Tuesday 30 July 2013
Episode-by-episode: Murder on the Links
This episode was based upon the novel The Murder on the Links, first published in 1923. It was adapted for television by Anthony Horowitz and directed by Andrew Grieve.
Script versus novel
Horowitz remains faithful to Christie's text, making only minor (but in some cases significant) changes. To begin with, he adds a newsreel sequence as the opening sequence (which had almost become the norm for the episodes by now). The newsreel footage outlines the Beroldy case, revealing a major plot point very early on - perhaps too early. This first case is also reported to have occurred only ten years previously - not twenty as in the novel. Also, Poirot and Hastings arrive in Deauville ('Merlinville' in the novel) on their own account, since Hastings is taking Poirot to a golf hotel (a nice reference to Hastings's hobby throughout the series and the books). Consequently, there is no letter from Paul Renauld. Instead, Renauld (who is revealed to be the owner of the hotel, as well as being involved in the business in Santiago) consults Poirot at the hotel. Another significant change is the Hastings-Cinderella/Dulcie subplot. Here, the twins Dulcie and Bella are merged into one character (Bella Duveen), a sensible change, since the confusion as to their identity is nothing more than a red herring in the original story. Bella/Dulcie and Hastings don't meet on the train as in the novel. Instead, Hastings is spellbound by Bella at the hotel, as he watches her sing (she is a hotel singer here, not an acrobat). Then, throughout the episode, they meet each other on the beach (and have lunch), and go to lunch in a local Deauville restaurant. Since the twin is deleted, there is no need for the search for her back in London, so that section is cut, too. Apart from this, the subplot is kept more or less intact - but the romantic angle (and Hastings's eagerness to reveal far too much of the investigation) is obviously played up a bit, to great success, I would say. Finally, Horowitz has added a subplot to Jack Renauld's story - he is participating in a Deauville cycling race. Other changes are small and insignificant - like reducing the number of servants in the Renauld household, deleting some minor clues, e.g. the flower bed footprints and the gardener, deleting the letter from Cinderella to Hastings (instead, Bella explains herself to Poirot and Hastings), and letting the secretary, Mr. Stonor, replace Cinderella in catching the culprit. All in all, then, Horowitz's script is a wonderful take on the novel, remaining largely faithful and making sensible changes.
Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Andrew Grieve's directing is highly competent as usual. He makes great use of the Deauville location and creates a distinctly French and 30s atmosphere. The locations used include Normandy Barriere Hotel in Deauville (Hotel du Golf), the Tourville/Deauville train station and La Terrasse, Deauville (the swimming area). Christopher Gunning's soundtrack for this episode is particularly excellent and perfectly suited for the location. Sadly, it has never been released.
Characters and actors
It's lovely to see the Hastings/Bella subplot develop. This is, of course, a significant point in the series' chronology, and in Hastings's and Poirot's life. It's brilliantly acted both by Fraser and Jacinta Mulcahy, who plays Bella. As to Poirot, it's nice to see his many eccentricities and character traits brilliantly portrayed here, from his self-confidence (vis-a-vis Giraud) in a brilliant wager (in the novel it's "only" for 500 francs, here it's for the moustache / the pipe) to his matchmaking in the end scene. Suchet's facial expression in that final shot is so characterful - and a hint of the loneliness to come now that Hastings is entering married life.
- 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 email@example.com, post a comment on one of my blogs, or get in touch on Twitter @pchronology. (I used to call myself HickoryDickory)