Saturday 31 August 2013

David Suchet's 'Poirot and Me' now available for pre-order on Amazon

I've mentioned this project before on the blog, but now's the time to give it a full blog post. Back in October 2012 (just as production began on the final series), it was announced that Headline Publishing had acquired the rights in Poirot and Me, a book by written by David Suchet in collaboration with Geoffrey Wansell. It was to be published in autumn 2013.

At the time, Headline's Emma Tait stated: 'I am so excited to be publishing this book, which offers a unique opportunity in television publishing. Rather than an outsider's overview, it is the story of an iconic role told by the actor himself and it is fantastic to be working so closely with David and Geoffrey. I believe it will be a very special book and a wonderful way for David to bid farewell to his old friend Hercule Poirot.' David Suchet and Geoffrey Wansell released a joint statement: 'We are thrilled to be given this chance by Headline to bring his portrayal of Hercule Poirot to life for his millions of fans around the world. It's a wonderful – and rare – opportunity for a character actor to be able to explain his life and craft and exactly how he brought such a famous character to television audiences in more than eighty countries.'

Now have made the book available for pre-order. The book will be released November 7, 2013. Se also Headline's page on the release. Reportedly, this is Suchet's personal story of how he researched and 'became' the iconic character (over 320 pages). The book is said to contain lots of his personal photos from the sets over the years. This should be a very interesting read and a perfect companion to the series!

P.S. Judging by this article from the Independent, the final four episodes are set to be shown in November, which means the book's release will coincide with the broadcast of Series Thirteen (and that makes sense, doesn't it?)

Episode-by-episode: After the Funeral

This episode was based on the novel After the Funeral, first published in 1953. It was adapted for television by Philomena McDonagh and directed by Maurice Phillips.

Script versus novel
Philomena McDonagh's script for this film is truly exceptional. She remains faithful to Christie's story while also managing to include several embellishments that actually improve on the source material - and staying true to the spirit of Christie. Obviously, the distinctive post-war feel has had to go (i.e. because the series is set in 1930s), but only minor changes have had to be made to make that work. The rest of the changes are more important. First, McDonagh adds an opening sequence with Entwisthle and Poirot on the train. He describes the dramatis personae to Poirot, and this inter-cuts with flashbacks to the day of the funeral. This is an effective way of letting the viewers get an overview of this admittedly large ensemble of characters, rather like the family tree in Christie's novel. Second, George becomes Helen's son, and Susan Banks becomes Susannah Henderson. She is no longer married to borderline lunatic Gregory Banks but has instead become a missionary (rather like Lynn in Taken at the Flood). Third, Cora Lansquenet has become Cora Galaccio here, and her French (now Italian) ex-husband takes the role that was given to Alexander Guthrie in the novel, evaluating the paintings. Fourth, McDonagh adds a subplot / red herring in the shape of a missing will (bringing to mind the short story 'The Case of the Missing Will'). George was expected to inherit everything, but he forged a new will to disinherit himself. Fifth, Mr. Goby, Poirot's private investigator, is disposed of, and so is Poirot's rather unbelievable disguise as M. Pontalier. Instead, Poirot is introduced (as himself) much earlier, and he interviews all the family members. Sicth, Miss Gilchrist doesn't start working for Richard and Maude, but is persuaded by Poirot to stay at the house. Seventh, Entwisthle's sister is removed, and he falls in love with Helen Abernethie. Seventh, George and Susannah are revealed to be having an affair in the denouement scene. A somewhat strange addition, but it's done quite nicely in the film. Eight, Rosamund considered abortion but ends up visiting nuns because she feels ashamed. Ninth, the Vermeer painting becomes a Rembrandt (probably because Rembrandt is more well-known to modern audiences). Also, Timothy's ability to walk isn't revealed until the end of the film - he broke into Mr Entwisthle's office to get hold of the deeds to the house. All in all, however, the script is cleverly written, and it's a shame McDonagh never wrote any other Poirot scripts.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Maurice Phillips's direction is a joy to watch. I particularly like the sweeping camera shots (see the funeral scenes), almost like a bird listening in to the conversations (c.f. the descriptions of Cora). The location used for Enderby is magnificent - Rotherfield Park in Hampshire. Other locations include the Bluebell Railway (Horsted Keynes Station and the Sharpthorne Tunnel), Putney Vale Cemetery and Crematorium, Normansfield Hospital Theatre, The New Wimbledon Theatre, Lincoln's Inn, London (Timothy's house and the convent). Stephen McKeon's soundtrack is suitably dark for the plot, and several tracks can be found on his website.

Characters and actors
Suchet continues to explore Poirot's loneliness ('the journey of life, it can be hard for those of us who travel alone, mademoiselle'). The guest actors do an excellent job portraying their characters, with well-known faces like Michael Fassbender and Geraldine James. But Monica Dolan is the star. What a performance! Breath-taking, completely chilling and emotional at the same time. Quite possibly the best guest act of the entire series.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Episode-by-episode: Cards on the Table

(c) ITV

This episode was based on the novel Cards on the Table, first published in 1936. It was adapted for television by Nick Dear and directed by Sarah Harding.

Script versus novel
It's quite surprising, actually, that the writer who delivered perhaps the most faithful script of Series Nine (The Hollow) should come back for Series Ten and deliver one of the more controversial scripts. I happen to like it (for the most part), but he does make some rather peculiar changes that I can't really say I see any reason for making. I enjoy Dear's later adaptations, and they are generally quite faithful, so I wonder what got into him while writing this. In any case, let me list the changes.

First, some new characters are added. Colonel Race is replaced by Colonel Hughes, and Superintendent Battle is replaced by Superintendent Wheeler. The first change can be explained quite easily. James Fox, who portrayed Colonel Race in Death on the Nile was unavailable, and the role would have to be re-cast. To avoid this, Dear evidently added an original character. A perfectly acceptable decision, and I think Robert Pugh does a good job with the part, too.

The second character substitute is somewhat more difficult to explain. Battle had never been portrayed before in the series, so there is no need to remove him for those kinds of reasons. It seems the reason he was removed was because Dear (or the producers?) wanted to increase the number of suspects by implicating one of the 'sleuths', and Battle/Wheeler was the obvious choice. Throughout the investigation, the Wheeler character shows signs of having a personal interest in the case (he knows that Shaitana was Syrian, he is keen to accuse Dr. Roberts of the crime, and it is revealed that he staged a break-in to search Shaitana's house for some compromising photographs. Poirot discovers the compromising photographs at a somewhat suspicious-looking photographic studio and confronts Wheeler with them after the denouement. Whether Wheeler is a closeted gay man or the photos show something else entirely, we shall never know. In any case, this is a peculiar addition.

