Hercule Poirot is one of Agatha Christie’s most famous, eccentric, and beloved characters, portrayed to great justice on TV in a long-running series starring the talented David Suchet. The series is very well made and has been rolling out to Blu-ray in collections that don’t really conform to being called a ‘season’. Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Movie Collection, Set 6 contains three movies that are all capable, with some standing out above the others.
A Belgian Detective with a shrewd mind Hercule Poirot has a rather odd way of investigating crimes. He is not your typical physically capable detective. In fact he is fairly rotund and walks with a limp from a long standing injury. He uses the power of observation and a keen grasp of the bigger picture to solve his crimes. He is sought after by many countries and is often asked to consult in high profile investigations.
Three Act Tragedy
The story in this movie revolves around people dropping dead at society dinner parties in mysterious ways. Poirot was a guest at the party when the first incident occurred and he initially believes there was no foul play involved. The deceased was an older man and the randomness of the party precluded pre-meditation in his opinion. Poirot is later contacted by an old friend, Sir Charles Cartwright (Martin Shaw), who was also at the first party with news that another death occurred in similar circumstances with much of the same people present from the original party. This piques Poirot’s curiosity and he and Cartwright proceed to investigate the tangled web of relationships, lies and personalities involved.
Three Act Tragedy is very much an Agatha Christie tale, a large cast of players all with their own secrets intertwining them and body’s continuing to fall. The story is set in many different locations as further deaths and intrigues occur and this adds to the scale on complexity of this tale. All the actors are portrayed quite brilliantly and Suchet’s Poirot is once again a perfect fit for these types of tales. His often slightly goofish demeanor is a smokescreen that brings everyone to doubt his skills until he solves the mystery in the end. Another great movie in the series and one that had me nearly taking notes trying to determine the true killer right up until the end when it was revealed.
In the first movie Poirot is pulled into an investigation by an old friend who stumbled upon a terrified woman who encountered a dead body. The woman, Sheila Webb (Jaime Winstone), is from a typist pool and she was booked to meet a blind woman and help her with a task. When she arrived she found the body of a dead man. The truly odd thing is that the man was surrounded by four different clocks and they were all stopped at the same time. Poirot’s friend, Lt. Colin Race (Tom Burke), brings the detective into the case as a favor and Poirot is quickly intrigued by the truly odd circumstances.
This was an excellent episode that captures the pre-war mood of the era (this episode is set in the 1930’s although the book it was based on is set in the 60’s) and adds some espionage to the mystery element. David Suchet, as usual, is excellent as Poirot, his every foible and manner carefully demonstrated as he works through the case. The supporting cast is also very strong in support of this stellar episode. Subplots and nuances abound but are never overwhelming or distracting from the main plot.
In this tale Poirot is called in by crime novelist Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker) to investigate the murder of a young girl at a children’s costume party. The deceased girl, Joyce (Macy Nyman), had boasted early on in the party that she had seen a murder years before, no one paid her much mind but hours later she was found dead. At the party were numerous children and some assorted villagers from the sleepy town of Woodleigh Common. Poirot immediately senses there is much more to the situation than meets the eye and is determined to find out what happened with this murder and and in turn discover the truth about the one Joyce alluded to at the party.
I found this to be the weakest of the three movies in this collection. The story itself is not as engaging or far reaching as the other two tales and some of the principal characters push past uninteresting to nearly annoying. Poirot is still an engaging character and his methodical and unorthodox methods at uncovering the guilty as always interesting but it was not enough for this tale to match the others. Regardless this is a competent episode and still better than many other mystery movies/shows made and worth watching.
All three movies in this collection are well worth watching with The Clocks and Three Act Tragedy being standouts. David Suchet is absolutely brilliant as Poirot and embodies the role in a way that would make Agatha Christie proud. The ensemble casts are generally very capable and the high production values ensure that each episode suits the grandeur of the works.
Not much can be said about the audio except that it is minimal but capable. Despite originally airing in 2009/2010 the audio is only presented in 2.0 stereo PCM which is a crime Poirot should investigate. These are not high action explosive mysteries a la Sherlock Holmes, but Poirot mysteries are all about the subtleties which could have greatly benefited from a surround experience incorporating ambient sounds and locational audio. The audio gets the job done, but does nothing to envelop the viewer which to me is a lost opportunity for itv and Acorn Media.
Presented in 1080p with a 16:9 aspect ratio this collection has a relatively sharp look while conveying the art deco style of the 30’s and 40’s it is based in. The fact that the video is presented in full HD is odd as the audio is basic stereo, but the production made their choices and that was on the side of video presentation. These three tales span multiple cities, indoor locales, forests and varied villages and the cinematography is well done and complements the stories in each way. One foible I noticed is that at times the look on screen is washed out, this could be due to the design and style, but I found it occasionally distracting. Other than that these are filmed in a timeless style that works great for the source material and the presentation is more than competent.
Well this is an easy one to tackle, there are none, no extras at all. Much like the audio this is a huge wasted opportunity to add interest in the remainder of the collection. There is no behind the scenes, no commentaries, no way for people to further get into the Poirot universe. A true shame as the actors, world and characters are all so interesting, it would have been great to delve into all of those aspects further.
The Final Word
Barebones issues on blu-ray like Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Movie Collection, Set 6 make me a little angry at the wasted potential. The audio is presented in 2.0 stereo, there are no extras at all and while the video is 1080p it is presented in a way that doesn’t greatly benefit from the format. It is nice to have the collection on Blu-ray, but really there is no great benefit over a DVD release here (aside from a higher price tag which only benefits Acorn and itv). While the individual movies on this set are well worth watching it is hard to recommend this on the blu-ray format.