Agatha Christie’s Poirot – Series 2 (Blu-ray)
Directed by Renny Rye et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 523 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
Region: no designation
MSRP: $ 49.99
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Review Date: January 17, 2012
The novel adaptation is the first of the offerings in this new set – Peril at End House (divided into two installments). It’s one of the best of Mrs. Christie’s 1930s mysteries, and it finds Poirot and Hastings enjoying a little holiday at the Hotel Majestic when they meet Nick Buckley (Polly Walker), a charming young lady who’s recently run into a series of what she thinks is just bad luck (brakes on her car failing, a boulder almost crushing her) but which Poirot believes are attempts on her life, a fact he becomes even more sure of when a bullet grazes by her face and puts a hole through her bonnet. Filled with interesting suspects, subplots involving drug smuggling and hidden romances, and Mrs. Christie’s diabolical use of confused and confusing names and identities, this is the best of the entries in this new set of episodes.
There are other gems in this collection, however, and a couple of the very best short stories are now dramatized: “Double Sin” where Poirot decides to retire leaving poor Hastings to attempt to solve the mystery of stolen miniatures on his own, and “The Veiled Lady,” the series’ funniest outing in which Poirot, who had been ruminating about what a fabulous criminal he would have made, actually becomes a sneak thief in attempting to retrieve some incriminating letters. Once again, Mrs. Christie trots out her old reliable puzzle gimmick of using disguises to obfuscate the truth in a couple of the stories, and a couple of others are more espionage thrillers (“The Adventure of the Cheap Flat” and “The Kidnapped Prime Minister”) than mysteries, quite similar to the thriller element in such novels of hers as The Secret Adversary and N or M? There’s a puzzle, of course, but it’s a relatively minor one relegated to the more central purpose of a capture or a rescue. Once again, with all of the stories being set during the 1930s, the production design for the series, from its art deco title design to the clothes and cars of the period, continues to impress; it’s one of the most exciting aspects of all of the elaborate Poirot productions produced over the past two decades.
With an entire season of Poirot under his belt, David Suchet is now in complete command of the role and milks Poirot’s little wry jokes and also his pained expressions of muffled exasperation to delightful effect. Hugh Fraser may be as slow-witted as ever as the jovial Captain Hastings, but he’s irreplaceable in the role. Philip Jackson continues to amuse as Chief Inspector Japp, several of the episodes clearly illustrating his closeness to Poirot and supreme confidence in his abilities. Pauline Moran is the ever-efficient, no-nonsense secretary Miss Lemon, and she even gets to do some “field work” for Poirot in a couple of episodes.
Christie scholars have never placed the quality of her short mysteries on the same plane with her novels, and they’re right that the short story form was not Mrs. Christie’s real forte. Without the extensive pages to write her puzzling mysteries in great depth with labyrinthine subplots and lots of suspects, her short stories most often turn on a single trick or a twist with only the most cursory characterizations for her cast of players. And once one knows the few tricks she has up her sleeve for her brief stories, solving some of the puzzles becomes quite easy. Perhaps this is why it’s never a good idea to watch more than one or two of these episodes at a time. Once the viewer catches on to Mrs. Christie’s methods in these short tales, second guessing her becomes relatively easy, much easier than in any of her novels.
Here are the nine selections in this two disc Blu-ray set:
1 – Peril at End House (two installments)
2 – The Veiled Lady
3 – The Lost Mine
4 – The Cornish Mystery
5 – The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim
6 – Double Sin
7 – The Adventure of the Cheap Flat
8 – The Kidnapped Prime Minister
9 – The Adventure of the Western Star
The episodes have been framed at their broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and are presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The original DVD issues of these episodes were taken from videotape masters and were sometimes quite poor. These remastered transfers constitute a great improvement in sharpness, color saturation and consistency, and contrast. While some DNR seemed to have been applied to the episodes in Series 1, the episodes in this set do not have exactly the same look. Sharpness is very good, and flesh tones are much more consistent and realistic than in the previous series. Color overall is beautifully controlled throughout. There remains none of the aliasing and moiré from the previous DVD releases, so even with the mediocre black levels, the images retain a fine, crisp look with only an occasional soft shot. Each episode has been divided into 5 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. The mono sound is quite clear and well delivered, but one laments that a lossless soundtrack wasn’t utilized for this Blu-ray release. The wonderful theme music and background score by Christopher Gunning might have been a bit more resonant with a lossless encode, and the sound effects of the impressive vintage cars and other period effects might have gained a smidgen with a higher bit rate.
There are no bonus features at all with this release, not even a porting over of the text screen of biographical information about Agatha Christie and David Suchet that was featured on the original DVD releases of these episodes.
4/5 (not an average)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot – Series 2 is a welcome high definition release of the second season of episodes featuring the definitive Hercule Poirot of actor David Suchet. With the great improvement in picture from the original DVD releases, most will be happy with the undeniable upgrade in quality as these early Poirot films begin to show up on Blu-ray. Recommended!