Third, Dear decides to make Dr. Roberts gay. He has an affair with Mr. Craddock, rather than Mrs. Craddock, and it's Mrs. Craddock, not Mr. Craddock, who threatens to report him. I can't really say I understand that change either. The only reason I can think of is that Dear felt the 'threat' of an affair with a female patient wouldn't be enough of a motive for Roberts to commit murder. To have his homosexuality revealed in a society that had deemed homosexual acts illegal, however, would certainly be considered a reason for wanting to silence those who know his secret. I don't say that this explains why it was necessary to change his motive, but I do think it makes it more understandable - and almost acceptable. Fourth, Dear removes the second murder (and the faked suicide letters), but that entire plot was almost unbelievable (how was Dr. Roberts supposed to be aware that she was deadly ill and that she was thinking of taking the blame - not to mention how he could get hold of her handwriting).

Fourth, the third murder (SPOILER) is changed so that Rhoda (not Anne) drowns, and Rhoda (not Anne) attempts to kill her. Also, Despard rescues Anne and not Rhoda. In fact, Rhoda is supposed to be a possessive friend (in Poirot's words to Anne Meredith: 'you were her slave'). Again, I find it difficult to understand why there was a need to change this from the novel (but, of course, it allows for mother and daughter to be reconciled rather than murdered). Finally, as I've already implied, Anne Meredith is Mrs Lorrimer's daughter here. This allows for a much more believeable and emotional 'confession' scene.

Apart from the above mentioned changes, however, Dear's adaptation stays fairly close to the source material (indeed, it's only in the final thirty minutes or so that things go off in... unexpected directions. All in all, however, I'm inclined to regard this as a perfectly acceptable adaptation, with some flashes of perfection (the bridge scenes, the dynamic between the four sleuths etc are all superbly done).

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Sarah Harding's direction is wonderful. I particularly like the opening scene at the gallery, inter-cutting with the photographic studio, which brilliantly set up two essential themes; crime as art and photography as (at least partial) motive for crime. Credit must also be given to the production design of this episode. Production designer Jeff Tessler and his team must have had so much fun. Not only are they given the opportunity to design and construct two long-running sets (Poirot's new flat and Mrs Oliver's flat - both strikingly similar to the descriptions in Christie's stories), but the rooms in Shaitana's flat are really exquisitely done, suitably exotic and sufficiently flamboyant.

Locations include the 'Peacock House' / Debenham House in Holland Park (doubling as Shaitana's house - and also as Lord Edgware's residence in Lord Edgware Dies (2000)), Leighton House Museum (the interior functions as Shaitana's entrance hall), the Ham House Stables, Alexandra Court, 171-175 Queen's Gate, London (Mrs Oliver's apartment building - which would become the setting for Third Girl as well), Neal&Palmer, Piccadilly Arcade (where Poirot buys the stockings), and the Albert Memorial in London (see photos here).

Stephen McKeon's score is particularly effective in this episode, with a suitably mysterious atmosphere to it. Parts of it can be found on his website, e.g. 'Cat and Mouse' and 'Shadows and Light'. Also, I can once again reccomend the 2006 behind-the-scenes documentary of Series Ten - if you can get hold of it. There's plenty of interviews with the cast and crew.

Characters and actors
I have to mention the introduction of Zoë Wanamaker as Mrs Ariadne Oliver. You can read my blog post on the character for a more in-depth look, but suffice to say that this was an inspired bit of casting. She might not be quite as battleship-like as the character from the novel, but to me, she's absolutely perfect as Ariadne, and her coupling with David Suchet's Poirot is absolutely perfect. Also, it's a joy to see Poirot have someone to play off, after an entire series 'on his own'. Of the other guest actors, Alexander Siddig perfectly captures the Shaitana of the novel, and the fantastic Lesley Manville is particularly moving as Mrs Lorrimer (and I'm quite impressed by her delivery of the scripted bridge lines in the interview with Poirot! That's almost as impressive as Benedict Cumberbatch's fast-speaking Sherlock). But of course, having only four (five) suspects and four sleuths, all the actors have time to excel in their parts - and most of them do.

Episode-by-episode: The Mystery of the Blue Train

(c) ITV

This episode was based on the novel The Mystery of the Blue Train, first published in 1928, which in turn was based on the short story 'The Plymouth Express', adapted for Series Three. The novel was adapted for television by Guy Andrews (who also adapted Taken at the Flood and Appointment with Death) and directed by Hettie Macdonald.

Script versus novel
Agatha Christie always considered this one of her lesser efforts. It's basically just an expansion of the short story, 'The Plymouth Express', and it consists of a wide range of incredible plot points. Therefore, it was no surprise that Guy Andrews felt the need to radically rewrite the story (although, like with his other adaptations, he adds some equally ludicrous points himself...). It's almost impossible to sum up all the changes, but I'll try to outline the most important ones.

First, he makes everyone travel on the same train to Nice (cf. MOTOE), including the count, Lady Tamplin, Corky ("Chubby" in the novel), Lennox, Mirelle Milesi (just Mirelle in the novel) - as well as the ones from the novel (Ruth, Katherine, the maid etc.). Second, Poirot appears much earlier than in the novel, and he is well acquainted both with Katherine and Ruth before the train journey. In fact, he becomes Katherine's "avuncular" (with a particularly charming introductory scene at the hotel). Third, there is an elaborate birthday party for Ruth in London before the train journey, attended by everyone involved, and a party at Lady Tamplin's once they arrive in France. Fourth, Ruth asks Katherine to change compartments on the train, suggesting that Katherine might have been the intended victim. Fifth, there's an entire new back story to Katherine (her father killed himself after Van Aldin Oil bought his company and fired all his employees). Similarly, an entire back story is added to Ruth's mother, who is revealed to be in a convent / convalescent home in France, where she has become a nun. Sixth, Mirelle is Rufus Van Aldin's lover and not Derek Kettering's. Seventh, the extremely complicated background with "the Marquis", Demetrius and Zia Papopolous is removed (a wise decision). Instead, Corky finds the imitation ruby, Derek is in heavy gambling debt to the Count, and one of the culprits attempts to kill Katherine in her sleep.

