By 1960, famed mystery novelist Agatha Christie, was so tired of her literary creation, Belgium detective Hercule Poirot, she was quoted as describing him as a “detestable, bombastic, ego-centric little creep.” Yet, the public loved him, and she continued to write novels featuring Hercule Poirot until she killed him off in Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case, a novel written in the early 1940s but not published until 1975, her last published work.
British television’s ITV Studios recently announced this year they will film the remaining five stories not yet part of the series in their wonderful Agatha Christie’s Poirot television programs, leaving only one short story in the Christie canon featuring the Belgium detective unrealized.
Newly remastered on DVD and Blu-Ray, Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Series 3 (Acorn Media), is a sumptuous visual feast bursting with bright and brilliant color and laced with articulate 1930s era detail. The eleven episodes — including one feature length, The Mysterious Affair at Styles — are considerably more vivid and sharply defined that the original PBS broadcasts.
David Suchet’s masterful characterization or Christie’s transported Belgium detective Hercule Poirot, is so impeccably nuanced in physical and psychological detail, it would seem he was the prototype Christie used when she wrote her famous detective novels and stories. A championing rise of his walking stick on his search for clues, a studied cock of the eyebrow, and that ridiculous small footed effeminate walking gate, subtly draws attention to the character as the ensuing mystery threatens to engulf him.
The attention to period detail in the episodes is impressive. Automobiles, planes and trains, all boast an authentic newly built sheen, and elaborate art-deco decor enhances architecture and interior design. The costuming is flamboyant, yet assured and never overwhelming.
Aside from the delightful performance of Suchet, and an always first rate supporting cast, it’s the mysteries themselves, trimmed with warm comedic touches, that make these episodes so enjoyable. The stories are tidy who-done-its that intrigue as they entertain. We get a rare glimpse of Poirot’s past as a war ravaged refugee in The Double Clue, in which romance overwhelms justice. In this unique episode, Poirot pardons himself from the case in the interest of love, or at the very least profound deep respect, allowing the London police to bungle the resolution.
In The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor, actor Desmond Britt offers an amusing comedic bit as the owner of a country inn who lures Poirot with a fabricated murder-mystery drawn from his own unfinished literary manuscript. Naturally, a real murder then ensues. Here we get a sample of Poirot’s frustrated, agitated self when asked about the accommodations at the inn. He acidly replies, “The duck feather pillows — it feels as though the ducks are still in them.”
Each episode offers a bounty of delights. Subtle cinematic touches carefully construct grand English vistas both combustible engine urban and steam locomotive rural. The programs are as visual and rewarding as a ride on The Orient Express.