jun/120

Telefilm Review: Peril at End House

Peril at End House was the first adaptation of a Poirot novel done as part of ITV’s Poirot series. The program aired January 7, 1990 ahead of the second series of 60 minute Poirot episodes.

Poirot and Hastings are on vacation when they encounters Nicki Buckley (Polly Walker), who had a series of accidents including a nearly fatal car accident. While she is talking to Poirot, she complains of a buzzing wasp. However, after she leaves, Poirot finds a bullet, which convinces Poirot that Nick is in deadly peril.

They journey to her inherited estate of End House, a beautiful home that Nick loves but can’t afford maintain. They find it inhabited by some characters of questionable motives. In addition, she has a lawyer cousin in town who could also be another suspsect. Poirot finds more intrigue and determines that Nick needs protected and Nick calls for her nearly identical cousin to be her protect. However, when the cousin is killed, Poirot realizes the case has escalated. Poirot has to find out who wants Nicki dead and why in order to prevent another tragedy.

Peril at End's House is an intriguing ystery. While not completely unique, it is different than most whodunits as Poirot begins to work to preempt the murder.  Peril at End House twists and turns quite a bit before reaching its conclusion. The story is cleverly told with the usual supply of red herring. David Suchet is solidly supported by the regular cast of the series including Captain Hastings (Hugh Fraser), Phillip Jackson (Inspector Japp), and Pauline Moran (Miss Lemmon).

If there's any criticism at all of the telefilm is too obviously a TV movie.  While later Poirot movies look and feel like they could have been shown in theaters with their rich colors and luscious cinematography, you have no doubt that Peril at End House was a made for TV movie. The DVD release makes this painfully obvious by leaving in the "To be continued..." frame that was aired when the film ran in reruns as a two episode. To this end, it also includes a somewhat absurd scene where Poirot has to explain every detail of the case they've been investigating to Captain Hastings in order to stop Hastings from walking off to go play golf. Hastings may not be the brightest sidekick but come on. Give me a good old fashioned, "Previously on Poirot..." any day.

However, Peril at End House was a good pick for the first ITV Poirot adaptation of the novel. It allowed the cast and crew to dip their toe into  longer adaptations without any of the expensive demands that would come with a much larger project like Murder on the Orient Express. Peril at End House is a telefilm that leaves you wanting more. Good news is that it delivered much more.

Rating 4.0 out of 5.0

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15May/120

EP0667: Hercule Poirot: The Bride Wore Fright

Harold Huber

Poirot comes into his apartment to find a woman in a wedding dress hiding from a most dangerous groom.

Original Air Date: December 7, 1945

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8May/120

EP0662: Hercule Poirot: Murder is a Private Affair

Harold Huber

Hercule Poirot is called in by a bitter and domineering old woman to investigate the murder of a maid but to keep it private.

Original Air Date: November 30, 1945

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1May/122

EP0657: Hercule Poirot: The Trail Led to Death

Harold Huber

Poirot declines to help another private detective find a beautiful nurse and then two separate nurses turn up dead.

Original Air Date: November 23, 1945

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24Apr/120

EP0652: Poirot: The Adventure of the Money-Mad Ghouls

Harold Huber

Hercule Poirot investigates a series of grave robberies.

Original Air Date: September 13, 1945

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17Apr/120

EP0647: Hercule Poirot: The Deadest Man in the World

Harold Huber

A crafty couple plan to use Poirot to provide a perfect alibi.

Original Air Date: July 19, 1945

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10Apr/120

EP0642: Hercule Poirot: Rendevous with Death

Harold Huber

When a love triangle leads to a ship-board murder, Poirot investigates.

Original Air Date: July 12, 1945

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3Apr/120

EP0637: Hercule Poirot: Death in the Golden Gate

While attending a peace conference in San Francisco, Poirot witnesses a kidnapping and finds himself involved in International intrigue with the fate of the world at stake.

Original Air Date: May 17, 1945

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