Four tantalizing mysteries from the casebook of Hercule Poirot form the eleventh season of Agatha Christie’s Poirot. All four stories feature devilishly clever murders, and while the stories remain reasonably close to their Agatha Christie literary counterparts (one denouement does vary wildly from Mrs. Christie’s original solution), they all continue to be worthy of the Christie name and of their detective Hercule Poirot’s famous “little gray cells.”
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. 38 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 03/04/2014
Things get off to a great start with Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, a crackerjack mystery which finds Belgian private detective Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) attempting to prove convicted killer James Bentley (Joe Absolom) is innocent of the murder of an elderly charwoman, the alleged killer’s landlady. As this is one of Mrs. Christie’s village mysteries, the crew of suspects all know one another in the closely confined community of Broadhinny, and it’s up to Poirot to sniff out the guilty party before the simple Bentley goes to the gallows. Blackmail proves to be at the root of the murder, and among Mrs. Christie’s conjuring tricks is one of her favorites: playing around with misleading names which often sends the armchair detectives among us off in the wrong directions. Because Poirot must stay in a local hostel not known for either cleanliness or edible cuisine, great comic opportunities are afforded star David Suchet to play up Poirot’s discomfort and malaise.
The Production Rating: 4/5
Unquestionably the best mystery written by Agatha Christie during her last fifteen productive years, Cat Among the Pigeons offers a wonderful, head-scratching puzzle. Beginning her story with a revolution in the Middle Eastern country of Ramat, the plot then drifts to the Meadowbank School for Girls where a new term is beginning. But this will be a school year like no other which soon produces two completed murders, one unsuccessful attack, and a kidnapping before Hercule Poirot, present to help headmistress Miss Bulstrode (Harrient Walter) select her successor, unravels all of the twists and turns of this labyrinthine plot. With all of the surviving female faculty of the school as suspects, Poirot must be at his best to ferret out the “cat among the pigeons.”
Agatha Christie wrote Third Girl as a contemporary story set in the late 1960s, but Peter Flannery’s screenplay has moved the action back a few decades robbing the narrative of some of the swinging sixties jargon and away from a definite split between the generations. The main story is still the same (young heiress Norma Restarick (Jemima Rooper) is convinced she has committed murder. It seems her former nanny (Caroline O’Neill) has been found dead (though the police are calling it suicide), but Norma thinks she’s somehow responsible). The mystery isn’t one of Mrs. Christie’s tightest. At least half of the puzzle is very easy to solve, and the other half is mostly impossible until Poirot spills out needed clues late in the film. The casting is felicitous, however, and Jemima Rooper makes a greatly sensitive and damaged Norma. Zoë Wanamaker’s Mrs. Oliver (Christie’s wicked self portrait) as an adjunct to Poirot is rather dour and humorless, however, and keeps her scenes with David Suchet from really taking off. It’s more damaging to one’s enjoyment because she’s much more front and center in this story than she is in Mrs. McGinty’s Dead. Most welcome, however, is David Yelland as Poirot’s faithful valet George.
While the basic storyline from Christie’s masterful 1938 novel Appointment with Death has been utilized (the monstrous, controlling Mrs. Boynton (Cheryl Campbell) who makes the lives of her three adopted children and her stepson a living hell unsurprisingly turns up dead), new characters have been introduced into the Guy Andrews screenplay, and the identity of the murderer and the motive for the crime have been significantly altered (and not for the better) from the novel. (If one wants to see a more faithful rendition of the book, check out Michael Winner’s bumpy but acceptable 1988 all-star movie version.) Still, even with the changes, the story is absorbing, and the main characters are beautifully acted. Tim Curry has a rich dramatic role as the eager archaeologist desperate to make a significant find, and John Hannah as one of the two doctors (and the family psychiatrist) on the dig makes a significant impression. Also quite impressive are Cheryl Campbell as the dragon-like mother and Mark Gatiss (of Sherlock fame) as the long suffering stepson.
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 Mrs. McGinty’s Dead and Cat Among the Pigeons. There seems to be an overuse of diffusion filters used in those two productions taking away sharpness on a regular basis. Third Girl and Appointment with Death seem much more naturally sharp and detailed. Color reproduction for all four mysteries is very good with greens being especially vivid and no blooming present in any of the hues. Skin tones are natural throughout. Black levels are also 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 offers rich stereo tracks which present excellent fidelity for each of the four films. Each transfer features music scores by Christian Henson and sound effects which blend nicely with the well-recorded dialogue which is never compromised by other elements of the mix.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Despite the liner notes which promise the porting of the production notes written by David Suchet and Tim Curry for the DVD release of Appointment with Death, there are no bonus features on the enclosed two discs in this set.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
This is yet another successful and entertaining season, the eleventh, of Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Mystery fans will undoubtedly enjoy the crisper picture and lossless sound of these new high definition transfers and will look forward to completing their high definition collections when the remaining Poirot films are finally produced. Recommended!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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