At the end of the film, the murderer commits suicide, instead of just being arrested by the French police as in the novel.The end result is such that, if you can get past the changes, the adaptation isn't half bad. I particularly like the way in which Poirot's avuncular qualities are brought to the fore. I'm not going to defend the changes (what's up with Andrews and nuns? He adds them in all of his three adaptations!), but I don't really mind him making them, both because the novel itself hardly can be considered plausible and because there was a need to distinguish it clearly from 'The Plymouth Express'.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Hettie Macdonald's direction has divided opinions, I have noticed. Her experimental use of camera angles and shadows takes a bit of getting used to, I admit, but I find them mainly effective. Also, she benefits greatly from some really nice locations and excellent production design. The locations include (Sheraton) Park Lane Hotel, London, Menton Old Town, La Rotonde, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Villa Maria Serena, Menton, Wansford Station and Nene Valley Railway, Musée des Beaux-Arts - Palais Carnolès (Nice railway station) and Freemason's Hall London (party scenes).Stephen McKeon, who composed the music for Series Ten and Eleven, does a nice job with this particular episode. See his website here. Also, if you can find the 45 minutes behind-the-scenes documentary on Series Ten, there is plenty of more information on this production there, including a short interview with scriptwriter Guy Andrews.

Characters and actors
Again, Suchet adds little touches of Poirot's sense of loneliness (see, for instance, the end scene). It's lovely to see the character develop from the early years to his retirement. Of the guest actors, most suit their roles, but Lindsay Duncan and Georgina Rylance are the standouts in my opinion.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Episode-by-episode: The Hollow

This episode was based on the novel The Hollow, first published in 1946. It was adapted for television by Nick Dear and directed by Simon Langton.

Script versus novel

Nick Dear does an excellent job with the adaptation of this particular novel. The script has the perfect balance between melancholy, humour, seriousness and Poirot-ness. Dear deletes the character of David Angkatell (and he's not missed). He adds an opening scene with Henrietta Savernake and John Christow (which makes perfect sense) and some arrival scenes for Poirot (delightful). Also, Poirot gets invited to dinner the evening before the lunch, a small change which, again, makes sense, and the murder weapon isn't discovered outside his cottage (thankfully - that never made sense to me). Moreover, Poirot gets the horse clue right not because it's like the Horse of Troy, but because the person in question explains that she hates horses (a much more satisfying reason, if you ask me, and very much in keeping with Poirot's sense of psychology). Dear also removes Edward's attempted suicide, compresses the scenes with Edward and Midge in London (but they are referred to in the dialogue), removes Henrietta's visit to Mrs Crabtree, and changes Gerda's death (SPOILER she goes to John's study and takes potassium cyanide). All in all, though, the adaptation is remarkably faithful and beautifully written, possibly one of the best episodes of the entire series. I'm always delighted when Christie's stories are taken seriously.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Langton's direction is a joy to watch, especially the opening sequence and the autumnal feel to every shot. I particularly like the staged shots of the pool, perfectly recreating the sense of artificiality / theatricality Poirot comments on in the novel. The locations used for the episode are perfect, too. Duchess Street in London was used for Christow's Harley Street home. The soundtrack is wonderful, Gunning outdoes himself. The beautiful main theme of the episode is available on his album The Film and Television Music of Christopher Gunning.

Characters and actors
Suchet's Poirot is excellent in this one. I always enjoy the cases in which Poirot's interest in psychology comes to the fore, and this is certainly one of the best on that account. Also, we have his dislike of the countryside, his breakfast (the little blobs of jam on the toast) and his sense of justice, truth, right and wrong (as displayed in the well-scripted conversation with Henrietta). The guest actors work wonderfully together as an ensemble, so it's almost impossible to pick a favourite, especially with veterans like Sarah Miles, Edward Fox and Edward Hardwicke on the cast list.

Friday 23 August 2013

Episode-by-episode: Death on the Nile

(c) ITV

The third episode of Series Nine was based on the novel Death on the Nile, first published in 1937. It was adapted for television by Kevin Elyot and directed by Andy Wilson.

Script versus novel
Kevin Elyot does a good job adapting one of Christie's most famous novels. It's a hard task to take on, because viewers will always have their own ideas of how certain things should be included and done. (And that's probably why the reactions have been stronger to episodes like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express - people know them so well that it's almost impossible to please every viewer). In my opinion, however, Elyot succeeds in his attempt, even though he makes a series of changes. First, several minor characters are removed, including Jim Fanthorp, Mr. Fleetwood, Signor Richetti and Nurse Bowen. The first three could hardly be considered significant losses, since they provide next to nothing to the proceedings. Nurse Bowen is a slightly more important character, but she doesn't feel missed, since her main role is assigned to Cornelia Robson instead. Second, Elyot does away with most of the pre-Egypt scenes, including Poirot's, Jaqueline's and Simon's visit to Chez Ma Tantz restaurant, the Allertons at Majorca, Van Schuyler and Cornelia in New York, the lawyers in the UK and the US and the Otterbourne's visit to Jerusalem. These scenes are hardly missed, as they do little more than set up the characters anyway. An added party sequence at the hotel in Egypt does that job quite as well. Third, Colonel Race doesn't join the cruise because he is onto one of the passengers, but because he wants to join his friend Poirot. This is a minor change, as it only does away with a 'red herring'. Fourth, Elyot adds a few lines between Jacqueline and Poirot on the boat, taken from Dead Man's Folly (It is terrible, mademoiselle, all that I have missed in life). Fifth, and most importantly, perhaps, Timothy and Rosalie's relationship has a different resolution. In fact, it is implied that Timothy is either gay or too attached to his mother (the second option is somewhat implied in the novel). All in all, however, Elyot manages to maintain much of Christie's original dialogue, humour, wit and plot, making the adaptation a largely successful one.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Andy Wilson makes excellent use of the Egyptian locations, with some beautiful shots of the ship and the archaeological sites. The opening sequence, however, is somewhat peculiar, with a shot closing in on a rooftop window (reminiscent of the Harry Potter films). But I love the entrance of Colonel Race, very much in the style of Lawrence of Arabia / Omar Sharif. The feel of that scene would be repeated for Appointment with Death and Dame Celia Westholme, too. The production design is impressive, with particular attention given to the ship. The locations used include the SS Sudan (used as the Karnak), Eltham Palace (Linnet's house), The Sofitel Winter Palace Hotel, Luxor, The Cairo Marriot Hotel (interior), the Valley of the Monkeys and Dendera Temple.

