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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > British TV > Poirot - Set 11 (TV)

Agatha Christie’s Poirot – Set 11


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C-     Episodes: C+



Now that we have looked at the DVD release of the 1974 Murder On The Orient Express with Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot, here we have one of the many DVDs available from Acorn Media with David Suchet as Poirot.  Agatha Christie’s Poirot – Set 11 offers three installments of the popular series that many swear is the closest adaptation to the books to date, maybe ever.  I am in the school of thought that the books are the books and this series is overrated.  So why the difference in perception?


For one thing, I have read many of the Poirot books and nothing in any of these shows has ever reminded me of any of the books, and it is not because the shows are outright bad.  To add that I liked the William Conrad Nero Wolfe TV series when most fans could have cared less adds to the ever-present issue of what works in the books might not on film.  The Conrad series only lasted a season, but had a unique richness to it rarely seen on TV, while veteran Conrad was better in the role than he was given credit for, if not as misogynistic and bitter as his print counterpart.  Between the Finney and Suchet models, the books definitely lean towards the Finney version, something carried on so well by Peter Ustinov in Death On The Nile (1978) and Evil Under The Sun (1982) before moving on to a TV movie that did not work.


Like Ustinov’s TV Poirot’s the Suchet version is suddenly a toned-down version of the character and that just never works for me, no matter who the actor is.  Tony Randall was exceptional as Poirot in Frank Tashlin’s terrific 1966 version of The Alphabet Murders, which has Randall understated in the role, but still offers excitement and energy as the great detective without playing him down too much.  Maybe Suchet is doing this so he could get through an entire TV series, but there is something just too simple and vague about his work as Poirot that simply does not stay with this viewer, no matter how many I try out.  At least he has brought new fans to Christie’s novels, but the production, directing and acting seem lite all around and the books are not.  The three installments here include:


The Third Floor Flat – Based on Christie’s 1949 short story, has Poirot a bit sick, but that does not stop him from investigating a nearby murder.


Triangle At Rhodes – Based on Christie’s 1938 short story, a poisoned drink may or may not have been given to the wrong target, but the death causes Poirot to intervene and find the source and motive.


Problem At Sea – Based on the 1939 Christie short story, someone is killed on a ship in the Mediterranean and Poirot takes on the case to help the ship’s captain as so the ship will not get a bad reputation.



The tales are under an hour each and these are simple, competent mysteries that hold up well enough 55 to 66 years later.  Obviously, some liberties may have been taken in the teleplays, but they are not bad, but they are not spectacular.  That the casts are unknowns has a certain appeal, but these are not Christie’s best works and it makes Poirot feel like second-generation detective television, which it should not.  This is not the best Poirot to date because it cannot compete against the best detective television like the well-laid out early Columbo seasons, for instance.  Problem At Sea is the best of the three, but after watching it, it just feels like an installment of any other lesser show.   For Christie material, that should never be the case, but it has its following and that it has not hurt her work either is a plus.


The full frame image is a bit soft throughout, as shot in 16mm film by cinematographer Peter Jessop, A.S.C., but it too is not filled with any memorable shots or special form.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is fairly good, but lacks any major Pro Logic surround information.  The dialogue is just clear enough and the music is mixed.  Extras are all text, including segments on the actors from the three shows and their previous works, bios on Suchet and on Christie.  That includes a list of Poirot’s adventures.  That is standard for this series, but nothing extraordinary.  Fans of the show seem to like it that way.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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