Agatha Christie's Poirot: The New Mysteries Collection (2003-4)

Based on the novels by Agatha Christie
Starring David Suchet, James Fox, Jonathan Cake, Elisabeth Dermot-Walsh, Julie Cox


Released by: A&E Home Video
Rating: NR
Region: 1
Anamorphic: N/A; films appear in their original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Own it if you love the books (or pretty sets and costumes).

Hercule Poirot (Suchet) is a famous Belgian detective who provides his services far and wide when someone is murdered. With the aid of his "little grey cells," he solves case after case, putting away killers and clearing the reputations of the innocent. Arguably Agatha Christie's best-loved character, the fastidious and brilliant Poirot shines in these four stories.

Death on the Nile takes place on a cruise in Egypt: a scorned woman follows her ex-lover and his new wife to harass them both, but she has a perfect alibi when his bride turns up dead. Luckily, Poirot is on board and on the case. Sad Cypress starts out with a woman on trial for the double murder of her aunt and her fiancÚ's new fling--but Poirot is convinced that she is innocent, and sets out to clear her. Five Little Pigs deals with the daughter of a woman who was executed for the death of her artist husband. The daughter who wants to find out the truth about who killed her father, and Poirot digs up the past for her to see if her mother's name could be cleared. The Hollow takes place at a weekend house party where a doctor with many loves to his credit is murdered in Poirot's country neighborhood--the whole household seems to be covering something up, and the detective must cut through the lies to discover the truth.

A&E does a wonderful job of dramatizing the famous mystery novels by Agatha Christie. They stay very true to the original text, with a few dramatic twists added here and there. Suchet is brilliant as Poirot; he captures the nuances of the character from the novels so well, really bringing him to life with very distinct mannerisms as described by Christie. For the most part, the other actors meet the quality of Suchet's performances--they are not huge names, as you would find in past adaptations of Agatha Christie on the big screen, but these easily recognizable performers portray these characters no less intensely.

Even though the adaptations and performances are stellar, however, the real gem of these films is the production design. The sets and costumes are meticulously fabulous. It is very apparent that every detail was paid to cars, hairstyles, locations, and other things that really set the period of the films, and they are beautiful. All of these elements really bring you into the world of the film, and make everything about the story so much more real and believable, bringing the novels to life in a way that avid Christie fans can really appreciate. Dealing with locations, it's important to note that they managed to use them well while still on a budget. Case in point: yes, they really are in Egypt for parts of Death. Hard not to be.

The features are very sparse, but what's there is good quality. Although it would have been nice to have some interviews (to hear from Suchet, for example, on what it's like to be this identified with a particular character) or some sort of commentary or featurette on the productions, the biographies and indexes were very interesting. For example, I learned that Agatha Christie's books are the best selling in the world, behind only Shakespeare and the Bible. There is also an index of all of her stories that feature Hercule Poirot, which is handy if, like me, you love the character and would like to figure out which books you haven't read yet.

Pick this set up if you enjoyed the novels--it breathes new life into them. At least give it a rental if you aren't familiar with the stories but love a good mystery or a beautiful film.

(UK) (CAN)

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