Gunning's soundtrack for this episode is absolutely perfect (with a minor slip in the Hitchcock reference...). The entire score is available on the latest Poirot CD, 'Death on the Nile'.

Characters and actors
Suchet's Poirot is as good as ever, and again, there are some hints of his deepening of the portrayal, with the introduction of loneliness. See the Poirot and Me documentary for more on that aspect. Of the guest actors, there are so many standouts it's almost impossible to name them all. I'll settle on Frances de la Tour and James Fox, both perfect for their roles.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Episode-by-episode: Sad Cypress

(c) ITV

The second episode of Series Nine was based on the novel Sad Cypress, first published in 1940. It was adapted for television by David Pirie and directed by David Moore.

Script versus novel
Pirie's script takes quite a few liberties without losing the spirit of the novel. Especially two things had to be worked around for this adaptation. One was the 'court room' scenes, especially in the final sections, another was the fact that Poirot isn't introduced until quite late in the proceedings. There are still some court room scenes, especially a nicely done opening sequence (that glides seamlessly back into time with a Elinor Carlisle voice-over), but I think particularly the new denouement scene is brilliant and so much better than the court room version from the novel. As to Poirot, he is believably added to the plot early on with the threatening letter to Elinor. He is in the area due to a trial in a different case he solved a year earlier (it's nice to hear of Poirot's actual involvement in a court case for once). In fact, Dr. Lord is an old friend of Poirot's here - they play chess together regularly. Moreover, the way he introduces Poirot to the case is actually quite reminiscent of Hastings in The Mysterious Affair at Styles ("I know a detective"). Generally speaking, these two changes mean that Poirot (and the adaptation) is much more actively engaged with investigation - both into the threatening letters and into the murder itself (see, for instance, the added sandwiches scene, with the amusing comment 'she was murdered, yes, but not by these disgusting sandwiches'). Also, there are a couple of nicely incorporated scenes like Elinor's discovery of Roddy and Mary in the drawing room at night, Poirot's nightmare (quite creepy, but it ties in with the plot), Poirot admitting his mistake to Ted Horlick ('I have been thirty-six times an idiot!'), and a matchmaking scene implied in the novel between Elinor and Dr. Lord. Several minor changes have been made, too, including a shortening down of the discussion between Roddy and Elinor on inheritance in the first few pages, combining the characters of Ted Bigland and Horlick the gardener, removing Mary's father (only mentioned in the novel, but here he has died before the story takes place), Mary inheriting 7 000 pounds rather than 2 000 pounds, Mary having already made a will on Hopkins's suggestion (so the scene in which Elinor laughs and is discovered by Dr Lord is removed - instead, she explains to Poirot that she wants her dead. A more important change, perhaps, is the fact that the jury first sentence Elinor guilty, so that there is an overhanging fear of her being hanged (possibly to increase the dramatic tension of the story). Poirot's interviews with Elinor in prison are consequently much more poignant, too.There are probably other changes I have forgotten to mention, but all in all, I would say the adaptation works well, and the story has been expertly converted from a court room drama to a much more active investigation, in tune with Poirot's other cases. As such, I think the script is exceptionally well done and a great addition to the series.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Moore's direction suits the story perfectly, with a somewhat elegiac and dark feel to it. Some of the transitions are particularly well done (although I'm not sure if I like the abrupt shifts of scenes in some cases), and I like the way he has emphasised the darkness of the old house. The most striking bit of direction, however, is the nightmare sequence, with a truly horror-like transformation of Mary Gerrard. The production values are of a high standard, as always, with some minor slips (e.g. The British Library / The British Museum, Gershwin's date of death and a continuity error in one of the final scenes (Poirot first has an overcoat on, then he hasn't). The locations suit the story perfectly, and the soundtrack is beautiful (Gunning certainly increased the cinematic feel for these four episodes). The locations used include Dorney Court, Dorney, Buckinghamshire (used as The Hunterbury Arms Hotel), the Sue Ryder Home in Nettlebed, Oxfordshire (used as Hunterbury House - it would later be used as Meadowbanks school in Cat Among the Pigeons) and Hambleden Church, Buckinghamshire. See location photos here.

Characters and actors
There are some really nice Poirot scenes here (see, for instance, all scenes with Elinor). In tune with the development of Poirot's loneliness and heart ache, there's an added line: 'I can understand the ache of the heart. It is a place very lonely'. The guest actors are lovely, too, with Elizabeth Dermot-Walsh as the real standout. See more on her performance in the Poirot & Me documentary

Sunday 11 August 2013

Episode-by-episode: Five Little Pigs

(c) ITV

We've now come to the point in time when the series went for its makeover. New producers arrived on the scene and intended to make 'feature films' for television rather than regular episodes. In a way, their choice for a series opener - the novel Five Little Pigs, first published in 1942 - was a brave one. It was adapted by Kevin Elyot (who would also do Death on the Nile and Curtain) and directed by Paul Unwin. Before we begin, I might as well admit that this is my favourite Poirot adaptation, and quite possibly my favourite Poirot novel, too. So I might be a little biased in my comments on this particular adaptation.

Script versus novel
Kevin Elyot does a frankly remarkable job with the screenplay. Generally speaking, his retelling follows its source material very closely, omitting only some of the court and police chapters ('Councel for the Prosecution', 'The Young Solicitor', 'The Old Solicitor' and 'The Police Superintendent') and the character of Lord Dittisham, and shortening other sections without losing out on the vital dialogue (both plot-wise and character-wise, which is quite an achievement - most of the other adaptations in the series manage with only one of the two). However, he does make certain changes that by some fans are considered fairly substantial. 

First, he introduces an opening scene in which Caroline Crale is hanged. This is at odds with the book, which clearly states that she died in prison about a year after the trial (which is important, because it shows that Christie didn't "kill off" an innocent person). Personally, I find this change perfectly acceptable. It works wonderfully well with the intercutting flashbacks to the summer scenes, and it does increase the tragic aspect of the case; an innocent person was convicted for a crime she did not commit.

Second, Elyot brings out what could be interpreted as the novel's homosexual subtext in the interviews with Philip Blake; he projects Blake's rather unclear infatuation with Caroline onto Amyas instead. Again, I can't say I object to this change. As mentioned, it can reasonably be interpreted from the novel and it's done in such a way (by Elyot, director Unwin and actor Stephens) that the scene becomes a moving addition to the storyline, not a sensational trump card as in some of the Marple adaptations.

