Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Episode-by-episode: Curtain: Poirot's Last Case

(c) ITV

We have reached The End.

This adaptation was based on Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, first published in 1975, just a few months before Christie's death, but written during the war, in the early 1940s. The novel was adapted for television by Kevin Elyot (who also scripted Five Little Pigs and Death on the Nile) and directed by Hettie Macdonald (who also directed The Mystery of the Blue Train).


Script versus novel
The press pack to this final episode reveals that Kevin Elyot was asked by the production team to adapt Curtain more than ten years ago, when he wrote the scripts for Five Little Pigs and Death on the Nile. I'm not at all surprised they asked him. His script for Five Little Pigs is possibly the best of the entire series, and Death on the Nile proved that he wasn't daunted by the task of writing an adaptation most Poirot fans have been both eagerly waiting for and dreading at the same time. He had also demonstrated that he fully understood Poirot's character, and that he could handle the darker side of Christie without making unnecessary changes. In my opinion, he was the best man for the job.

SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE ADAPTATION YET I WOULD ADVISE YOU TO WAIT - READ THIS POST AFTERWARDS.

Monday, 18 November 2013

David Suchet's 'Poirot and Me' (2013)

Last week, Agatha Christie's Poirot came to an end as Curtain: Poirot's Last Case was broadcast on ITV. But fear not! To coincide with the broadcast of the final series, Headline Publishing have released a book, written by David Suchet in collaboration with Geoffrey Wansell, called Poirot and Me. The book is an absolute must-have for any dedicated Poirot fan!

When I first heard about the plans for this release back in autumn 2012, I was immediately over-excited. Having seen numerous interviews with Suchet in the past, as well as his documentaries, I was confident that we could expect great things from this book. In short, my expectations could not have been higher. This is the man who for twenty-five years has portrayed one of my favourite literary characters in an iconic television series.

Let me start by saying that it did not disappoint. Far from it. With over 300 pages, the book includes comments on every single episode ever made, plus some biographical Agatha Christie information. For the first time, we get the full story of how Suchet became Poirot (the walk, the talk, the appearance), with first meetings, first costume fittings, first shoots and several acting epiphanies included. We are also treated to little anecdotes from his encounters with the Poirot fans, some of which are absolutely delightful to read. We even get his 'character dossier', the list of 93 Poirot characteristics that he carried with him on set (I was secretly hoping for this to be included, but I never thought we'd actually get to see it!), and a series of photos Suchet has taken on the sets over the years.

This is far more than just a Poirot 'encyclopedia', though. This is the life story of a character actor. I don't think I have ever seen a character actor who has been given the opportunity to describe the process of becoming different characters. In short, his craft. Poirot aside, we also get glimpses of all the other great characters Suchet has played, including the famous Shakespeare roles, George in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Salieri in Amadeus, Robert Maxwell in Maxwell, James Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night, and many others. We get to share his anxiousness as he waits for the phone call from ITV saying that they want to do another series, his money worries, and holidays with his family. Sometimes when you read 'celebrity biographies' you can tell that it has been 'polished' by some PR department, and certain stories have been included to put the writer in a good light. This, however, is a very personal story told in what appears to be a very truthful and honest way. Geoffrey Wansell should probably be given some credit here, too, because the book is incredibly 'visual', in the sense that you really feel, as a reader, that you've actually witnessed all these things. You have been a part of Suchet's journey. That is quite unusual.

Personally, there were some things I was even more delighted to read about than others. It was encouraging to read about Suchet's disputes with some of the Poirot directors, his determination to re-introduce Whitehaven Mansions after a long absence and include Poirot's manservant, his personal contributions to the set designs (he bought the clock on Poirot's mantelpiece for the production team!), and his firm belief to stray true to the character. This is a man with a vision. In fact, that's a thought I kept coming back to while reading the book. On several occasions, Suchet has said that his aim as an actor is to serve the writer. 'Without actors, writers don't have a voice'. These glimpses behind the scenes demonstrate Suchet's determination. He has been committed to Agatha Christie, regardless of what some Christie 'purists' might say, while at the same time fleshing out Poirot to truly iconic dimensions (see my post on Suchet's achievement here). His reflections (in the book) on Murder on the Orient Express and the moving story from the filming of Poirot's final case, Curtain, underline this, too.

All in all, Poirot and Me is a treasure-trove of information for any fan of David Suchet, Hercule Poirot, and Agatha Christie - not to mention anyone interested in acting, television and adaptation work. Highly recommended!

P.S. I've been told by Headline that an audiobook version will be released on 21 November 2013, read by David Suchet! The book lends itself easily to an audiobook, and I'm sure the story will feel even more personal when read by Suchet himself. 


 

Richard, a reader of the blog, kindly sent me these photos from one of Suchet's promotional talks. It must have been quite an evening!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Episode-by-episode: The Labours of Hercules

(c) ITV
This episode was based on a series of interconnected short stories, assembled in The Labours of Hercules, first published in 1947. It was adapted by Guy Andrews and directed by Andy Wilson. SPOILERS to follow.

Script versus short story collection
This adaptation was a Herculean task (to borrow the pun). Fans - me included - have been discussing for years how the team behind Poirot would ever be able to adapt this collection. Essentially, this is a series of thematically interconnected stories. They are linked together by Poirot's decision to do only a selected number of cases before he retires, and all the cases are to resemble the labours of Hercules in some way or other. Now, in the earlier years of the series, this could almost certainly have been expanded into a series of 50 minute episodes, and a part of me is disappointed that this didn't happen. But for those of us who know a bit about the history of the television series, that would probably never have happened. As a matter of fact, it's remarkable that they even got to make all the other short stories in the early years, before the series was effectively cancelled in 1994/1995.(That is not to say that I wouldn't have loved to see these as a series of episodes!). Considering that the final series nearly didn't happen - and the fact that this collection was one of the candidates to be dropped - I think we've been lucky to see an adaptation of it at all.

