Customer Reviews: Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Movie Collection, Set 5
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POIROT set 5 is just plain GOOD murder mystery. Agatha Christie suspense perfect. David Suchet acting excellence. Combined they make any British Mystery viewer salivate. Add top guest stars in each, SUBTITLES for the hearing and dialect challenged, and kick in some of the best filmed period mystery ever produced. It's what fans have come to expect with Poirot, Agatha Christie, Masterpiece Mystery, and the untouchable as Hercule Poirot--David Suchet. The best Poirot yet, of what I've seen.

Perhaps the best of A. Christie's books. It was written in 1934 and the story begins Sep. 26, 1938.
Poirot is allowed to fill an unoccupied birth as the Orient Express moves out from Istanbul to England. The luxury car he rides includes American Samuel Ratchett (Toby Jones), a princess (Eileen Atkins of `Cold Mountain'), railroad director Bouc, a doctor,&...well a dozen travelers. The Orient Express gets stuck in a snowdrift (a true event that inspired A. Christie) and the group is also visited with a murder in the train car. There is proof the murderer is yet on the train and Poirot (with the help of the railroader and doctor) intends to find him/her. That's the plot, simple enough, but the deed, and the unveiling of the killer is what makes this story so exceptional, memorable, and emotional. You'll want to watch it a second and third time.
...47 minutes of Suchet hosting a tour of the present Orient Express is an interesting documentary added. He took the ride prior to playing the part for this movie. Also bonus on this disc includes `120 years with Agatha Christie', a list of Poirot books, & filmographies. 89 minute feature.

The 1966 published book begins with Norma Restarick (Jemima Rooper) asking Poirot for help as she MAY have murdered. Poirot's crime writer friend, Ariadne (Zoe Wanamaker) gets in on the case after Norma's ex-nanny's suicide proves to be murder. Peter Bowles plays a blind uncle, James Wilby plays Norma's father, and these and other fine stars make the excellent suspense and mystery come to life--or should we also say `to death?' Top mystery and crime drama.
...bonus is only filmographies, but the feature is 93 minutes.

The book was published in 1938, but the story is Syria, 1937. An archaeological dig after the head of John the Baptist is visited by Lord Boynton (Tim Curry) the dig head, domineering Lady Boynton (Cheryl Campbell), son Leonard Boynton, adopted adult children Raymond, Carol, Jinny, writer Westholme (Elizabeth McGovern), Dr Sarah King, a nun, an aged nanny, others, and of course Poirot. Lady Boynton is about as popular as the sand fleas and ends up dead, giving Poirot a case, and plenty of suspects. Also plenty of bodies begin to pile up looking something like an episode in "Midsomer Murders." A fascinating finish, as expected from Agatha Christie.
...some film written notes by Curry, and cast filographies make up the bonus. 93 min. feature.

There is perfection in these Agatha Christie Poirot stories.
There is finesse in the acting from Suchet and many, many others.
There is quality in the production of these DVDs by Acorn Media.
There are subtitles provided by Acorn Media.
And personally, my wife and I enjoyed the documentary and history of riding on the Orient Express train as much as we did the movies. An opportunity to see David Suchet without his Poirot make-up and clothing. You can also get a different look at this famous actor in the Athena DVD titled "Playing Shakespeare."
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on June 25, 2010
First I want to make it clear that I have compared the Acorn Media DVDs to the PBS broadcast. The Acorn Media DVDs clock in from 89 to 94 minutes long while the PBS broadcast ended around the 85 minute mark, and this includes their Masterpiece Mystery open & host introduction. There is a Masterpiece Mystery logo at the beginning, but I think Acorn Media had to tag that on to connect it to PBS. This is the UK Version. I did not do a scene by scene comparison to see what PBS cut.

Regardless of the sequence listed on the box, I feel the first viewing should be THE THIRD GIRL (2009 - 94 minutes). Even though in the book canon it is much later that Orient Express, here it feels earlier. Poirot is at home in his apartment & full of the zest to excite his "Little Gray Cells" to solve a mystery. One almost expects to see Captain Hastings & Inspector Japp turn up even though they are well gone from the series. Of the three mysteries in this set, this one most feels like the earlier hour-long episodes. Production values, while good, are not as high as on the latter two destination mysteries. The action is mostly indoors, restricted to a dozen or so sets, just as in the short story adaptations. I found this to be the most fun to watch in this set, maybe because it felt familiar. A psychological mystery of a girl who thinks she may have committed a murder & the strange people around her will keep you wondering just what is up. Clocking in 4 minutes over an hour and a half guarantees that the PBS version will be missing scenes that are on this DVD.