Finally, Elyot adds a scene following the denouement (which, by the way, is kept almost word-by-word), in which Lucy (Carla/Caroline in the novel) aims a gun at Elsa Greer. It might be seen as somewhat sensational, but I think it's in keeping with the characters - and a nice way to underline Greer's sense of having died already - she's almost begging Lucy to pull the trigger. As an aside, there's a minute foreshadowing of this scene in one of the flashbacks, as Angela and Lucy are playing on the beach. They're playing cowboy and Indian, and Angela says 'oh, do shoot me, Lucy, it's the whole point'. All in all, Elyot's script is a truly inspirational addition to the series, with largely understandable changes.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack

I think it's clear by now that my admiration for this episode is substantial. In fact, it applies to all aspects of the adaptation, not just the script. Unwin's directing is fantastic, and so is Martin Fuhrer's cinematography (which should be given credit here - have a look at his 'trailer' for this episode to see what I mean), the production design and even the costume and make-up design (an aspect I must admit I rarely comment on, but I am aware that costume designer Sheena Napier is a living legend). The contrast between the glowing flashback scenes and the grey, subdued present-day scenes is well done, and so is the use of the hand-held camera (apparently used to make the viewer feel as if he's there on that same day). Also, I like the fact that the flashbacks to the main characters' childhood are blurry (rather like vintage film rolls), which in a way emphasises that memory gets muddled with the passing of time. Moreover, there are so many breath-taking shifts between the past and the present (for instance, the way the camera in one swift motion changes the setting from the living room of Meredith Blake that summer to the same room fourteen years later). I also particularly enjoy the way that there are mainly close-ups of the faces in present-day shots (some genuinely moving acting going on in those shots). Finally, I've got to mention the title sequence, which is probably the best of the series so far. Lovely landscape shots and the score and directing suit each other perfectly. Speaking of music, Gunning's score is absolutely wonderful - quite possibly the best of the entire series. Luckily, he has released quite a lot of the music on his CD's ('Five Little Pigs', 'The Innocence of Caroline Crale', 'Amyas' Last Painting'). His use of the gramophone recording of 'Alice Blue Gown' and the mix throughout with Eric Satie's Gnossienne no. 1, is magnificent. The house that was used as Alderbury House is a private house in Benington Lordship, Hertfordshire.

Characters and actors
This section is all about the guest actors this time around. It's such a great cast I don't even know if I can name a stand-out. We have Gemma Jones, as the emotionally repressed governess, Rachael Stirling, as a moving Caroline, Toby Stephens as a powerful Philip Blake, Mark Warren as the philosophical herbalist Meredith Blake, Aidan Gillen as the artist Amyas.... the list goes on and on. Great performances all around.

Saturday 10 August 2013

Episode-by-episode: Murder in Mesopotamia

This episode was based on the novel Murder in Mesopotamia, first published in 1936. It was adapted for television by Clive Exton (in his final Poirot outing!) and directed by Tom Clegg.

Script versus novel
Exton stays more or less faithful to the source material, with some exceptions. Let me tackle the two major ones first. For one, Hastings is added (a massive strain of credibility, if you ask me, but there it is). He becomes Bill Coleman's uncle (!). This, of course, significantly reduces the role of Nurse Leatheran - the narrator of the novel. Much like in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, her main function becomes that of a further suspect. Moreover, Poirot visits the area not because he is on holiday, but because Countess Vera Rossakoff asked him to. Now, if adding Hastings doesn't stretch credibility, then this certainly does. I could agree that Poirot would go to extremes to help the Countess, but would he really go all the way to Mesopotamia just because she says she needs his help? I can't really see that happening. It gets worse, because the resolution of the matter is that she has fled the scene and he is left paying her hotel bill! It's all very strange... Anyway, let's go back to the changes. Exton adds an opening scene in which Mr. Mercado kills an Arab drug dealer (later scenes will link up to this, too). Dr. Riley, Mr. Reiter and Mr. Emmot are removed; the first, due to the fact that Nurse Leatheran's role is reduced and the others because they didn't really serve any purpose other than provide potential candidates for Bosner's brother. Consequently, the key 'Bosner suspects' become Father Lavingny, Mr. Carey and Bill Coleman. Moreover, all the interviews are somewhat shortened, but that's only to be expected with the time constraints that a television episode demands. A somewhat more significant change is that Mercado commits suicide at Poirot's hotel in Baghdad (he couldn't stand the guilt of having killed the drug dealer). Finally, there's a lovely bit of behavioural comedy with Poirot and a mosquito at the camp site. All in all, though, the minor changes make sense (I won't mention the two big ones), and the faithfulness isn't half bad, if you can get past the two changes I mentioned initially.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Clegg makes great use of the exotic location in this episode. In real life, the dig is an archaeological site in Tunisia, called Oudhna. Gunning's soundtrack goes brilliantly with the direction and the location, and I do wish the score had been released at some point.

Characters and actors
To see Poirot out of his element, so to speak, in an exotic location, is always a joy. Also, as much as I dislike the additions of Hastings and the Countess, they do provide some bits for Poirot's character development. As an aside, I'd also like to point out that Exton underlines the fact that Coleman is Hastings's adopted nephew - a plot point that might come in handy in Curtain, if my suspicions concerning Judith Hastings (see the chronology blog) turn out to be true. Of the guest actors, there are no real standouts, but they all portray their characters accurately and seem more or less suited to their roles.

Friday 9 August 2013

Episode-by-episode: Evil Under the Sun

(c) ITV
This episode was based on the novel Evil Under the Sun, first published in 1941. It was adapted for television by Anthony Horowitz and directed by Brian Farnham.

Script versus novel
Horowitz remains largely faithful to the novel, but there are several minor changes. First, he had to reintroduce the Big Three properly, just as he had started doing with Lord Edgware Dies. The solution this time around is to add an Argentinean restaurant, in which Hastings has invested much of his capital. Japp and Poirot attend the opening night (Miss Lemon, of course, is 'way behind with her filing'). This scene allows the three leads to be acquainted with Arlena Stuart, Kenneth Marshall and the man who is later believed to have been blackmailing Stuart. It also provides a rather humorous reason for Poirot to go on holiday - he is admitted to hospital and is considered 'medically obese' (later revealed to be food poisoning, and Hastings's restaurant is obviously to blame - another bad investment). In turn, the Jolly Roger Hotel becomes Sandy Cove Hotel, a health resort, and all the guests are admitted with (more or less plausible) health issues. Also, throughout the episode, Poirot complains of the diet programme he has to follow (on Miss Lemon's orders, of course). This subplot / introduction is actually quite nicely handled, and it does make Hastings's (who is not in the novel) presence feel somewhat more plausible. Second, several insignificant guests are deleted, including Mr. and Mrs. Gardener, the Cowans and the Mastermans.

