Agatha Christie is the queen of British crime mysteries. Her fist novel was published in 1920 and she continued to publish her stories until her death in 1976 at the age of 85. Roughly 4 billion copies of her books have been sold. Based on her short stories, The Agatha Christie Hour originally appeared on PBS’ Mystery! in the early 1980s.
Thames Television originally produced ten episodes of The Agatha Christie Hour in 1982. Set one of The Agatha Christie Hour DVD includes the first five episodes. Set two of these episodes is due to be released in early 2011 and will contain the second five episodes.
The first five episodes take place in the 1920s and like Christie’s novels, tend to feature the British middle and upper class. In “The Case of the Middle Aged Wife,” Parker Pyne, a detective featured in three of Christie’s novels, tries to help George and Maria Packington with the marriage issues. George begins seeing another woman and in response Maria goes to see Pyne who promises to help her. Pyne sends Maria off for a day of beauty and dancing with a friend. When George spies Maria dancing with another man, he suddenly realizes what he’s been missing in his wife and Pyne considers the relationship fixed.
The episode “In a Glass Darkly” features a WWI officer who has a vision of a scarred man strangling a young woman. At an engagement party, the officer realizes that the man and woman in his vision are in fact the two people who are engaged to be married. After being sent off to fight in the war, the officer returns home and realizes that he is the scarred man in his vision.
In “The Girl in the Train,” a young man agrees to hide a frightened young woman on the train from a man that he believes is a foreign spy. The woman gives him a mysterious package, asks him to follow a bearded stranger and then disappears. In his travels, he meets a man who is searching for a lost duchess who has been kidnapped by a bearded man and his accomplice, Betty Bright Eyes. The young man needs to find out if the young woman he saved is the duchess or Betty Bright Eyes.
“The Fourth Man” is about a debate between three men (a doctor, a lawyer, and a priest) over a girl who kills herself. They meet a fourth man who shares a story about a young woman who was possessed by the spirit of another woman with a stronger personality. The men debate the information arguing possession as opposed to split personality.
“The Case of the Discontented Soldier” is a story about an ex-army major that asks Parker Pyne’s help to find him an adventure. He ends up saving Freda Clegg from abduction which results in them trying to escape from a bogus solicitor who is trying to get the treasure map that Freda’s father owned.
A few of the more well known names acting in this set include John Nettles (Midsomer Murders), James Grout (Inspector Morse), and William Gaunt (No Place Like Home). Maurice Denham (All Passion Spent) plays Parker Pyne. The five episodes are contained on two DVDs for a total of 257 minutes playing time. The set contains one bonus feature: the biography of Agatha Christie and Parker Pyne, “Before Poirot.”
I’m a fan of the Agatha Christie books and enjoyed seeing these stories on video. Like many of her works, there is a touch of romance in each story and a few also have a bit of a supernatural twist. I found the stories to be very similar to her actual works and love trying to solve the mysteries she presents. They have just enough danger and excitement to keep you guessing and interested. My favorite episode was “In a Glass Darkly.” The story has just enough of a twist that you don’t know what’s really happening until the end. Like with most Christie stories, I never really know “whodunit” until the end!