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19Aug/120

Telefilm Review: Death in the Clouds

On the same weekend I watched Death on the Nile.
Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) visits Tennis' French Open in Paris. On the flight home, an elderly woman is murdered right under Poirot's nose with the apparent murder weapon, a South American dart gun, planted near his seat. Poirot determines to find the murderer and restore his reputation.

Suchet is wonderful as Poirot, turning in one of the funniest moments in the series with his attempt to re-enact the murder during flight to Paris.

The story really keeps you guessing. I give myself credit with Poirot stories not at being able to guess who the murderer is but who the murder victim is. It's usually obvious as he or she sets multiple people up with a motive in very obvious way. I really thought somone else was going to get it, but she turned out just to be a suspect. The murderered woman is an enigma and Poirot must ultimately find out who she was in order to uncover who may have wanted to kill her.

In this Hastingsless-entry, Philip Jackson turns a good performance as Inspector Japp. Although I thought he got a little belligerent with the poor French Police whose offices he acted like he owned after the French blew a tailing attempt.
While like Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express, the murder occurred in an enclosed transportation vehicle, the investigation occurs off the plane in France and England due to the limitation of air travel. The movie is rich in historic atmosphere. One of the most interesting historical images from the series were men playing at Wimbledon wearing long pants: a nice historic touch.
While of the two programs I watched that week, Death on the Nile was a little more fun.  Once again, I was reminded of the consistent and remarkable quality of these ITV productions and the sheer volume of films they've produced that makes Suchet as Poirot a force to be reckoned with.
Rating: 4.25 out of 5.00

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

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18Aug/120

Movie Review: Death on the Nile (1978)

In Death on the Nile, wealthy young heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Lois Chiles) is murdered on board a boat travelling down the Nile. The most likely suspect, a jealous ex-friend (Mia Farrow) from whom Ridgeway stole her fiance (Simon MacCorkindale) is eliminated because of being indisposed under the influence of morphine after shooting the dead woman's husband in the leg. However Poirot (Peter Ustinov) does not find himself wanting for suspects as it seems everyone on the boat had a motive.

Death on the Nile was the second of three big screen adaptations made featuring Hercules Poirot in an eight year period from 1974-82. It has all the hallmarks of the other two Poirot films: luscious landscapes and an all-star cast. All three movies also have cases with very unique features  and in this one, no one but the most likely suspect has an alibi.

This was Ustinov's first time appearing as Poirot and he does a marvelous job. His performance in Death on the Nile gave Poirot a great balance of dignity and humanity. While in Evil Under the Sun (1982), Poirot ends up getting played more comically, Ustinov gets it perfect here.

I've now seen all three films from this period and this was my favorite. All of them had features, but also some major flaws which slightly marred the experience making it so so. This is definitely not the case with Death on the Nile.

The cinematography and music is top notch. The all-star cast is used brilliantly playing as a solid team. Angela Lansbury is marvelous in her portrayal of a romance writer. And Mia Farrow turns in a fantastic performance as the menacing "spurned woman." To top it all off, David Niven gives  a fantastic performance as Colonel Race, Poirot's sidekick for this adventure and rarely has Poirot had better.

My only problem with this film is that Poirot's initial theory seemed hard to swallow and harder still to believe Poirot would postulate. Still Agatha Christie asked us to believe it in a well-beloved mystery book, so I can't knock it too much.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5.0

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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.

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.
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

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.

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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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