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Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Movie Collection – Set 4

Posted by admin | Posted in Movies | Posted on 13-08-2010


David Suchet returns as Hercule Poirot–the Belgian sleuth of unsurpassed deductive powers and peerless viewer appeal–in two fresh adaptations of Christie classics. As seen on PBS’s Mystery! Mrs. McGinty’s Dead–With help from mystery novelist and old friend Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker), Poirot tries to save a man from hanging for a murder he might not have committed. As the famous sleuth tracks down the real killer, he finds his own life at ri… More >>

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Movie Collection – Set 4

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Comments (5)

Even though well into his 60’s, David Suchet continues to prove that he IS Hercule Poirot. Yes, the eyes look a little tired & the belly a little full, but even the great Hercule Poirot must age.

These 90 minute movies deserve multiple viewings as the mysteries are intricate and you could miss a clue if you turn your head. The stories, based on the full length novels MRS MCGINTY’S DEAD and CAT AMONG THE PIGEONS, are more flushed out than the older 60 minute episodes. One felt like clues were left out of those shorter episodes that prevented the viewer from solving the murder with Poirot. But here, all of the clues are there for you the viewer to pick up on, but are they what they seem?

I do miss the regular cast of characters in the old 60 minute series, Inspector Japp, Captain hastings & Miss Lemon are sadly missing from the 90 minute “Movie” versions of Poirot. However, they are present in the third disc which includes interviews with the actors who brought those characters to life. And you get to see David Suchet without his Poirot mustache.

While the production values are excellent, the wonderful ‘Art Deco’ style of the earlier shows is missing. I do wish they had kept that style going. ‘Art Deco’ buildings & objects do appear in these movies, but the style is gone from the production.

The bottom line is that I do like the more flushed out stories, but I miss some of the elements from the earlier productions. Still they are a ‘MUST-BUY”.

While I wish PBS would air all 4 new Poirot Movies this year (I don’t know if it is due to budget cuts or not), it is nice to get to see at least two of the new productions and look forward to two more later on. PBS is a co-producer of the series & they decide what Acorn Media can release in the U.S..

I have an early review copy & can say that the anamorphic 16:9 widescreen picture has some grain to it (it looked the same on the PBS-Hi Defenition broadcast). The sub-titles can help with unfamiliar British words. Bonus material is mostly limited to the 47 minute “Super Sleuths” special on disc #3. Discs 1 & 2 have very basic still frame biographies & filmographies. Quite honestly, the “Super Sleuths” special could have easily fit on a second layer of either disc 1 or 2, but it looks better to make it a 3-disc set. At least they are ‘slim cases’ and do not take up too much space for the extra disc.
Rating: 5 / 5

This set contains two episodes, Mrs. McGinty’s Dead and Cat Among the Pigeons. These are the two episodes airing on PBS’s Mystery! this summer. No one can sell a DVD set BEFORE the episodes air on television…you don’t see ABC selling DVDs of the current season of “LOST” do you? The UK has already aired all 4 episodes so the UK has released all 4 episodes on DVD. The US broadcasters (PBS) have their own broadcast schedule and therefore the DVD Sets must follow suit. The other 2 episodes (Third Girl & Appointment with Death) will be out on DVD AFTER they air, which is TBD. No one is trying to rob us fans; let’s just be patient.
Rating: 5 / 5

I thought about writing an inflammatory review to complain about how there are ONLY two new movies in this set and curse those scoundrels at Acorn Media. That, however, would be silly. I can’t help but think that many of the reviewers/commentators here wouldn’t cut it as news-people, because they buried the lead (if not missed it outright). The real story in this case is the happy news that Dame Agatha’s foremost sleuth is back home (or at least his American home) on PBS. I for one am too happy about this (and the return of the wonderful Zoe Wannamaker to the series) to disparage the folks at Acorn for something that almost certainly is beyond their control. The bottom line is that these new movies look to be solid additions to David Suchet’s Poirot legacy, and it looks like Acorn has done another great job presenting them. That works for me.

Rating: 4 / 5

I have loved Suchet’s Poirot and that wonderful characterization is still to be found in these stories.

I also loved the art direction and cinematic style of the earlier stories in which Suchet appeared and that is not so evident in these films.