Next I recommend watching APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH (2009 - 93 minutes). Some liberties were taken here while adapting Agatha Christie's 1938 novel, but I feel it makes for a great cinematic mystery. Serious Christie fans have a right to complain about taking liberties with her work since atrocities have been done in the past. I have read the book and seen this DVD and this time I feel it is for the better. I am not saying they are improving on the original book, I am just saying the book would not have directly translated well to a mystery movie. Poirot appears in this movie right from the start and the mystery of who these characters are and what brings them there is withheld for a while in the movie, helping to build the atmosphere & character. The book gives Poirot an obligatory appearance at the start & then he disappears while the mysterious characters of the story are introduced right away. A transcript interview with David Suchet reveals that they veered away some what from the original story in adapting the book. While he wishes to stay true to the mysteries he seems to feel the same way as me. Guest-star Tim Burton also has a transcripted interview talking about how he wanted to do a Poirot mystery with David Suchet & how he got on it. Again, this runs over the Hour and a Half mark.

In MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2010 - 89 minutes) David Suchet now portrays a more troubled & aged Poirot, one who no longer seems to get the pleasure of using his "little gray cells". He battles between the concept of Truth & Justice while upholding the written law when the law seems unjust. Poirot also looks ill, much like the last episodes of Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes. Yet when you watch the bonus documentary with David Suchet traveling on the present day Orient Express you see that the actor is energetic & well. It is also fun to hear David talk in his true voice in this documentary.

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS was produced in Hi Definition & Acorn will be releasing a Blu-ray version later this year. Agatha Christie Poirot: Murder On the Orient Express (2010) (Blu-ray) I did a comparison of this standard DVD, using a Blu-ray player to unconvert it to 1080p, to PBS's Hi-Def 1080i broadcast on a HD-TV. I saw little difference over all, the many lush exterior shots of the train and the landscape seem to take advantage of the Hi-Def picture more that the interior shots. In both cases grain was at a minimum, but the trees & landscape took on more depth in the HD broadcast. Keep in mind that the Blu-ray presentation will be in 1080p as opposed to PBS's 1080i broadcast, and I was watching a "Clear QAM" transmission of the PBS signal over a Cable TV system. These factors mean that the Hi-Def picture I watched over PBS would not be as sharp as a Blu-ray disc. However this presentation looks fine over a HD-TV monitor smaller than 36". Since the Blu-ray release is planned to be a stand-alone disc, you may want to consider your screen size before dishing out the extra bucks.

The other two mysteries are hold-overs from last year and were not produced in Hi-definition. While they look good, they are not quite as sharp.

