July 2011


Welcome back, folks, as we review Peter Ustinov‘s final two performances as Hercule Poirot. After two big-budget, all-star, location-based extraordinaires, Ustinov had returned to play the character in two, much lesser TV films. But while only one of the four movies – Evil Under the Sun – was really good, Ustinov’s performance is unquestionably delightful, particularly as he was allowed free reign of the character on the small screen. Today, we’ll look at his last two outings: the first a TV movie, and the second his return to the silver screen.

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Helen Hayes as Miss Marple

Film Review: “Murder with Mirrors” (1985)

with Helen Hayes (Miss Jane Marple), Bette Davis (Carrie Louise Serrocold), John Mills (Lewis Serrocold), Leo McKern (Inspector Curry)

written by George Eckstein

directed by Dick Lowry

“I think not being killed raises one’s spirits.”

— Miss Marple

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Well, great news, folks: although it remains in negotation, David Suchet seems ever more optimistic that the remaining Poirot novels will be filmed in 2012. It’s been a long road, as period films don’t come cheap, particularly not when commanding the kind of cast and attention to detail expected. (Suchet is, wonderfully, a purist, who obsesses over the little things – perfectly cast, I’d say!) With the rise and fall of period drama being a regular fixture since television began, it was no surprise that Poirot would face uphill battles and, since the series debuted in 1989, it’s certainly had to fight to stay on the air. Thankfully, it looks like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

[THIS JUST IN: Thanks to the wonderful commenter below, who alerted me to the recent news that Suchet WILL get his wish: five final Poirot films will be made in 2012 and 2013.]

So, I thought I’d muse on what we can expect should Suchet get his wish:

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And so, more than twenty years after he began in the role, David Suchet returns for four more Poirot films: Three Act Tragedy, The Clocks, Hallowe’en Party and Murder on the Orient Express. Below, I’ll look at each of them in detail, as well as considering the dramatic evolution of the series. Tomorrow, I’ll mull through some hopes and prayers for the program’s final series, which is currently in the midst of negotiation. (Update: as of January 2012, the series has been renewed.)

(For previous posts, see: series 1 – 6, series 7 – 8, series 9, series 10 – 11).

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2. Five Little Pigs  (1942)

Hercule Poirot #23

Poirot reads five different accounts of the same long-forgotten murder, uncovering an intricate crime, and the devastating effect it had on the lives of those involved.

It’s hard work discerning between entrants at the very top of my Christie rankings. Every novel in the Top Ten could conceivably be someone’s favourite. But Five Little Pigs is – for my money – Hercule Poirot’s best outing, and Christie’s most mature novel. (Yes, I know it’s only number two, but we’ll get to that…)

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The 1957 film of Agatha Christie’s play Witness for the Prosecution is a delightful, captivating, well-constructed affair. As long as you don’t figure out the key twist (which relies on a very skillful act of legerdemain), it will bowl you over. And even if you do figure it out – as I did – Christie still throws in one or five shocks at the end for good measure. Impeccably acted by Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester and Tyrone Power (and with a debatable performance from Marlene Dietrich thrown in for good measure), it’s a bona fide success. So, how does the 1982 TV remake stand up?

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Well, after only ten episodes and one film, Partners in Crime comes to an end. Fair enough: there were only a few short stories and the three later novels (set many years later) remaining, but it’s still hard to say farewell…

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