Third, Linda Marshall, Kenneth Marshall's daughter, becomes Lionel Marshall here. He is revising for his chemistry exams and borrows a book at the library on poisons (rather than Linda's weird obsession with witchcraft). Also, making the child a man provides a handy extra suspect (Lionel's glasses are found misplaced at the scene of the murder - not a pair of scissors, like in the novel).

Fourth, Rosamund Darnley - who speaks of a friend of hers who was in Egypt when Poirot was there - is here an old acquaintance of Poirot's from that very same holiday. She is still an old friend of Marshall's, though, and Horowitz even adds a scene in which Poirot overhears a conversation between the two that is potentially incriminating for her. Fifth, Chief Inspector Japp replaces Inspector Colgate and Colonel Weston, the Chief Constable (the latter was replaced by Japp in Peril at End House, too, so that makes sense, I guess). Sixth, Major Barry's hunt for the smuggler's ring is linked with the visit of two bird watchers (a couple who want to dine at the restaurant in the novel). Seventh, Lionel doesn't try to commit suicide, like Linda does in the novel. Eight, Miss Brewster is given a motive for murder - she lost a significant amount of money by investing in a play Arlena Stuart pulled out of. Ninth, Miss Lemon gets to investigate in London and Blackridge (first, looking into the details of Stuart's will, second, looking into the previous murder that Stephen Lane is linked to). Tenth, the potential blackmail is explained (quite cleverly) by the differences between British English and American English - "lose a great deal".

All in all, though, almost all Horowitz's changes are sensible and are primarily made to add extra twists and turns. It's not a great episode, but there is not much wrong with it either.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Farnham's direction is competent and somewhat straight-forward. He makes excellent use of the great location (Burgh Island hotel - the very hotel at which Agatha wrote the novel!). Other locations include Salcombe, South Devon (the very same location that was used for Peril at End House, which, judging by several references in the novel, took place not far from the hotel), and the Blackridge scenes were shot in Buckinghamshire - Hambleden Church and Frieth Village Hall. Gunning's soundtrack is well executed. It has not been released.

Characters and actors

It's nice to see the development of the main character relationships (even if, by now, it does seem to strain credibility a little, if you ask me). I particularly enjoy Pauline Moran's display of utter shock when her employer is admitted to hospital - she is obviously concerned and wants him to be all right, a display of the affection she has for him. Her concern for his health equally so. Of the guest actors, there doesn't really seem to be any standouts in this one. They all do a competent job, but that's that. A young Rusell Tovey can be spotted playing Lionel.

Sunday 4 August 2013

Episode-by-episode: Lord Edgware Dies

(c) ITV

This episode was based on the novel Lord Edgware Dies, first published in 1933. It was adapted for television by Anthony Horowitz and directed by Brian Farnham.

Script versus novel
Horowitz stays fairly true to the source material, with several notable exceptions. First, he adds a scene from Macbeth (particularly fitting, both because Lady Edgware aka Lady Macbeth is an actress and because Lord Edgware will later be murdered with a dagger).

Second, there’s the scenes that re-establish the Big Four after the four-year hiatus. Hastings is called back from Argentina (having lost the farm in speculative investments, perfectly in tune with his previous business attempts), Miss Lemon helps Poirot moving back in and Japp (who returned in the last episode) comes to dinner. These scenes are nicely done and actually very much in character, so I don’t object to them.

Third, Carlotta’s impersonations include one of Poirot (unsurprisingly – that was begging to be added!). Fourth, Poirot and Hastings discover Carlotta’s body before the doctor and the police have been there (a sensible change). Fourth, Carlotta’s sister Lucie is in the UK, so Poirot gets to interview her face to face, rather than through letters and telegrams.

Fifth, Horowitz adds a significant number of scenes between Poirot and Lady Edgware – and creates the impression throughout the episode that he is falling for her (one particular scene between Miss Lemon and Hastings is particularly reminiscent of ‘The Double Clue’). Sixth, Jenny Driver is changed into Penny Driver (for no particular reason it seems), and so is the inscription on the gold case (CA from P, not CA from D). Seventh, several scenes are removed (including the visit from the Dowager duchess, the taxi driver who sees Geraldine and Ronald Marsh outside Lord Edgware’s house, the intended restaurant meeting that Lady Edgware attends disguised as Carlotta, and the scene in which Poirot tries to find out if the pince-nez belong to Edgware’s secretary (but the scene in which Ellis is tested remains). None of these scenes are missed, though. On the subject of the Duke of Merton, he is much more involved and much less reserved than in the novel, so there is really no need for his mother to get involved. Eighth, Horowitz adds a chase scene in which Alton the butler tries to escape (and like the previous episode, it feels completely unnecessary). All in all, however, the denouement does tie thing neatly together, so this script isn’t half bad.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Farnham’s direction is largely competent. However, I must point out that the first dinner scene is a complete cheat, since there’s no attempt made at trying to conceal SPOILER the fact that Helen Grace (Lady Edgware) actually is in two places at the same time. In the denouement, the camera mostly shows the back of her (or rather Carlotta’s) head, and that works well, so why couldn’t the same trick have been used at that first dinner scene. Very annoying – almost as annoying as the obvious culprit in Hickory Dickory Dock. The production design is good as always, and several of the locations are lovely. These include Shoreham Airport (previously seen in ‘The Adventure of the Western Star’ and Death in the Clouds), ‘The Peacock House’ in Holland Park (later to be used as Shaitana’s house in Cards on the Table), Addisland Court (previously seen in ‘The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman’) and Highpoint flats in Highgate (used as Lady Edgware’s penthouse flat – previously seen in ‘The Affair at the Victory Ball’). Gunning’s soundtrack is particularly memorable, but it has sadly never been released on CD (apart from the Argentinean sections, which can be heard in the ‘Poirot Variants’ track).

Characters and actors
It’s nice to see the old gang back together again, but more importantly it’s nice to see the sombre, darker quality continue (I know many fans object to this element, but I think it’s fairly obvious that I like it), for instance in Poirot’s lamentations on marriage. Of the guest actors, Helen Grace (Lady Edgware) is the standout – she actually manages to make the denouement almost creepy (but not on an After the Funeral level!).