All are Anamorphic Widescreen presentations with optional subtitles to help with the accents.
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HALL OF FAMEon August 2, 2000
Thanks to Acorn Media, we may very well soon have all the Hercule Poirot episodes available for easy watching, the shorter ones on tape and the longer on DVD. With the arrival of Set 5, we have cases 13-15 from the classic BBC series that was once shown on PBS and currently in shamefully abbreviated forms on a commercial channel.
I have already posted my general comments about this series on the webpages for the first four sets, so let me cut to the chase.
"The Tragedy of Marsdon Manor" begins comically enough with a would-be mystery writer of an inn owner summoning Poirot to solve a baffling case that happens to be fictional. Naturally a real death takes place under what seems to be supernatural circumstances; and the production does indeed create a wonderfully English country manor spooky-ness that makes this worth watching. Never mind that the solution involves all sorts of twists that verge on the incredible; but to invert the aphorism in "Sleuth," this is Inspector Fiction, not Inspector Fact.
"The Double Clue" is exceptional in that it shows Poirot emotionally involved with a suspect, a fascinating (at least to him) Russian countess who might or might not be involved in a series of jewel thefts. Japp is honestly in fear of losing his job unless the thefts are stopped, while Miss Lemon and Hastings do their own sleuthing as Poirot spends time with the countess. "The Mystery of the Spanish Chest" has a plot within the plot, so to speak, rather far-fetched. However, the presence of actor John McEnery and the opening surreally filmed dueling sequence more than make up for any storyline inconsistencies.
Again, it is always instructive to compare these dramatizations with the originals; but the former stand up very nicely on their own.
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The neat-freak Belgian Hercule Poirot returns, along with the faithful Captain Hastings, blunt Scotland Yard Inspector Japp, and hyper-efficient Miss Lemon.
"The Double Clue" is a bit of a tearjerker--jewels vanish, Japp's job is on the line, and Poirot is beginning to fall for one of the suspects, neglecting his job. Hastings and Miss Lemon attempt to salvage the investigation, but without Poirot they are going to have trouble. The end is sad, and this is the first of the Poirot shows to indicate that Miss Lemon might have more than professional feelings for her employer.
"The Mystery of the Spanish Chest" is a strange story about love, deceit, jealousy, honor, and lots of swords. A man is found stabbed in a "Spanish Chest"--and even Poirot is being checked out. This includes the excellent scene where Poirot, along with a friend, end up dancing the Charleston (with very bad grace)
"The Tragedy of Marsden Manor" is a particular favorite, with an elderly man dying unexpectedly and leaving a beautiful young widow who is being attacked by a ghost. The actress playing Lady Marsden is downright chilling at times, such as when she is staring up at the trees, and this story includes a man asking Poirot to proofread his mystery novel.
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on January 27, 2004
I so enjoyed the "Poirot" series when it was shown on PBS during the 1990's. David Suchet is for me the definitive Hercule Poirot, while Hugh Fraser and Philip Jackson are exactly how I always picture the characters of Captain Hastings and Chief Inspector Japp to be. This "Poirot" Box Set #5 contains three outstanding one-hour episodes. "The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor" is a haunting tale of the supernatural. Young and beautiful Susan Maltravers, mistress of Marsdon Manor, is being tormented by visions of a girl who killed herself years ago on the Manor grounds. I wouldn't like to reveal any more of the plot than that, but I would like to mention that in the episode the camera work is a remarkable feature and the denouement is terrifying. "The Double Clue" is a clever story about a theft that occurs during an elegant garden party. Even his romantic feelings for a Russian countess cannot distract Poirot from his first duty, to track down the thief. "The Mystery of the Spanish Chest" is my personal favorite of the three episodes, an OTHELLO-like tale of jealous lovers. In addition to fine acting from each cast member and delightful period sets and costumes, each episode features a musical score that perfectly evokes the mood of the story. Anyone who loves the "Poirot" series will thoroughly enjoy this box set. Check out the other sets and the many full-length (103 minute) "Poirot" features, as well.
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on August 12, 2010
The reviews of this Poirot release are pretty much evenly split between pro and con. Therefore, I shall go both ways.
I have read all of the Poirot books and short stories, but that was many years ago (I am well past being a sexagenarian). Even if some slight changes from the book were made to "Third Girl," the episode was perfect Suchet Poirot, just like the TV series and most, but not all, of the movies. It was well thought out and well presented. The story was told in logical sequence; Poirot gathered the facts and reached his conclusion in the end.
