For their ninth series of Hercule Poirot adventures, the producers of Poirot selected three of Agatha Christie’s most baffling mysteries from her golden years of creativity and finished out the season with one of her solid if admittedly second-tier efforts. All four made-for-television films feature the Belgian sleuth exercising his “little gray cells” to ferret out the guilty parties from among a handful of viable suspects. Coincidentally, all four of these gems feature love triangles at the cores of their stories. It will be a crafty mystery buff indeed who can beat Mrs. Christie at her own game before Poirot reveals the culprits.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 6 Hr. 32 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 10/29/2013
The season gets underway with the first and best of a long string of Mrs. Christie’s murder in retrospect stories: Five Little Pigs. Asked to investigate by the daughter (Aimee Mullins) of her deceased mother (Rachael Stirling) convicted for killing her husband (Aidan Gillen) who had announced he was leaving her for his new lover (Julie Cox), Poirot (David Suchet) must dig through fourteen years of faded memories and conflicting testimony before arriving at the truth of who really killed artist Amyas Crale. Along the way he also meets the aunt (Sophie Winkleman as an adult, Talulah Riley as a child) of the bereaved daughter and two brothers (Toby Stephens, Marc Warren), best friend of the deceased and unrequited admirer of the convicted killer respectively, any of whom might actually be the guilty party.Things are on more familiar, traditional ground with Sad Cypress whose title alone suggests this is one of the more melancholy and disheartening of Mrs. Christie’s murder puzzles. Arrested, convicted, and waiting to be executed for the murder of Mary Gerrard (Kelly Reilly), a woman who had broken up her engagement to the singularly attractive Roddy Welman (Rupert Penry-Jones), Elinor Carlisle (Elisabeth Walsh) protests her innocence, but the evidence of her poisoning fish paste sandwiches seems overwhelming. Poirot is brought into the case by Dr. Peter Lord (Paul McGann) who’s carrying a torch for the convicted heiress, but the clues are baffling indeed as Poirot sorts through a maze of misinformation, hidden identities, and shifting loyalties.Another of Agatha Christie’s undisputed masterpieces comes to the small screen in Death on the Nile. Though the all-star 1978 movie version of the book featured the basics of the novel’s plot and many of its characters, this ITV version is more faithful to the source if considerably less fun. In both, wealthy Linnet Ridgeway (Emily Blunt) steals and marries her penniless best friend Jackie’s (Emma Malin) fiancé Simon Doyle (J. J. Feild) and proceeds on an Egyptian honeymoon only to find the vengeful Jackie stalking them at every stop threatening at one point to kill one or both of them. When Linnet does indeed turn up dead shot through the head with Jackie’s pistol, all eyes turn to Jackie as the murderer even though she has a rock solid alibi. Poirot on vacation looks into the matter assisted by his old friend Colonel Race (Edward Fox) and uncovers plenty of other suspects who wanted the rich and somewhat haughty Linnet dead. Before the answer can be revealed, two more people meet their deaths making this one of Mrs. Christie’s more violent if masterful exercises in detection.Lesser in importance in the Christie canon but nevertheless an entertaining program is The Hollow. Set in a country retreat based on the real-life home of British stage and screen actor Francis L. Sullivan, the story finds serial philanderer Dr. John Christow (Jonathan Cake) dead beside a backyard swimming pool with his mousy wife Gerda (Claire Price) standing over him with a gun and Christow’s lover Henrietta (Megan Dodds) standing nearby watching. With Gerda swearing her innocence, neighbor Hercule Poirot feels some need to assist in the investigation. As always there are plenty of others with motives for murder including a visiting Hollywood star (Lysette Anthony) who was a long ago lover of the dead doctor making for one of Christie’s cozy domestic murder puzzles. Truth be told, though, this is by far the easiest one for the casual viewer to solve before Poirot announces his solution.All of the mysteries in this latest set are handsome affairs with their 1930s settings (even though three of the four stories were actually published in the 1940s) and feature a collection of expert British character actors who do them proud. David Suchet is so comfortable in Poirot’s tight patent leather shoes that it’s scarcely acting any more; it’s just being. Fans of Captain Hastings, Inspector Japp, and Miss Lemon are out of luck with this set, however; none of them appear in these mysteries.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
These films were broadcast on American television 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 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 particularly with Five Little Pigs and The Hollow. Sad Cypress seems the softest and most inconsistent of the transfers. All feature good color reproduction (greens are especially true) and accurate flesh tones. Black levels are just fine. Each film has been divided into 10 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 sound mix is mono rather than stereo. Fidelity is very good in each transfer that features music scores and sound effects that co-exist nicely with the well recorded dialogue which is never compromised by other elements of the mix.
Audio Rating: 4/5
There are no bonus features at all with this release, not even the Agatha Christie and David Suchet text biographies which used to be found on all of the DVD releases of these films.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
Four faithful and entertaining transcriptions of some Agatha Christie classics can be found in Poirot: Series 9. With just a few remaining mysteries which have yet to be ported over to Blu-ray, fans of the great Belgian sleuth will soon have their collections complete.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
Support HTF when you buy this title: