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    Agatha Christie's Poirot: Series 7 & 8 Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray TV Reviews

    Nov 09 2013 04:41 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Two movie-length adaptations of golden age Agatha Christie novels each distinguished seasons seven and eight of Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Though one of the four tales doesn’t really measure up to the best that Mrs. Christie wrote during her most fertile period of production covered by these adaptations, there is no denying that all four are tremendously enjoyable entertainments sparked by the definitive performance of David Suchet as Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Other
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    • Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
    • Subtitles: English SDH
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 6 Hr. 52 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: keep case with slipcover
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: ABC
    • Release Date: 10/01/2013
    • MSRP: $49.99

    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    The set gets off to a smashing start with its best mystery The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. This was the book that propelled Agatha Christie from the ranks of competent mystery writers into the forefront of detective fiction masters (a place she held for four decades), a book so audacious and amazing that its surprises are still being discussed almost ninety years later. The reasons for its daring denouement aren’t immediately apparent in the film version; one must read the book to receive the full shock of its surprise ending: it appears here as another of Mrs. Christie’s cleverly crafted crime plots with a tidy pool of suspects all with believable motives worthy of the murder of industrialist Roger Ackroyd (Malcolm Terris). Poirot (David Suchet) who has retired from detecting and is now growing frustrating vegetable marrows in the country is drawn into the investigation since Ackroyd was a friend and his valued neighbor Dr. James Sheppard (Oliver Ford Davis) was Ackroyd’s friend and personal physician. The murder seems to point to Ackroyd’s stepson Ralph Paton (Jamie Bamber) who has conveniently vanished after the murder behind a locked door is discovered, but as with most of Mrs. Christie’s mysteries, there’s more here than meets the eye with secrets and lies all preventing Poirot from ferreting out the truth quickly.

    Surprisingly popular in its day but arguably one of Mrs. Christie’s lesser efforts, Lord Edgware Dies sets up one of those Christie puzzles where an accused person witnessed by several others turns out to have an airtight alibi in the question of a murder. In this case, it’s acclaimed actress Jane Wilkinson (Helen Grace), the wife of the obnoxious Lord Edgware (John Castle), accused of murdering her husband freeing her from his tyranny and leaving her free to marry another man whom she loves. Though Mrs. Christie throws lots of hurdles in the way of the famous Belgian sleuth as he attempts to unravel the motives of a large list of suspects, it adds up to a lot of smoke and mirrors in one of Mrs. Christie’s easiest to solve conundrums. The saving grace of this production is the most welcome reunion of the Poirot repertory company from earlier seasons: Arthur Hastings (Hugh Fraser), Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson), and efficient secretary Miss Felicity Lemon (Pauline Moran) all have important roles to fill as Poirot leaves his country retirement and returns to the hustle and bustle of his busy London consulting detective practice.

    Being herself the wife of an internationally renowned archeologist and one who for decades followed her husband on all of his Middle Eastern digs, Agatha Christie’s Murder in Mesopotamia certainly has the ring of truth about it. The victim here is the wife (Barbara Barnes) of archeologist Dr. Eric Leidner (Ron Berglas), a woman who had been receiving threatening letters from her first husband whom she had assumed to be dead. There are certainly plenty of people who wanted Mrs. Leidner out of the way including her husband’s assistants Miss Anne Johnson who was in love with Dr. Leidner herself and Richard Carey (Christopher Bowen) who had a love-hate relationship with the deceased. Once again, Poirot and Hastings are working together, and Hastings’ nephew Bill (Jeremy Turner-Welch), a too-jolly fellow who had invited them to the dig, also turns out to be one of the suspects. It’s another of Mrs. Christie’s shining hours with a really baffling puzzle that takes Poirot an inordinate amount of time to solve.

    After a fainting spell at Hastings’ new restaurant, Poirot is carted off to a health resort for a fortnight of rest and strict diet, but he finds instead murder and drug smuggling on the menu. The victim is actress Arlena Stuart (Louise Delamere) who was carrying on a rather open affair with the dashing Patrick Redfern (Michael Higgs), much to the consternation of her husband Kenneth (David Mallinson), her stepson Lionel (Russell Tovey), and Patrick’s mousy wife Christine (Tamzin Malleson). But they aren’t the only people at the resort who had grudges against the lovely and wealthy Arlena. The case is one of Mrs. Christie’s most intricately plotted mysteries with specifics of time and place which make it quite unique among her books. Though this TV adaptation can’t hold a candle to the vastly entertaining 1982 all-star film version with its rollicking Cole Porter score, this adaptation is more faithful to the original story and does include (though the book does not) the presences once again of Captain Hastings, Inspector Japp, and Miss Lemon.

    All of the mysteries in this latest set are handsome affairs with their 1930s settings (even though one of the four stories was actually written in the 1920s and another in the 1940s), and feature a collection of expert British character actors who do them proud. David Suchet is again magnificent as Poirot with all of his eccentricities and foibles the cause for much merriment amid the mayhem, while fans of Captain Hastings, Inspector Japp, and Miss Lemon will be happy to see them take part in some of these mysteries as well.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    These films were broadcast on American television’s A&E in the old conventional 4:3 format, but these transfers are framed at 1.78:1 (1080p, AVC codec). Some close-ups do appear rather tight sometimes with tops of heads lopped off, but whether that was the intention or not I have no way of knowing. Medium and long shots seem better framed and more natural. Sharpness is very good and apart from some aliasing glimpsed in Lord Edgware Dies, the transfers are pristine with excellent color and accurate flesh tones. Each film has been divided into 10 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4.5/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo sound mix seems a bit more active and expansive with Lord Edgware Dies and Murder in Mesopotamia than with the other two transfers. Fidelity is very good in each transfer that feature music scores and sound effects which co-exist nicely with the well recorded dialogue which is never compromised by other elements of the mix.

    Special Features: 0/5

    There are no bonus features at all with this release, not even the Agatha Christie and David Suchet biographies which used to be found on all of the DVD releases of these films.

    Overall Rating: 4/5

    Four reasonably faithful and most entertaining transcriptions of some Agatha Christie classics can be found in Poirot: Series 7 & 8. Those who have the 4:3 DVD transfers of these broadcasts will enjoy the more cinematic feel of these new high definition transfers and the much improved picture and sound. Recommended!

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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