Friday 2 August 2013

Episode-by-episode: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

When the series returned for Series Seven, there had been a gap of five years (1994-1999 in filming terms, 1996-2000 in broadcast terms). It was brought back by popular demand and largely thanks to the American television channel A&E. The series opener was a clever choice – based on the novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, first published in 1926, in which Poirot has retired (a convenient explanation for the four year absence). It was adapted for television by Clive Exton and directed by Andrew Grieve.

Script versus novel
Given that the narration of the novel is an essential part of the solution, Exton’s job would always be a difficult one – indeed, almost impossible – and he doesn’t quite succeed. Many Christie fans would probably describe the adaptation as a disaster, but I won’t go quite that far. What makes Christie’s novel such a crime fiction masterpiece is the clever narrative choice and the big surprise it gives the reader in its final chapters (I will have to reveal the plot, so if you haven’t read the novel or watched the adaptation, you should look away now). Exton decides to let Poirot read the murderer’s novel as a journal in a voice-over that runs through most of the episode (though very little of Christie’s actual words are kept intact in this voice-over). In itself, this decision isn’t necessarily a bad one. Of course, he could have had Dr. Sheppard read it, but that would possibly be a bit too revealing. Letting Poirot/Suchet do it neutralises the narrative, which sort of works, I guess. In any case, it does allow for some reflections by Poirot at the beginning and the end of the adaptation . Those two scenes in the bank vault are brilliantly scripted, I’ll come back to them in the ‘Characters and actors’ section.

Now, to the plot changes. After the opening scenes, Exton adds a scene in which Sheppard and Parker go to Poirot’s house (he isn’t living there incognito in the adaptation, which is just as good, since Poirot would never be able to hide away anywhere, a fact that is often referred to in the books – and remember that the other adaptation in which his identity was an issue, ‘The Third Floor Flat’, the scriptwriter also does away with the entire incognito business). This scene is quite well done, and wonderful from a characterisation point of view, because we get a glimpse of Poirot’s cottage life (an entirely square cottage, with neat, orderly rooms, perfectly timed clocks and a garden with vegetable marrows). As I’ve discussed elsewhere, the scene in the garden was added on Suchet’s request, because it is in the novel (well, sort of). Second, Exton adds a visit to Ackroyd’s factory for Poirot (and it is revealed that Poirot lend Ackroyd the money he needed to get started several years ago). Third, the novel’s Inspector Raglan is replaced by an Inspector Davis, and of course Chief Inspector Japp is added, too. Japp’s presence is one of the main flaws in Exton’s script, if you ask me. By adding him to the story, there is no room for a Holmes-Watson relationship to develop between Dr. Sheppard and Poirot,and consequently Dr. Sheppard’s character is seriously marginalised throughout. This, in turn, weakens the surprise ending, because Sheppard isn’t in Poirot’s confidence (if anyone ever really is) to the same extent as in the novel, and we end up regarding him as just another suspect – not a Hastings character. Also, since Sheppard is marginalised, so is Caroline (sadly, since she was an inspiration for Miss Marple). Third, Exton allows for Poirot to make a visit to Mr. Ackroyd the same evening that Sheppard is invited to dinner (and he later turns up just as the murder has been discovered, as well). This is a nice way to ensure that Poirot has the facts of the case straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak, and to underline the friendship between him and Ackroyd. Fourth, three characters are deleted: Captain Hector Blunt (who was little more than a love interest / red herring), Miss Russell and Charles Kent (again, a red herring). Fifth, we come to one of the more peculiar changes; the murder of Parker, the butler. He didn’t blackmail anyone in the adaptation, but it is hinted that he might start to reveal some family secrets since he wasn’t given any money in Ackroyd’s will. Granted, Sheppard does explain that he was afraid he would remember that he had been alone in the room. Still, the hit-and-run and his drunkenness seem overdone and completely unnecessary. Sixth, Mrs. Ackroyd’s conversation with Sheppard is deleted, and so is the mah jhong party and several of the villagers, but these chapters and minor characters don’t feel missed in the adaptation.

Finally, we come to the most serious change of all. The denouement is unlike any other. Not only is it unusual in the sense that Poirot doesn’t really get to explain anything (Sheppard takes care of that). It also provides us with one of the most ridiculous chase scenes the series has ever seen (and that’s saying something). After conveniently confessing to every aspect of the crime, Sheppard makes a run for it with the help of a gun he is handed by Caroline Sheppard (who has read his journal in the car – another curious change, since she is supposed to be unaware of her brother’s crime). In short, the chase scene consists of Sheppard shooting blindly around Ackroyd’s factory (missing Poirot and Japp every time), and Japp counting the number of bullets he has got left. He then goes on to commit suicide with the final bullet. In the novel he committed suicide with veronal (like Mrs. Ferrars).

I don’t know why Exton felt the need to make this change, but I guess it was either because he or ITV felt the original ending was too tedious for a ‘modern’ audience or because it was requested by those who provided the capital, A&E. I don’t know. In any case, it does mar the adaptation. However, despite the significant changes, I can’t bring myself to dismiss the adaptation as a complete and inexcusable disaster (like some Christie fans do). My main point in favour is the magnificent way in which Poirot’s retirement is depicted. For instance, I particularly enjoy the visit to Poirot’s old flat – a scene in which he begins to come to terms with the ghosts of the past. In the end, then, the adaptation is acceptable – not fantastic, but not a disaster either.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Andrew Grieve’s directing is as good as always. I have recounted elsewhere the lovely homage to the original opening sequence in the bank vault scenes, which I find a lovely way to re-introduce Poirot after such a long absence. Also, I enjoy his play with shadows and light, and particularly the glows of a candle (in Mrs. Ferrars’ room) and a close-up on Poirot stumping his Russian cigarette at the factory. It’s nice to see that the quality of the production design survived a four-year hiatus (even if the set of the flat seems to have been remade for these episodes). Locations used include the village of Castle Combe, Wiltshire and ‘Kit's Close’, Benham's Lane, Fawley, Wycombe, Buckinghamshire (Ackroyd’s house) – and of course Charterhouse Square in front of Florin Court / Whitehaven. Ackroyd's factory was filmed in Kempton Steam Museum. Gunning’s soundtrack is particularly good in this episode. He has added a more sombre tone to the theme tune, which is used throughout (again, a nice way to show that Poirot is back).

