Wednesday , September 23 2020
The mysteries are pure intellectual candy and satisfy that particular craving.

DVD Review: Poirot Classic Collection 2

Hercule Poirot is quite possibly the most famous fictional detective in the English-speaking world. His creator, Agatha Christie, was a prolific author and wrote more than 60 books throughout her lifetime, and some of the most celebrated books are those that feature the mustachioed Belgian detective. Along with the popularity of the books came stage, film, and television productions of the stories, all with varying degrees of faithfulness to the original source material.

Among those who have portrayed Poirot on film, David Suchet is perhaps the best. I know there are some who think that Peter Ustinov is the definitive Poirot actor, but for me, Suchet is Poirot. His role in Poirot canon began in the late '80s with the BBC televised series, and he has continued to reprise the part almost annually since then. The BBC productions vary in length, from one to two hours, depending on the needs of the story, and all of them have been released in the United States on DVD by Acorn Media.

In fact, many fans who have faithfully purchased each DVD as they have become available will not find much new about Poirot Classic Collection 2, other than the compact storage case. All nine movies in the collection have been previously released by Acorn with different packaging. The one exception is the documentary about Agatha Christie's summer home called Agatha Christie's Garden and hosted by Pam Ferris. However, that should not be a motivation for purchasing this collection, unless one is a rabid Christie fan, and/or a completist. The home and surrounding property have been handed over to the National Trust, and the documentary seems like the sort of informational/promotional film often shown in visitor's centers of such places. It also suffers from poorly edited and disjointed transitions.

In addition to being essentially the same content Acorn Media released in different packaging, the extras, with the exception of the documentary, are essentially the same: text biographical information about Suchet and Christie. It's nice, but not very useful or entertaining. Most, if not all of the content can be found in more suitable locations such as the official Agatha Christie website. Personally, I don't reference DVD text when I want to know an actor's filmography or more information about the author behind the screenplay.

The films themselves are the meat of the product, and they are just as good as one expects them to be. Poirot remains the central character throughout, and is frequently joined by his regular film companions Captain Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp, and Miss Lemon. These three characters, while present in the books, are not as prominent as they are portrayed on film. However, this serves the series well by providing the tools for character development via the relationship that Poirot has with each.

The mysteries are pure intellectual candy and satisfy that particular craving. Those included in this collection are: The ABC Murders, Death in the Clouds, Dumb Witness, Hercule Poirot's Christmas, Hickory Dickory Dock, Murder on the Links, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, and Peril at End House. Each of them stays true to the perspective of the original books, and the filming style and approach treats them like serious productions and not just TV movies. The actors are as responsible for pulling off the productions as the crew and set designers. They are visibly comfortable in the roles of their 1930s and 1940s characters, and I found myself learning a bit of history and culture from the films.

One of the movies, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, is the story of how Poirot and Hastings met and of their first case together. It is also the first novel that Christie wrote. Set in 1916 after many Belgians had sought refuge in England while their country was under occupation by the Germans, the story both establishes the characters and their relationships, as well as introducing the reader/viewer to the style of detective thriller that Christie is most well known for. Within the context of the film set, it seems out of place coming so late in the collection, which is another indication that there is an expectation that viewers will already be familiar with the characters and their background. However, it is still an enjoyable production and one of the best in the collection.

On the whole, the films in Poirot Classic Collection 2 are fun and intellectually stimulating, and are worth acquiring in and of themselves — particularly if one does not own them already.

About Anna Creech

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