By the tenth series of Hercule Poirot television films, the producers were feeling freer to experiment with Dame Agatha Christie’s creations. They hadn’t yet resorted to changing the denouements (that would come later), but they have invented new characters occasionally and switched around relationships in order to better dramatize the core mysteries for a viewing audience. And they’ve been completely successful in their attempts turning out four films that are consistently baffling and most entertaining.
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 Hrs. 28 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 11/26/2013
Agatha Christie always claimed that The Mystery of the Blue Train was the worst book she ever wrote (her usually agile mind was completely distracted coming off a traumatic divorce from her first husband), but Christie scholars would undoubtedly disagree with her (Passenger to Frankfurt and Postern of Fate, both written in old age, are easily her worst). In this variation of her short story “The Plymouth Express” (already dramatized for TV and available on Blu-ray), wealthy Ruth Kettering (Jaime Murray) is found brutally murdered on le train bleu with her priceless “Heart of Fire” ruby missing on her way to the Riviera to rendezvous with her lover. Her abusive husband Derek (James D’arcy) has been accused of the crime, and Ruth’s millionaire industrialist father Rufus (Elliott Gould) who hates Derek is pushing for his arrest and for the case to be closed. But there are greedy relatives also on the train who are all major suspects, and Poirot’s (David Suchet) little gray cells must go into overtime to figure this one out.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Cards on the Table is easily one of Agatha Christie’s masterpieces. The Queen of Detection set herself up to a heady challenge: murder a man, the host of the evening (Alexander Siddig), in a closed room where four other people are playing bridge. One of them is obviously the killer, but which one? There are no tricks or last minute reveals: one of them truly did do it, but which: the womanizing doctor (Alex Jennings), the snobbish major (Tristan Gemmill), the sweet young innocent (Lyndsey Marshal), or a middle-aged widow (Lesley Manville)? Poirot is on hand playing bridge in the next room and discovers the death when his game had concluded, and his subsequent investigation turns up murders in the pasts of all four suspects making each of them potentially capable of having committed the crime. This story also marked the first appearance of Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, Agatha Christie’s amusingly self-deprecating semi-portrait of herself as a writer of popular mystery stories. As played by Zoë Wanamaker, she’s a fairly incompetent investigator but an amusingly brusque, flighty counterpoint to Poirot’s more steady and serious detective.
Two postwar mysteries from Christie’s comfortable but rather conventional middle-aged period wrap up the season. After the Funeral is a solid domestic murder mystery with a squabbling family all potential suspects. At the reading of the will of the deceased, wealthy Richard Abernethie (John Carson), his dotty sister Cora (Monica Dolan) casually wonders if his sudden death could have been the result of murder rather than by natural causes. The family is shocked by her suggestion, but when Cora herself turns up brutally hacked to death the next morning, it seems there is indeed a murderer in the family. The family solicitor enlists Hercule Poirot to investigate, and the Belgian detective turns up an entire family whose alibis are all lies making his job doubly difficult in order to sort everything out and come up with the killer.
Taken at the Flood is one of the darker, more dour of Mrs. Christie’s postwar mysteries. The plotting is very complex, and because Mrs. Christie is playing a masterful game of subterfuged identities, the characters can never be trusted. Another domestic crime puzzle, this one involves the Cloade family, a grasping bunch of needy relatives who have always relied on their rich patriarch to bail them out of their financial problems. When an explosion rocks his home and kills him, his youthful bride Rosaleen (Eva Birthistle) with no head for business is left with her overbearing brother David Hunter (Elliot Lowan) calling all of the shots and refusing to dole out any more pounds to the money-strapped Cloades. With the family desperate to find some way to extricate Rosaleen and her brother from the family fortune, Poirot is called in to help, and a good thing, too, since bodies begin to drop once he starts snooping around.
David Suchet goes it alone in these four mysteries with none of the other familiar faces from his repertory company to assist him. (David Yelland begins appearing as his valet George during the final episode and will continue to be the most familiar face associated with Poirot from here on out.) As always, Suchet is masterful in the role and really comes into his own in the denouement sequence of Taken at the Flood where his solution so infuriates him at the cold-blooded evil-mindedness of the killer that he can hardly contain himself. It seems unconscionable that Suchet has never been even nominated for an Emmy for any of his performances in this long-running series, but such is the case. It’s a crime worthy of even Poirot’s most concerted efforts of investigation.
The films are all presented in 1.78:1 and are offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness seems a little off in the first two efforts The Mystery of the Blue Train and Cards on the Table. After the Funeral and Taken at the Flood seem much more naturally sharp and detailed. Color reproduction for all four mysteries is very good with greens being especially vivid and no blooming in any of the hues. Black levels are fine throughout. 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 the stereo that was present on the DVDs. Fidelity is very good in each transfer that features music scores and sound effects which co-exist nicely with the well-recorded dialogue which is never compromised by other elements of the mix.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Behind the Scenes Featurette (45:36, SD): a look behind the scenes at the filming of all four mysteries contained in this package. Star David Suchet also reminisces about the sixteen years he has been playing Poirot for this series with producers and co-stars praising his efforts of getting into and staying in character.
Special Features Rating: 2/5
Photo Gallery (2:31, SD): some portraits and behind-the-scenes shots taken during the production of these four mysteries offered in montage form.
Yet another successful and entertaining season, the tenth, of Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Mystery fans will undoubtedly enjoy the crisper, richer picture and sound of these new transfers, and the bonus material is also most welcome. Recommended!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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