"Murder on the Orient Express" was more than murder; it was a disaster. All of the actors were totally wooden, amateurish and just did not present their parts effectively. Many feel that movies laden with "stars" suffer from the process; however, not the Albert Finney version. Each character was beautifully described and acted (Ingrid Bergman received an Academy Award). Take especial note of Mrs. Hubbard. In both the book and the Finney version, she just didn't shut up. In the Suchet version, we barely knew she was there. She was the mastermind who set up the entire plot and tried to create red herrings. In the finale of both the book and the Finney movie, Poirot, with a little soul searching, felt that justice would be best served by allowing the perpetrators to go unpunished, and presented the "phony" solution to the Yugoslavian police. In the Suchet version, Poirot almost goes crazy, yelling that this is not the way to go, but he is forced to do so. He almost has an apoplectic fit. NO, this version does not deserve viewing.
"Appointment with Death" was even worse. As a result of some of the negative reviews, and after seeing the movie, I reread the book (my paperback contains 192 pages). There were so many changes to the book as to almost make it a completely different story. Sometimes changes benefit a story. In this case, they were all to its detriment.
The following are the significant differences between the book and the movie. I'm sure I have forgotten to mention one or two.
1. The movie begins with a significant excavation being conducted in Egypt by Mrs. Boynton's archeologist husband. He was looking for the skull of John the Baptist. In the book, Mrs. Boynton was a widow, there were no excavations, and everyone was merely sightseeing.
2. The first 56 pages of the book involved a thorough fleshing out, or description, of the Boynton family members and the other important characters. Poirot did not appear until page 56 when he simply emerged from an elevator. He did not reappear until page 81, AFTER Mrs. Boynton's death. When the crime was committed, he was in a completely different location. In the movie, he was present with all the other characters. It was not until page 99 that he arrived upon the scene.
3. A nun enters near the beginning of the movie (later to be determined to be involved in white slavery). There was no nun in the book, nor any reference to white slavery.
4. Lady Westholme was in both the movie and the book, but there was absolutely no similarity between them, and that completely changed the complexion of the story. Miss Pierce, who was always at Lady Westholme's side in the book, and also played a significant part in the mystery, was absent from the movie. Lennox Boynton's wife, Nadine, was also absent from the movie. She, too, played a significant part.
5. In the movie, Lennox Boynton had a very outgoing and pushy personality. In the book he was way past docile. He had been mentally beaten into that state by his mother.
6. The movie contained the nanny of the children when they were young. There was no nanny in the book. The subsequent death of the nanny could not have occurred in the book since she did not exist there.
7. Throughout the movie there were flashbacks of the children crying in the bedroom, and visions, looking through a partially-open bathroom door, of the nanny physically abusing the children, amid their screams, and with Mrs. Boynton watching. The book contained no nanny, no flashbacks and no physical abuse. It was stated more than once that Mrs. Boynton was a "mental sadist." There was no physical abuse.
8. In the movie, the daughter, Ginny, was just another child of Mrs. Boynton. She was even the aggressor and stole a kiss from another character, and fell asleep in his arms. In the book she was the youngest child, the one most affected by her mother's mental sadism from which she sought shelter in a dream world.
9. I won't go into detail, but Jefferson Cope was a completely different person from book to movie.
10. WHO committed the murder and HOW was it committed? The movie and book are significantly different in both respects.
11. Finally, the denouement, the revelation of the crime and the guilty was so completely different from the book as to make them two stories that had no relation to one another.
David Suchet has appeared in so many Poirot mysteries, and has performed so well in them. WHY did he ever consent to be present in this abomination? This is a definite mark against his reputation as the ultimate Poirot.
If "Third Girl" is ever issued singly, I shall purchase it and donate this set to the public library. At least I will get a tax deduction out of it.
ADDENDUM at April 25, 2011
I have solved my problem. I purchased a DVD player that plays DVDs from all regions and have just received in the mail the Region 2 (United Kingdom) DVD of "Third Girl." It is playing beautifully. Now, as I said above, I can donate the Set 5 to the public library and gain a tax deduction. I now have the one of the three stories that is done well. I plan to order other discs from the UK that I cannot obtain here.
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on August 27, 2011
I've read every single Christie book and watched every single Suchet adaptation. I love the earlier Suchet films, but these three latest ones, particularly Appointment with Death and Murder on the Orient Express are just awful. Oh, and the usual Poirot theme music is nowhere to be heard. A real shame.

