Delving more into romance than mystery here, Agatha Christie brings us some stories we don't expect from the master of mystery. I only read her mystery books, so this departure was a little unexpected by me. I know she wrote romance stories under another pseudonym, so I was expecting mystery short stories.
The production quality of these programs is not up to what we expect from the Miss Marple & Poirot TV series. They are produced on video-tape & often look like soap-operas. I have come to enjoy the filmed quality of the later book adaptations, so this took a little away from my enjoyment of the show. There are some video glitches & color banding in the shows, the video tape masters are almost 30 years old so these defects can be expected. You will think of the Rumpole Of The Bailey TV series when you see these shows.
THE CASE OF THE MIDDLE-AGED WIFE - Parker Pyne adds spice to the life of a neglected wife. This episode has the lowest production values, a stagy presentation with no mood music. It is hard to believe this ran in PBS's Mystery show as there is no mystery. It is a "Fantasy Island" type of romance story. Originally published on the short story collection PARKER PYNE INVESTIGATES.
IN A GLASS DARKLY plays out like an old "One Step Beyond" program. Agatha Christie delves into the supernatural world of premonitions. This hour long story suffers from the same problem that the hour-long "Twilight Zone" episodes suffer from, stretching a half-hour story out to one hour. This would have been an excellent half-hour story, but it drags at one hour. Things start off with a bang as we encounter the ghostly premonition, but little happens before the pay-off at the end. Agatha Christie does explore the mental effects that war has on the returning soldiers, showing their mental breakdown. When the original story was written I believe this was a new concept. This supernatural story was first published in 1934 in Collier's magazine in the USA and Woman's Journal in the UK. Then is was published in the short story collection THE REGETTA MYSTERIES (US) and decades later in MISS MARPLE'S FINAL CASES (UK) even though it is not a Miss Marple Mystery.
THE GIRL IN THE TRAIN is very entertaining! Probably the best story in this set! Mystery & Intrigue are intertwined with romance as a young woman sends a young man who is looking for excitement on the trail of a mystery man. The pace of the story stays ahead of me, keeping me wondering what is going to happen next. The production values of this episode are much improved over the first and it almost feels like I am watching a filmed show. The staginess is gone as we are taken on a train ride to various locations. The Inn where the action takes us to is a wonderfully contorted 3-D set, adding to the twisted feel of the story. This short story was first published in 1924 in Grand Magazine, then published in the short story collections THE LISTERDALE MYSTERY (UK) and THE GOLDEN BALL AND OTHER STORIES (US).
THE FOURTH MAN - This is the story of two dead girls, one strong but average looking with little talent, the other dainty & weak with a pretty face & voice to go with it. The pretty girl is nasty, wanting everything she can have including controlling and possessing those around her. Along comes a young man whom the average girl likes, but he only notices the pretty one who just wants to use him. The story is told by this young boy some 20 years later on a train to three other men, he is the fourth man. These four men, the story teller, a clergyman, a lawyer & a psychiatrist try to unravel the mystery behind the girl's deaths. Easily the second best story in this set. My only complaint is that the characters are rather cardboard & almost unbelievable, but then we are seeing the story through the eyes of the story teller. So the over exaggerated personalities may be the work of the story teller's imaginative mind. This story was first published in 1925 in Pearson's Magazine. Then is was published in the short story collections THE HOUND OF DEATH (UK) and WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (US).
THE CASE OF THE DISCONTENTED SOLDIER - Parker Pyne adds spice to the dull life of a soldier after he returns home. I believe this is the only other Parker Pyne story adapted in this series. Ironically, these stories written in the 1930's feel like 1950's dramas, like the old THE MILLIONAIRE television series. Another story from the PARKER PYNE INVESTIGATES short story collection.
Don't get too excited about the bonus material, I was expecting short documentaries but what I got was several pages of text. The "Christie Biography" is only to inform those who don't know about her. And the "Parker Pyne: Before Poirot" is a bit of a misnomer as the Poirot books came first. The only information I found useful was the confirmation that the Miss Lemon working for Parker Pyne is the same Miss Lemon who went on to work for Poirot.
Overall, I am pleased to get more Agatha Christie story adaptations on DVD, but I do not find these romance stories as enjoyable as her mysteries.