Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Episode-by-episode: Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan


©ITV
This episode was based on the short story 'The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan'. It was adapted for television by Anthony Horowitz and directed by Ken Grieve.

Script versus short story
Horowitz remains more or less faithful to the short story, with several important additions and changes. First, the reason for Poirot's and Hastings's stay at the hotel is that Poirot needs rest (one of his overworked/hypochondria/retirement moods). Second, he adds an unnecessary running joke concerning 'Lucky Len', a character from a newspaper, which looks remarkably like Poirot. Third, the Opalsen couple are using the pearls for a play, called 'Pearls Before Swine', and they are very concerned about publicity (both getting it and keeping it). This gives the adaptation a set of new characters, like Andrew Hall, who has written the play and knows Celestine well (a suspect for the theft eventually) and Hubert Devine, an actor, who explains that the Opalsens are keen to succeed with the plat due to money trouble. Fourth, Celestine, the maid, isn't French (instead, there's a reference to her mother being French), and Saunders is a chauffeur and not a butler to Mr. and Mrs. Opalsen. Fifth, Japp - who is mentioned in the story - is added as the investigating officer. So is Miss Lemon, who gets to question different people in London (she finds out that the pearls would have been too famous to be sold in the UK and would have to be smuggled to the US). Sixth, there's a separate clue added, in the shape of the mysterious Mr. Worthing (who later turns out to be one of the culprits in disguise) - and Poirot partly solves the case through a reference to 'The Importance of Being Earnest' (where the character is called Worthing - much like Arden in Taken at the Flood  and Murder on the Orient Express). All in all, though, the adaptation seems to work, and the changes are - for the most part - understandable.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Grieve's direction is competent. I particularly enjoy his use of cameras inside the drawer and the vase at the theatre. The production design is faultless as usual. Locations used include Butlins Ocean Hotel, Saltdean (now converted into luxury flats), the Eastbourne Pier and the Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne. Gunning's soundtrack is memorable and well executed. It has not been released.

Characters and actors
Of the guest actors, Sorcha Cusack* (Mrs Opalsen) and Hermione Norris (Celestine) stand out.
*The Cusack family is an interesting one in the Poirot universe. Sorcha appeared in this episode, Niamh Cusack in 'King of Clubs' and Sinead Cusack in Dead Man's Folly. That's quite extraordinary!

6 comments:

  1. Was I the only one who wasn't sure it was in character for Poirot to be indignant because Opalsen used him to increase media attention to the play? Wouldn't you think that would be flattering to Poirot's ego? He may not like journalists much, but I think he would like the idea that he's a celebrity and his presence attracts public attention.

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    Replies
    1. He'd be indignant at being used, but I think you're right that he should also have been secretly flattered. But maybe being fed up of the Lucky Len thing makes a difference.

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    2. And having seen the Sherlock episode His Last Vow...with the whole idea that a mere suggestion of wrongdoing can completely ruin a person's reputation, even if you have NO proof...it occurred to me that Poirot may have permanently destroyed Opalsen by having him arrested for fraud...even if it was only a "stunt" and smoked out the real thieves. Once the story of the investigation of insurance fraud was in the paper, the damage could well have been done, even if it turned out not to be true.

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  2. A funny exchange from the short story not used here:
    Poirot: They failed in method. Have I not told you, Hastings, at least thirty-six times, that without method..."
    Hastings: At least thirty-six thousand times!

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  3. The whole crime relies on a lot of luck: Saunders manages to reserve the room next to the Opalsens', there happens to be a connecting door, Grace gets the box out and back again without Celestine catching her. One of the less credible episodes, although still quite amusing.

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  4. one of the episodes ( and since you say it is more or less faithful, one of the stories) with an extremely weak plot. as the other comment says, method of theft used relies on luck several times (getting a room next door with a connecting door, maid being alone with pearls, instead of actress wearing them to party, which is a last min decision, hotel maid being invited to sit with maid, maid being out 2 times, chauffeur not having duties at same time , etc etc etc,) . it is highly risky, with even more risk and luck required to frame others. and simply makes no sense. and poirot jumps to illogical conclusions, for 1 example , why would name 'worthing' from 'earnest' used by culprit cast suspicion on chauffeur instead of an author?

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I'm a passionate fan of Poirot, Agatha Christie and the ITV series. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or requests, please e-mail me at poirotchronology@gmail.com, post a comment on one of my blogs, or get in touch on Twitter @pchronology. (I used to call myself HickoryDickory)