First the art direction. As others have noted, the “deco” feeling has been almost entirely lost, but I also find that the sense that the events being seen are taking place in a particular place at a particular time has also gone missing. The Poirot’s I most love and repeatedly watch are the ones that are clearly taking place in England roughly “between the wars”. I have noticed the decline in the sense of place and time in some of the films released shortly before these, but it is virtually absent in these two. I believe this is mostly a matter of changed art direction and set decoration.

As to cinematic style. This appears to be a matter of both editing and directoral choice. I find the editing abrupt and constantly jarring. In this way these two films are very similar to the Miss Marple films starring Geraldine McEwan, which I have never been able to sit through. It is not that find fault with Ms. McEwan’s Miss Marple. She is fine. But the editing is too abrupt, to quick, too modern for the period in which the stories are set.

And then there is direction. These two films are so “artificial”. Poirot is definitely an eccentric, almost fanciful, character, but Suchet has consistently managed to make Poirot seem “real”. In these two films the director has made choices that conflict with that hard won sense of reality. In “Mrs. McGinty” it seems that they stuck a diffusion filter on the lens and never took it off. As a result, even the scenes in which evidence is being gathered or Poirot’s “little grey cells” are working with greatest clarity, have this dreamy, other-worldly quality. I do, however, wonder, given that we are all a bit vain… Mr. Suchet is now one of the producers did his perfectly understandable desire to mask the effects of age have something to do with all this diffusion?

In addition, in many scenes there is also atmospheric diffusion (aka fog). You can even see it in one of the stills on Amazon’s Set 4 page (unless they’ve changed the still since I wrote this), which shows fog inside a room. I realize this technique is often used to show distance outdoors or to provide a sense of early morning or late afternoon brightness indoors, but here it is overdone and in combination with the lens diffusion the vagueness of the images is quite intrusive and at odds with the clear thinking that is integral to a mystery. Only at the end, during the dénouement scene does the diffusion filter finally come off and then, you have been looking at diffusion so long that, its sudden disappearance is also jarring.

The other problem I have is with the secondary characters. They so often irritable, loud, and ill-mannered (same as in the McEwan Marples). I first noticed this change in a few of the younger characters in “The Hollow”, but in these stories it is as if everyone has completely forgotten their Edwardian and Georgian upbringing. Their nurses and nanny’s would be most displeased.

I really do miss Miss Lemon, Chief Inspector Japp, and, especially, Hastings. I cannot recall if any of them appear in these particular novels, so this observation may be off point, but in general the presence of these three characters tended to humanize Poirot. In their presence he stopped being merely a great detective. He was less eccentric and more human because they were his friend and he theirs. The absence of that mutual affection and the occasional friendly jibe that affection engendered cuts Poirot off from the rest of human-kind and thus from us.

I confess that much of my criticism results from a comparison of the previous Poirots with the present crop. If the early ones had not been so excellent and so satisfying, these would be quite good enough and well above the standard set by U.S. television productions.

Rating: 3 / 5

I was just browsing on Amazon and ran across this set, and I am truly offended by how Acorn is treating the Poirot fans in the U.S. For the record, the two movies included in this set were released on Region 2 DVD last year, along with the other two movies from season 11 – “Third Girl” and “Appointment with Death.” And when I bought that set last year, it still cost me less than what Acorn is charging for this half-set.

As for the movies, “Mrs. Ginty’s Dead” is classic Poirot. It’s very faithful to the novel, and by far my favorite episode of season 11. I didn’t care for Zoë Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver in “Cards on the Table,” but she really grew on me in this episode. The scene where she’s collaborating with Robin on her play is hilarious. “Cat Among the Pigeons” takes a few more liberties with the story, probably because Poirot didn’t even appear in the novel until the end. It’s still pretty well done, even though the focus definitely shifts from the schoolgirls in the novel to the teachers in the movie. I do wish they had come up with a better excuse to get Poirot involved in the action, though, because the reasons (both the real reason and his cover story) are frankly kind of dumb. But that’s a minor quibble.

I can’t judge the bonus DVD, of course, but even if it’s wonderful, it still wouldn’t justify the price for this set. If you like Poirot and British TV in general, I would strongly advise that you check out region-free DVD players. They’re surprisingly cheap nowadays. You can buy the complete season 11 on Amazon UK, probably for less than what you’d pay for this set. (Fair warning, though: “Appointment with Death” is really, really terrible. “Third Girl” is pretty decent.)
Rating: 1 / 5

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