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Agatha Christie’s POIROT

Series 13 (2014)

 

Director(s): John Strickland, Peter Lydon, Tom Vaughan, Andy Wilson, Hettie Macdonald
Writer(s): Nick Dear, Mark Gatiss, Guy Andrews, Kevin Elyot
(Based on novels by Agatha Christie)

Cast: David Suchet, ZoŽ Wannamaker…
Guest Stars: Ian Glen, Hugh Fraser, Pauline Moran, Philip Jackson, David Yelland, Tom Brooke, Patricia Hodge, Simon Lowe, Adian McArdle, Helen Baxendale, Anne Reid…

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Run time: approx. 89 minutes per episode

Price: $59.99 (available at various discounts from online sources)
Genre: British mystery, crime

 

Reviewed by Cherie Jung
(September, 2014)

 

Technically, this DVD was not to be released until November 4, 2014, however it is currently available from some online sources and available for pre-order on others. Prices also vary. I strongly suggest you do not pay full price for this set, unless you have already viewed it (and liked it) or simply must have it to complete your collection. (Even if the latter is the case, there is no good reason to pay full price.)

Since these are the final Hercule Poirot cases brought to the TV/film series starring David Suchet, it was to be expected that there would be some more entertaining than others. By this time, most of the really good stories had probably been told. I expected some unevenness in the stories but since I am not a regular reader of the Poirot books (I’ve only read THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES.) I was not prepared for how bad and dare I say, boring, some of these five final episodes could be.


The five final mysteries include:

“Elephants Can Remember” – By far this was the most interesting and most entertaining, at least for me, of the final five! Poirot is involved in a tricky case but his friend Ariadne Oliver (ZoŽ Wannamaker) keeps interrupting him, pestering him, to be more precise, to help her with her own inquiries on behalf of her soon to be wed goddaughter. It seems the goddaughter’s parents died under mysterious circumstances years ago; their bodies found on a cliff side, both shot with the gun lying on the ground between them. Murder, suicide, foul play? There were also hints of madness.

In previous episodes featuring Ariadne, she frequently became quite tiresome and annoying. This time, however, her character is played in such a manner, that her personality fits the case quite perfectly. She is fun to watch as she badgers poor Poirot into advising her. He does advise her, but does she listen? Of course, not.

“The Big Four” – Oh, what a muddle! This case makes very little sense. The country is on the verge of another great war and a secret society calling itself “The Big Four” appears to be agitating the political environment to trigger such a war. Poirot takes drastic measures to discover who “The Big Four” are, if they do exist, and to stop them.

The solution to this case, when it does arrive – the phrase “watching paint dry on the wall” comes to mind – is so preposterous that many viewers will be angry that they forced themselves to sit through the entire episode, although the pace does allow for restful naps if one is so inclined.

Several reviewers of the book have rated it the worst that Christie wrote. It certainly did not translate well to TV/film. Several days after viewing this episode, I am still annoyed that viewers are expected to accept that people can be administered a paralytic drug for days and weeks, without any real medical intervention. Are they wearing diapers?!? Who’s feeding them? Bathing them? Repositioning them so they don’t get decubiti (bedsores?) Sorry, that’s the nurse in me coming out. What?!? They just sit at a big table for a couple of weeks while Poirot figures out what’s going on? Give me a break!

 

“Dead Man’s Folly” – The pacing is slow but considerably better than in the previous episode. Many viewers will guess the final solution to the case by their first glimpse of the folly, if not by the title, but not to worry, there are more clues that must be discovered and interpreted than just those that lead to the actual solution.

Ariadne Oliver has summoned Poirot. She has been asked to design a murder mystery game for the residents and guests of Nasse House. She suspects she is being manipulated and fears a real murder is about to occur. When the improbable victim was introduced, I flippantly announced to my husband, “They should kill her.” And voila! They did. A very unlikely victim, to be sure, but not to worry, Poirot works out the reasoning.


“The Labours of Hercules” – Now we’re back to the slow of the slowest pacing. Each word uttered by the characters seems to be delivered in slow motion. In London, Poirot failed to capture Marrascaud, a notorious art and jewel thief who has a penchant for killing just for the thrill of it. Beside himself with remorse, Poirot takes on the case of a missing lady’s maid which leads him to the Alps in Switzerland, where it turns out Marrascaud is rumored to be heading.  The hotel staff is reduced, ostensibly because it is the off season. An avalanche separates the hotel from the village below and thwarts their escape. Poirot suspects Marrascaud is already among the hotel guests but which one? He has never actually seen Marrascaud, only the aftermath of the killer thief.

Since everyone is a potential suspect, I can understand the notion the shifty hotel manager gives about it being off season and the staff is reduced – we have enough characters to sort out – but there are no maids at this hotel? And what about a chef? If there is one, he could be the mysterious Marrascaud couldn’t he? I like a “trapped on a mountaintop with a killer” theme, it’s just that this version wasn’t all that well done. I did like the action shot of the avalanche, brief though it was.


“Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case” – Another “we’re all stuck here together and at least one of us is a murderer” theme. An infirmed and seemingly dying Poirot reunites with Captain Hastings. Poirot explains that he needs Hastings to be his eyes, ears, and feet if they are to prevent a murder. As usual, Hastings is as thick as a bowl of pudding. He is reluctant to help Poirot because other matters are distracting him. Of course there is a murder, and of course, the wrong person is suspected of the deed, but the solution to the case is quite interesting and satisfactory, if exceptionally slow in coming.

 

One of the problems I had with the adaptations in this set, is I didn’t really care for any of the characters; victims or criminals. Kill them all or none at all, it didn’t really matter to me one way or the other. The pacing was excruciatingly slow, as I’ve already mentioned and the storylines, themselves weren’t all that interesting. I understand that back when Agatha Christie was writing the novels, these ideas were much more unique. No one else was using them. Rather like the Ian Fleming James Bond stories…Now it’s all been done hundreds of times. It’s not unique anymore. Unfortunately the director(s) were not able to add any freshness to the way the stories were told, leaving the viewer with a mishmash of unsatisfying tales.


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