Acorn Media has released on Blu-ray for the first time a title only previously available on DVD: Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Series 7 & 8. For Agatha Christie and Poirot enthusiasts it is great to see these series remastered for the precision of Blu-ray. The widescreen (aspect ratio: 1.77:1, 1080p resolution) images look great on a large-scale, high-definition television screen. The colors are vibrant; and details, such as the weave of Poirot’s suit jacket or his incredibly waxed mustaches are stellar. Shadows may look a bit murky on some of the more highly-lit exterior scenes. The episodes were remastered from their original 16mm film prints.
David Suchet is as excellent as always as Hercule Poirot, the world’s most brilliant and fastidious detective. His faithful friends and assistants also show up along the way: Hugh Fraser as Poirot’s best friend and colleague Captain Hastings, Philip Jackson as Chief Inspector Japp, and Pauline Moran as his personal secretary, the incomparable Miss Lemon. Poirot travels across England and beyond to solve the multiple murders in these mysteries. The Art Deco period settings and costumes look as fabulous as ever.
The two-disc Blu-ray includes four feature-length mysteries, presented in their original U.K. broadcast order.
“The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” (2000): Poirot has retired to the countryside to raise vegetable marrows (squash). When his friend, the wealthy industrialist Roger Ackroyd (Malcolm Terris), is found murdered in his home, Poirot can (happily) ditch his new gardening habit and throw himself back into the detection of crime. Poirot is assisted in his investigations by the local doctor, Dr. Sheppard (Oliver Ford Davies), and his busybody sister Caroline (Selina Cadell). This is one of Christie’s more original twists on the locked room mystery.
“Lord Edgware Dies” (2000): Back home at his London flat, Poirot is charmed by film actress Jane Wilkinson (Helen Grace), who asks his help. First to secure her divorce from her brute of a husband, Lord Edgware (John Castle), then to find out who murdered the unpleasant nobleman. Captain Hastings (Hugh Fraser), who has recently returned to England from Argentina after making some foolish investments, is thrilled by the milieu of the murder, which takes the pair backstage among theater folk, such as cabaret mimic Carlotta Adams (Fiona Allen).
“Murder in Mesopotamia” (2001): Poirot accompanies Hastings to an archaeological dig in Iraq, which becomes the setting for multiple murders, antiquities theft, and a number of other mysteries that the great Belgian detective must unravel. The archaeological site of the Roman city of Oudhna, in Tunisia, provides a gorgeous and authentic backdrop for one of Christie’s more compelling mysteries, but apparently was one of the most difficult ones to complete for Suchet as Poirot, as he has explained.
“It was undoubtedly the most difficult shoot of my entire career because of the extreme heat. The temperature reached 139 degrees, and my costume consists of a three-piece wool suit, leather gloves, a hat, a wing collar, bow tie, and full body padding. I had to drink four litres of water every day because I was sweating so much, but even so I nearly fainted on several occasions.”
After meeting and marrying Archaeologist Max Mallowan, Christie set many of her mysteries at digs or other sites that her travels took her with Mallowan. “Murder in Mesopotamia” features an archaeologist, Dr. Erich Leidner (Ron Berglas), his high-strung American wife, Louise (Barbara Barnes), who believes that her life is in danger, and a string of suspects who are all attached in one way or another to the excavations, including Hastings’s nephew Bill Coleman (Jeremy Turner-Welch).
“Evil Under the Sun” (2001): Poirot has been told, to his horror, that he must lose weight after he suffers a fainting spell at a new Argentinian restaurant (another one of Hastings’ investments). A forced vacation to a seaside resort in Devon, the Sandy Cove Hotel, is at first a nightmare for Poirot, who is on a strict food and exercise regimen. But as he turns his attention to his fellow hotel guests, he notices that something, more than the terrible food, is wrong at the the Sandy Cove Hotel. A glamorous former actress, Arlena Stuart (Louise Delamere), is blatantly flirting with Patrick Redfern (Michael Higgs), upsetting his decidedly unglamorous wife Christine (Tamzin Malleson), as well as her husband Kenneth Marshall (David Mallinson). The love triangle seems only the tip of the iceberg. Once Arlena is found dead, alone, on an isolated beach, Poirot must sift through the other guests’ alibis, as they all seem to have their own jealousies and secrets.
English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing are available, but there are unfortunately no other extras included in Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Series 7 & 8. But Poirot’s “little grey cells” are as top-notch as ever, and die-hard Christie fans can now enjoy some of their favorite mysteries on Blu-ray.