Category: Hercule Poirot

Telefilm Review: Evil Under The Sun

Poirot’s Eight series in 2001 began with the telefilm of Evil Under the Sun. Poirot has an apparent heart attack after eating at Captain Hastings Argentinian restaurant, so on doctor’s orders he goes to an island to rest and to eat a healthier, blander diet. When he arrives, he finds actress Arlena Marshall has a large number of enemies on the island, thanks to her obvious stepping out on her husband with a man whose married to another woman, who is also on the island and witnessing this.

When the actress is murdered, there are plenty of suspects, though the wronged woman has an airtight alibi. With multiple suspects, Poirot seeks to find the truth with the help of Captain Hastings, Inspector Japp, and Miss Lemon.

This episode like Lord Edgeware Dies had been adapted as a film starring Peter Ustinov. Both the motion picture and this release made changes from the book. In this case, I think the changes made by the telefilm version were detrimental to the story. They changed the gender of the murdered woman’s stepchild which took a clue that was mostly unremarkable and made it stick out like a sore thumb. My wife, never a fan of mysteries had her hackles raised by a fact that would not have gone on her radar had the character been female as in the book.

In addition, attempts to keep the original Poirot family in the story were really awkward in this production and the part about Captain Hasting restaurant was especially problematic. It all seemed rather forced. It was with good reason that none of these characters have appeared since the eighth series despite how well they were liked through the first six and how much I look forward to the return of Hastings in the final one.

It’s a bit better than okay adaptation, but it could have been better and Ustinov’s take was far a far stronger version.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.00

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Telefilm Review: Lord Edgeware Dies

The second episode of the seventh Poirot series was Lord Edgeware Dies. This is notable as it’s the first time ITV adapted a Poirot story that had been previously adapted with Peter Ustinov, though Ustinov’s adaptation was, “Thirteen at Dinner.”

The Lady Edgeware, Jane Wilkinson wants a divorce from her unhappy marriage to Lord Edgeware and asks Poirot’s help. Poirot visits Lord Edgeware and finds to his suprirse that Lord Edgeware and already agreed to the divorce. Poirot reports this back to Lady Edgeware who says she never received the letter. That night, Lord Edgeware is murdered and the servants at his home point suspicion at Lady Edgeware. However, Lady Edgeware spent the whole with twelve respectable people at a dinner. Poirot sets out to find who committed the murder and is trying to frame the beautiful Lady Edgeware.

This film works great with the requisite twists, turns, and red herrings you expect from an Agatha Christie mystery, plus a solid performance by Suchet as well as the guest stars. This clearly beats Ustinov’s much more ambiguous adaptation. My one complaint in this film is its portrayal of Poirot having a crush on Lady Edgeware. I didn’t buy that, but the rest of film is pure gold.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

 

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Telefilm Review: The Murder of Roger Akroyd

Four years after the end of the sixth series of Poirot, the mysteries returned for a seventh series with David Suchet. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd begins with Poirot in blissful retirement in the country as he focuses on his gardening.

However, a baffling murder brings him out to investigate the buried secrets of a small town.

As usual with Poirot stories, the mystery’s not a problem, nor is the acting by the lead. The fundamental problem with this play is dramatic. Here, I try not to give away the game to anyone unfamiliar with the story. The Murder of Roger Akroyd much Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, is noted for an unusual twist solution that’s actually quite shocking in the annals of detective fiction.

The ending works great in a book or in a well-done radio adaptation like Orson Welles’ Campbell playhouse version, however it’s understandably difficult to pull off in a cinematic way.  But, what they tried to do instead failed with a gratuitous chase scene to resolve the story just didn’t  feel right.  The film also suffered somewhat from the decision to include the Poirot family of actors even if it really didn’t work for capturing the spirit of the book.

In addition, the story had a somewhat maudlin, overly sentimental feel to it. To be fair, I wasn’t following the Poirot series in 2000 and maybe fans appreciated it back then, but it doesn’t age well.

It’s a weak entry and a bumpy start to the second half of the Poirot mysteries.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.0

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Telfilm Review: Dumb Witness

Dumb Witness was the last episode of the sixth series of Poirot and the series went on a four year hiatus afterwards.

Poriot receives an urgent letter from a woman who fears she will be murderered by her family. Poirot goes to the scene and advises her to make a change to her will. She ends up dying apparently of natural causes, but there’s some suspicious circumstances as two old ladies think there was a supernatural origin. And Poirot finds that the old women’s dog is the key witness in the case.

This was probably my least favorite Poirot mystery of what was a solid sixth series. The Novel Dumb Witness was an expanded version of a short story called, “The Incident of the Dog’s Ball.” The short story actually works quite well, but this expansion really felt like it just made the story drag on rather than adding true meat to it.

However, it must be said that David Suchet turned in a good performance as Poirot in an otherwise forgettable adaptation.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.0

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Telefilm Review: Dead Man’s Folly

In Dead Man’s Folly, Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) and Hastings (Jonathan Cecil) head to a small island where Adrienne Oliver (Jean Stapleton) has set up a murder hunt game but fears a real murder is in the offing. Her fears are confirmed and Poirot investigates to solve this real-life crime.

This was a decent made-for-television film, carried as usual by the talents of Sir Peter Ustinov and the mystery as told by Agatha Christie. Jean Stapleton was kind of hard to believe as Oliver, but perhaps that’s because she’s been typecast in my mind as Edith Bunker. However, that doesn’t detract much from an enjoyable mystery.

It’ll be interesting to see David Suchet’s version of this story next year as it is one of few Poirot mysteries he hasn’t done. Filming is set to begin in May 2013.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.00

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