While retaining the motives of the killer and the accomplice, several of the other characters are altered slightly or merged together to simplify the cast and the subplots. This was done gracefully and logically, and as a result, I found it much easier to follow the action. Unfortunately, I cannot say much more about it without giving away too much.
One significant change involved shifting the story from the original 1960s setting to the 1930s. Poirot seems younger than he appeared in Murder on the Orient Express, and less sternly rigid. Having a slightly bumbling co-sleuth in the form of Mrs. Oliver certainly helped with that, but also the whole thing seemed to reflect the mood of the episodic series in the 1990s when Suchet was joined by Hugh Frasier, Phillip Jackson, and Pauline Moran in their roles of Captain Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp, and Miss Lemon. From the art deco setting of Poirot’s apartment to the hints of the old theme music in the opening, I had the distinct impression that the creative directors of this production were interested in modernizing the cinematography and story without loosing the essence of what makes this series shine.
Appointment With Death (screenplay by Guy Andrews, directed by Ashley Pearce)
I disliked this story when I first read it, mostly because I dislike people like Mrs. Boynton, who derive such pleasure from emotionally tormenting others. There are few things that push my rage buttons more than people like her, so I was not particularly looking forward to this adaptation. The one thing that prompted me to finally watch it, aside from being an Agatha Christie junkie, is the addition of the character Mr. Boynton, played by none other than Tim Curry.
John Hannah, who previously appeared as Inspector Campbell in the 2004 production of What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw (a.k.a. 4:50 to Paddington), plays the light-hearted and unflappable Dr. Gerard, who, along with Poirot and several other interested folk join Mr. Boynton’s archaeological dig in Syria for the head of John the Baptist. Boynton’s family are also there, and we quickly see how utterly dysfunctional they are, and how utterly oblivious he is.
Mrs. Boyton’s children fear and hate her, and while they are adults and she is no longer able to exact physical abuse upon them, she still abuses them emotionally. Her stepson dislikes her, particularly for the way she ignores his existence and takes his father away from him. And, as we discover, just about anyone who knows her has reason to kill her, which complicates Poirot’s investigation when she is discovered to have been murdered in broad daylight in full sight of just about everyone at the archaeological dig.