Agatha Christie: Poirot Set 6, The Movie Collection
Recurring character(s): Hercule Poirot (David Suchet)
Original air date(s): 06/19/2011 to 07/03/2011
DVD Date: 07/12/2011
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 267 minutes
Note(s): The screenplays for these three adaptations were based on novels of the same title by Agatha Christie.
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Review: Each of the three episodes in this set are reviewed separately, below.
"Three Act Tragedy", screenplay by Nick Dear, directed by Ashley Pearce. Adapted from the novel Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie, originally published in 1934.
Christie, the master of misdirection, is in top form in "Three Act Tragedy" and this superb adaptation does it justice. Poirot is attending a cocktail party given by Sir Charles Cartwright, a retired thespian, when one of the guests, a local vicar, suddenly dies. There is no evidence of foul play, and the death is ruled as natural causes. Even Poirot can find no reason to believe otherwise. A month later, at a dinner party attended by many of the same people — though notably not Poirot — the host, Sir Bartholomew Strange, also suddenly dies ... but this time the cause is determined to be nicotine poisoning, i.e. murder. Cartwright, a close friend of Strange, enlists Poirot's help in determining the identity of the killer.
Poirot initially dismisses the possibility that the death of the vicar and the murder of Strange are related, but comes to realize that there is a connection ... and if so, it had to be one of the guests who attended both parties. "It is the approach classique, you see, the technique of elimination. We eliminate the suspects one by one." He enlists Cartwright and a young woman, who goes by Egg to her family and friends, as proxies to interview each.
Quite possibly one of the best productions of the entire series, and quite faithful to the source material, "Three Act Tragedy" is a fine way to start this set.
Additional Cast: Sir Charles Cartwright (Martin Shaw), Egg Lytton Gore (Kimberley Nixon), Sir Bartholomew Strange (Art Malik), Miss Milray (Suzanne Bertish), Cynthia Dacres (Anastasia Hille), Captain Dacres (Ronan Vibert), Oliver Manders (Tom Wisdom).
"The Clocks", screenplay by Stewart Harcourt, directed by Charles Palmer. Adapted from the novel The Clocks by Agatha Christie, originally published in 1963.
As crafty as the misdirection is in "Three Act Tragedy", there is nothing subtle about it in "The Clocks". The murdered body of a man has been found in the home of a blind woman. There are no witnesses, there are no suspects. What's unusual about the crime scene is that there are several clocks — the woman who owns the flat claims they don't belong to her — all set to the same, albeit wrong, time: 4:13. The screenplay would have you believe that the murder is related to another crime, one involving the theft of British military secrets, but Poirot doesn't seem interested in that line of reasoning, and pursues a separate inquiry. Poirot's involvement is downplayed to the point that it's obvious he's on the right track while the official investigation is not. It's a clever mystery overall, but this adaptation doesn't do it any favors.
Christie originally wrote the book in the early 1960s, with the Cold War as a backdrop to the story. That the book could so easily be adapted for a time frame decades earlier and yet still maintain the overall mystery storyline is a credit to the flexibility of her plots.
Additional Cast: Annabel Larkin (Olivia Grant), Fiona Hanbury (Anna Skellern), Lt. Colin Race (Tom Burke), Sven Hjerson (Andrew Havill), Mrs. Swinburne (Victoria Wicks), Sheila Webb (Jaime Winstone)
"Hallowe'en Party", screenplay by Mark Gatiss, directed by Charles Palmer. Adapted from the novel Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie, originally published in 1969, the penultimate of the Poirot novels. (He was later featured in short stories, and his final appearance, in Curtain, was actually written decades earlier but not published at the time at the request of the author.)
It's always a pleasure to welcome Zoë Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver in an episode of this series, but unfortunately, she has little to do here. Still, the drowning murder of a child during a Halloween party, who claims to have once witnessed a murder herself, does present an interesting puzzle for Poirot to solve. The police think the culprit is a local indigent, not putting much stock in the young girl's claim of seeing a murder, but Poirot suspects otherwise. "Old sins cast long shadows," he says, as he works his way through the case. A missing au pair and a forged codicil to a wealthy woman's will make for fine red herrings — or are they? — in this generally faithful adaptation of the novel.
Additional Cast: Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker), Judith Butler (Amelia Bullmore), Miranda Butler (Mary Higgins), Rowena Drake (Deborah Findlay), Frances Drake (Georgia King), Edmund Drake (Ian Hallard), Mrs. Reynolds (Sophie Thompson).
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