Agatha Christie's Poirot starring David Suchet in in the title role has been a staple of British and American television since 1989. Unfortunately for those of us in the US, there is a bit of a delay in broadcasting the new episodes (TV movies, really) for the American audience. Thus, it was only last month that PBS's Masterpiece Mystery! aired "Mrs. McGinty's Dead" and "Cat Among the Pigeons," which were first shown in the UK last September. If you missed them, fear not: they are already available on DVD.
Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Movie Collection, Set 4, containing only two episodes/movies, is surprisingly a small package for something labeled as a collection. However, this is off-set by a rare treat: a bonus program entitled "Super Sleuths" that includes interviews with core Poirot cast members and others regarding the popularity of the character of Poirot. This extra feature certainly goes a long way towards compensating for not including the other two episodes that aired as a part of ITV's 11th season of Agatha Christie's Poirot last fall ("Third Girl" and "Appointment With Death").
The cast members, the producer, a director, and a writer for the series each shared new insight into how the show is produced and the behind-the-scenes decisions that are made in order to maintain the wishes of Christie's estate. I was interested to learn that while the estate approved the inclusion of secondary characters Captain Hastings, Miss Lemon, and Chief Inspector Japp when the series was drawing upon the short stories and novels that did not include Poirot or Miss Marple (or Tommy and Tuppence, for that matter), there was an agreement that the adaptations of the Poirot novels should be closer to the source material and not include the secondary characters if they were not in the book. Viewers who are only familiar with the television adaptations may be surprised to learn how infrequently those three appear in the books, considering that they were in nearly every episode for the first eight seasons (1989-2001).
The plot and storyline of "Mrs. McGinty's Dead" follows the original work very well, and the few minor changes serve to lessen the confusion of the viewer by having fewer characters to keep track of. The movie begins with a very nervous young man (James Bently, played by Joe Absolom) being sentenced to death for the murder of his landlady, a case that seemed to have been clear from the start. However, the investigating officer has doubts, and he asks Poirot to look into it.