Characterisation and actors
As I’ve already explained, the main reason I defend this episode to some extent is that it brilliantly conveys the gentle ageing of the main character. In the year(s) that have elapsed, Poirot has grown more world-weary. He retired to escape the brutality of his profession. He is no longer the cheerful character of the first few series (though there’s still plenty of humour), and the case ends with him realising that he cannot escape the brutality of humanity (and his raison d’être). Suchet’s performance is so wonderfully nuanced, and you wouldn’t think that so many years had elapsed. Below are the two monologues that open and end the episode:
“A man may labour and toil to attain a certain kind of leisure in retirement. And then find that, after all, he yearns for the old busy days, and the old occupations he had thought himself so glad to leave. I had already begun to miss the daily toil of my previous employment when, tout à coup, I was flung back into the midst of the most perversely fascinating work that there is in the world: the study of human nature. A journal came into my possession, in which a murderer had taken the trouble to record for posterity, the thoughts that had accompanied a crime most dastardly. Rarely have I come across such bitterness, such envy and contempt of others, such haughtiness misplaced.”

“I thought I could escape the wickedness of the city by moving to the country. The fields that are green, the singing of the birds, the faces smiling and friendly. Huh! The fields that are green are the secret burial places of the victims of murders most hideous; the birds sing only briefly before some idiot in tweeds shoots them, and the faces all smiling and friendly: what do they conceal?”
Of the guest actors, Oliver Ford Davies is the main standout. I once read a review which stated that if it hadn’t been for the quality of Suchet’s and Davies’s acting, the episode would probably feel terrible. They bring all their gravitas to the roles and contribute significantly to the quality of the episode.

Thursday 1 August 2013

Episode-by-episode: Dumb Witness

We’ve reached the final episode of Series Six – at which point the series was to enter a four-year hiatus before it was brought back by popular (and largely American) demand. This episode was based on the novel Dumb Witness, first published in 1937. It was adapted for television by Clive Exton and directed by Edward Bennett.

Script versus novel
Exton remains largely faithful to Christie’s original story, with some notable exceptions. First, the setting is moved from the fictional village of Market Basing (and London) to the picturesque area of Windermere and the Lake District (also featured briefly in ‘The Adventure of the Clapham Cook’, and more extensively in ‘Double Sin’). Second, Poirot and Hastings are present much earlier than in the novel (as would eventually become the norm in later episodes – Poirot would be introduced to the proceedings as early as possible). This Exton explains by making Charles Arundell a friend of Hastings’s (again, a possible mate from his army days? – he has the most hilarious nickname for him at least – “Battler” Hastings); they attend an attempt at a boat racing world record on Lake Windermere. This little change enables Poirot and Hastings to be present at the séance referred to in the novel, as well as witnessing several of the events preceding the murder. Third, by making Poirot and Hastings ‘friends of the family’, Poirot recommends Emily to write a second will (and he later blames himself for her death). Fourth, the presence of Bob is significantly expanded – to great success. Here, he becomes a sort of assistant to Poirot, pointing out the impossibility of Emily’s accident and the trick with the mirror. I find that fact particularly funny, because Japp and others often refer to Hastings in the books as Poirot’s dog, obediently following his master! Speaking of Japp, I’m quite impressed that they didn’t fall for the temptation of adding him to the proceedings, not to speak of Miss Lemon (who would undoubtedly fit right in with the séance). That just goes to show that all in all they treat Christie with respect. Fifth, Dr. Donaldson, Theresa Arundell’s lover, is deleted, and Dr. Grainger’s presence is significantly expanded in his place. In fact, he becomes Miss Lawson’s lover and is even killed off in the end! Sixth, Jacob Tanios is portrayed as much more ‘villainous’ than in the novel, with a particular mention of him possibly beating his children (of course, Poirot reveals him to be innocent later on). Seventh, the above mentioned spiritualism is also significantly expanded, and it actually works quite well. Eighth, several of the London scenes are entirely or partially removed (and of course the setting is changed to the Lake District), but some of the money scheming is kept intact in a scene in which Theresa and Charles suggest a criminal act to Bella and Jacob. Ninth, a rather ridiculous attempted burglary at Littlegreen House with two masked intruders (Theresa and Charles) is added to the plot. Similarly, the boat they escape in is pictured at the Trippses’ house (a suggestion that they might be involved). All in all, the changes are done for two main purposes; one, to shorten down the plot (due to the time constraints) and two, to widen the net of potential suspects. They largely make sense and they generally keep more or less faithful to the novel. Two final changes are worth noticing. One is the explanation why Bob isn’t the murderer (or, reason for the accident). In the novel, he has simply been out all night, while in the adaptation he shows Poirot that he always lets the ball fall down the stairs and then leaves it in his basket, so there would be no reason why it should be found at the top of the stairs. A rather clever explanation, I would say. Also, there’s the added hint about the liver capsules. Poirot notices a waiter refilling the salts at the tables of the hotel, which leads him to realize that the murderer simply waited for Miss Emily to take the right capsule. Again, a clever change that doesn’t stray too much from its source material.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Bennett’s directing is particularly well done in this episode, with absolutely wonderful scenic shots of the Lake District (which look particularly stunning in the remastered Blu-ray editions). He emphasises the red nighttime sky particularly, and he seems to have a lot of fun with highlighting the dog angle of the story, with several shots seen from Bob’s perspective (see, for instance, the interview with Miss Lawson after Emily’s fall – just before Bob shows Poirot his trick). The production design is fabulous, as always. It never ceases to amaze me how they manage to track down all these 1930s props in pristine condition (like the race boat and the peculiar-looking bus). Locations used include Langdale Chase boathouse (used as the boathouse, obviously), Broad Leys boat club (used as the hotel – both interior and exterior), several houses in Keswick, Cumbria, Lake Windermere station, the old police station in Hawkshead and Lake Windermere itself. Gunning’s soundtrack is good and rather memorable, particularly the theme he gives to Bob. It has not been released.

Characters and actors
Suchet gets lots to play with here. We have, for instance, a brief reappearance of Poirot’s suitcases on Lake Windermere station (last seen in Death in the Clouds, I think), his lamentation on the loss of a client (‘Could I have saved her?’). Also, there’s his peculiar little picnic chair (last seen in ‘The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge’), which he brings with him when walking the dog. (His “conversation” with Bob in that scene – in which he provides an explanation of the adaptation title, is absolutely delightful). Of the guest actors, there are several memorable performances, but perhaps Ann Morish (Emily Arundell), Pauline Jameson and Muriel Pavlow (the Tripps) stand out.

About Me

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, post a comment on one of my blogs, or get in touch on Twitter @pchronology. (I used to call myself HickoryDickory)