Agatha Christie: Poirot Set 5, The Movie Collection

Agatha Christie: Poirot Set 5, The Movie Collection (DVD Cover)

Recurring character(s): Hercule Poirot (David Suchet)

Director: Various

Original air date(s): 07/11/2010 to 07/25/2010
DVD Date: 07/27/2010

Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 275 minutes

Note(s): The screenplays for these three adaptations were based on novels of the same title by Agatha Christie.

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Agatha Christie: Poirot Set 5, The Movie Collection

Review: Three episodes comprise Series X of Agatha Christie's Poirot, which are included in this movie collection DVD set. "Murder on the Orient Express" is one of four new episodes filmed for the 12th series (season) of Poirot to air on ITV in the UK, with "Third Girl" and "Appointment with Death" having originally aired in September 2008 and December 2009, respectively, as part of the 11th series (season) for the network.

"Murder on the Orient Express"

This episode is certainly a dark interpretation of this Agatha Christie classic. It opens with two deaths, one by suicide and one by stoning, and both illustrate the ambiguity of the word "justice", a central theme to the book and this adaptation. Suchet plays Poirot brilliantly here; in the beginning, he's clearly tired, fatigued really, from his travels and what he has accomplished -- or failed to accomplish -- on this trip. Returning to London on board the Orient Express he simply wants to be left alone. But once he steps into the mystery of the murder, he visibly becomes more alive, his little gray cells working overtime. However, when he begins to see where his investigation is taking him, he becomes exceedingly troubled. All these emotional nuances are captured by the actor in an exceptionally deft manner.

The episode is beautifully filmed, with careful attention paid to the exquisite details of the train. The handful of wide-angle exterior shots are also gorgeous to look at.

There will probably be few viewers of the episode who don't know the story, yet the direction manages to retain a high level of suspense. There are a few changes from the book, most notably in some characters but also in how the conclusion is structured. Still, this is a remarkable episode and definitely one not to miss.

This DVD also includes the informative yet endlessly entertaining documentary "David Suchet on the Orient Express."

Adapted from the 1934 novel of the same name, the 9th in the Hercule Poirot series.

Synopsis (from the studio): While traveling from Istanbul to London aboard the luxurious Orient Express, Hercule Poirot encounters a ruthless businessman who offers him a large sum to expose the person threatening his life. Poirot declines, not caring for the man or his money. But when he is stabbed to death, the detective is determined to find the killer. With the help of an amateur sleuth, Poirot begins to piece together the train of events leading up to the murder.

"Third Girl"

This episode has more of a classic scenario, with Poirot investigating the circumstances surrounding the presumed suicide -- though Poirot knows it is murder -- of an older woman, who lives in the same building as his good friend Ariadne Oliver, and delivering the denouement in the drawing room of a manor house, filled with all the suspects in the case. This adaptation is immeasurably brightened by the presence of Zoe Wanamaker as crime novelist Ariadne Oliver, who has a considerable amount of screen time.

The plotline in "Third Girl" isn't one of Christie's strongest, and the adaptation requires the viewer to make several leaps of faith in following Poirot's deductive reasoning. Furthermore, it seems more appropriate for a short story than a full-length novel (and consequently, a 50-minute episode rather than a 90-minute one). Still, it is enjoyable, and includes a memorable scene at the end with Poirot and Ariadne discussing the mystery of love.

Adapted from the 1966 novel of the same name, the 35th in the Hercule Poirot series.

Synopsis (from the studio): Distressed young heiress Norma Restarick comes to see Hercule Poirot about "a murder she might have committed." The detective consults an old acquaintance, crime novelist Ariadne Oliver, who lives in the same building as the young woman and her two roommates. When Norma's childhood nanny is found dead, apparently by suicide, Poirot believes he has identified the victim. Next he must deduce the killer, while Norma's family fears for her sanity.

"Appointment with Death"

Agatha Christie wrote three novels nearly in succession set in the Middle East: Murder in Mesopotamia (Iraq), Death on the Nile (Egypt), and Appointment with Death (Jordan). Each of the books is replete with local color, exotic and fascinating, and certainly this adaptation based on the third book has a visually arresting look to it. Somewhat inexplicably, though, the story is moved to Syria. And that's not the only change. Tim Curry is terrific in the role of Lord Boynton, a primary character in this screenplay, but a character that doesn't even appear in the novel. Some license is expected in any adaptation, but the events that unfold in this episode are completely absent, or seem remarkably different, from the novel (which, I admit, I haven't read in many years), though the basic underlying premise remains.

The viewer's satisfaction with this episode will likely depend on how much a purist one is. Although I enjoyed the setting and production values, I found the screenplay changes too disruptive to enjoy the episode fully.

Adapted from the 1938 novel of the same name, the 18th in the Hercule Poirot series.

Synopsis (from the studio): Hercule Poirot accompanies an archaeological expedition searching for the skull of John the Baptist in the Syrian Desert. What the team actually finds is a more recent corpse: the body of Lady Boynton, wife of expedition leader Lord Boynton. The woman had made many enemies during her life, and Poirot has no shortage of suspects. He digs through layers of history to discover who had motive enough to kill.


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