First, although I prefer film adaptations to stick to the original as much as possible (why do all these new screeplay writers feel the need to innovate when the books are so good?? there is a reason why they sell...) I can appreciate that some changes might be necessary to put a book into film form. For example, one of my favorite books, Dumb Witness, had some of its best features turned on their head (e.g. Hasting's relationship with the dog) but overall, the whole movie was really well done and it hung together nicely. Poirot was doing his usual thing. The Third Girl in this set was relatively ok. It was awfully overdramatized, but it wasn't a complete failure.

However, the other two movies in this series were unwatchable. I forced myself to finish them to the end. Appt with Death changed the storyline so much that I think it's an offense to call it a Christie movie. I guess the screenplay writers found it too difficult to elicit the sinister feel of the book and the characters. Shabby work, really!! Murder on the Orient Express was the biggest disappointment, especially since the Ustinov version was very good. I was kind of expecting the Ustinov version with Suchet, but this really couldn't be further off the mark. To sum up, it was a total butchery. Here is what I hated about the movie (I was really upset about this, given how much I was looking forward to it):

- Poirot is portrayed as a bitter, nasty old man, who is so angry at life that he turns into an avenging angel. The movie in fact begins with him being angrily justified at driving a not-so-guilty man to suicide. If you've read any of the Christie books, you will know that although Poirot had no sympathy for murder, he did have sympathy for people. Sometimes he would even manage it so that the murderer would commit suicide to prevent further sorrow to others. Never, in any of the books is he an angry blood thirsty policeman - several times he says that one of the benefits of his job is that he is not obliged to dispense earthly justice. That is precisely why in the Orient Express book he decides to let the whole thing go - because the twelve or however many people are kind of like a jury anyway - whereas in the movie, he yells and shouts and threatens to expose everyone till the very last moment. Just awful.

- The acting is awful. Never mind the other actors, even Suchet is awful! The entire movie he just stares angrily at the ground, never does he look at the viewer, and never do you see that famous spark in those eyes of his. It just got really boring and tedious after a while. In those moments when he does not stare at the ground, he's huddling in his coat and staring out a window. And his mustache is limp!!! I hope they paid him a lot of money for this movie to sell his professional soul like this.

- The way the movie is shot. So on top of all this, the movie is actually unwatchable. The director probably thought he needed to jazz Poirot up, and so he decided to shoot this in a really jerky swaying style that makes you dizzy. The whole movie is really dark and there is all this noise from the train...and never mind any luxury. The whole train looks like a dump. No doubt it's meant to be realistic and evoke the discomforts of train traveling, but c'mon, the Orient Express was the most luxurious train available!! I guess the director could never afford a ride on it, otherwise he wouldn't have made it look that way.

- Finally, a note on the religious tone of this movie. One of the other reviewers was indignant that there were only a few moments that had any religious connotations. I disagree. The whole movie had a religious note to it - yes, Poirot is only seen handling his rosary and praying a few times - but the point is that throughout the movie, Poirot justifies his angriness by appealing to a higher, divine, justice. There is no mercy!!! The woman who gets stoned in the beginning of the movie crossed the rules of her society and so she must DIE. C'mon. Not only does this have nothing to do with the Poirot in the books, it is also just awful tripe a la Hollywood. Such dramatic black and white religious reflections have no place in a European drama, unless you go back to the Middle Ages.

I really wish they would refilm this, because this is no doubt one of the biggest failures in film history. Not only does it completely fail to evoke the original book, it is also a terrible movie in itself.
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on September 1, 2010
First, I want to say that I'm a big fan of this series and have seen all of them, own the DVDS, and watch them over and over again. But the new producers of this series have ruined it. Once again missing are Miss Lemon, Hastings and the Inspector. Instead, we get an overly serious Poirot. The tone is no longer fun -- it's grim, VERY grim, in both Orient Express and Appointment With Death. I will watch neither of those shows again. Please, please bring back the old producers who did such a fine job for all those years. This new format and tone are NOT working.
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on June 2, 2011
I have always been a fan of David Suchet's Poirot. I own every single release and watch them over and over.

Throughout the Poirot series (both TV and movie) there has always been a charming character who will calmly solve the murder using dry humor and intellegence. His interaction with Captain Hasting and Miss Lemon add to the plot and they are missed in the newer movie collections.

In Set 5 you find a tired, bitter old man and dark settings - this was not a pleasure to watch and a one time viewing is all that this set will get.
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on August 1, 2010
Over the years I've come to look forward to each new installment of Suchet's Poirot and, until now, I've never been disappointed. Sadly, the team who chose to "modernize" Miss Marple got their hooks into Murder On the Orient Express.

How anyone can imagine that they can "improve" on an Agatha Christy mystery is beyond me. Such arrogance!

Here we have Poirot utterly out of character condoning the stoning of an adulteress. This wasn't anything Christie wrote; just some "improvement" this director or writer thought they would ad to show perspective. And this writer/director apparently has insight into Poirot's religious beliefs as well--what a surprise to Agatha Christie.

Poirot is depicted as Javert-like in his belief that "the law" must always be obeyed. Such rot! Didn't they read Curtain?

This adaption isn't just bad; it's a literary crime.
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