The scriptwriter chosen for this difficult task was Guy Andrews. Just to remind you: he also scripted The Mystery of the Blue Train, Taken at the Flood and Appointment with Death. That's one weak, one slightly unbelievable, and one terrible adaptation (in very crude terms). As you will know if you've read my episode-by-episode look at Appointment with Death, that's a very clear candidate for my least favourite episode of Poirot. It's saved by the beautiful cinematography, music, production design and acting. I was more than a little nervous when I heard that he had been commissioned for The Labours of Hercules. At the same time, this adaptation called for changes. Radical changes. And I was perfectly prepared to accept loads of them if he - against all odds - managed to make it work.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Final Series of 'Poirot': An Overview

(c) ITV
Since the final four episodes have just started airing in the UK, I've decided to do a post on all the information you'll need on Series Thirteen; Elephants Can Remember, The Big Four, Dead Man's Folly, The Labours of Hercules and Curtain: Poirot's Last Case.

The post will be updated and re-posted constantly in the coming weeks, with links to press releases, press packs, trailers, clips, important interviews, reviews and photos that might interest fans. As always, comments are more than welcome, so feel free to ask questions, give a small review or post your thoughts in the comments section!

S13E1: Elephants Can Remember
Produced: January/February 2013
Aired: Sunday 9th June 2013, 8pm
Viewing figures: 4.47 million (excluding 405,000 on +1)
Press pack: Elephants Can Remember: Production Notes (includes interview with David Suchet)
Trailer: Elephants Can Remember (ITV trailer)
Reviews: The Telegraph, Radio Times (spoiler free), The Guardian
Photos: Huffington Post (19 promotional photos!)

Read my episode-by-episode look at 'Elephants Can Remember' here.

S13E2: The Big Four
Produced: February/March 2013
Aired: Wednesday 23rd October 2013, 8pm
Viewing figures: 4.40 million (excl 405,000 on +1)
Press pack: The Big Four: Production Notes (includes interviews with David Suchet, Philip Jackson and Sarah Parish)
Trailer: The Big Four (ITV trailer) (see also my frame-by-frame look at the Polish trailer here)
Reviews: The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, Radio Times (spoiler free), The Guardian (praise of the series), The Guardian (video, 2:42 min in)
Photos: See my posts 'The old gang is back' and 'The Big Four: behind the scenes photos and screencaps'

Read my episode-by-episode look at 'The Big Four' here.


READ MORE AFTER THE JUMP!

Episode-by-episode: Dead Man's Folly

(c) ITV
This episode was based on the novel Dead Man's Folly, first published in 1956. It was adapted by Nick Dear (by now one of the 'regulars'), and directed by Tom Vaughan.

Script versus novel
Nick Dear's script is a very faithful retelling of the novel. Certain sections are moved around, some have a slightly different setting, and some sections are shortened down (especially the interviews), but most of the action is kept intact. Let's look at some of the changes. Obviously, the time setting has bee changed from post-war 1950s to pre-war 1930s. This doesn't manifest itself in any particular changes, apart from the deaths of Mrs Folliat's sons. Moreover, Dear adds an opening sequence that takes place a year before the investigation. The incident is based on conversations with Mrs Folliat and Merdell later in the novel. These opening sequences from the past that will later have an impact on the plot have become a norm on these productions over the years; a number of episodes have the same addition. Furthermore, the telephone call from Mrs Oliver in the opening chapter is removed, including Miss Lemon and the Whitehaven setting. Miss Lemon's absence makes sense, both because this episode isn't explicitly set after The Big Four, and because Poirot is in semi-retirement at this point of his career. George the valet could have made an appearance, but they probably decided not to include him because of availability issues or costs. Instead, Poirot has received a telegram from Mrs Oliver and is on his way from the station when we first see him. Some characters are deleted in the subsequent sections, including the Mastertons (though Mrs Masterton becomes Warburton's wife, and Warburton becomes a Member of Parliament), Sergeant Cottrell (his lines are given to Hoskins instead), the Chief Constable, and Mrs and Mr Tucker (Marlene's parents). None of these deletions really impact the story, and they are probably all a result of time constraints rather than creative decisions. A subplot involving Alec Legge and a man in a turtle-patterned shirt is deleted (probably due to time constraints, or possibly the fact that it doesn't really add anything to the plot). The incident in the camellia garden with Mrs Oliver and Poirot is deleted, and so is the police re-enactment of the possible drowning of Hattie.

Finally, the ending is changed. The setting from the denouement is changed from Folliat's lodge to the boathouse (they seem to have avoided the lodge throughout - I wonder if the location was unavailable or didn't suit the period setting?). Also, in the novel, the fate of the Mrs Folliat and her son is left open ('Will you leave me alone now? There are some things that one has to face quite alone...'). Here, Mrs Folliat asks Poirot to allow her to meet her son before she is arrested. He allows it, 'as a courtesy from an old gentleman'. She goes to James's study and tells him to do exactly what she tells him to do, for once in his life. Outside, two shots are heard, and they presumably commit a murder-suicide. Poirot seems to approve of this with the final word of the episode: 'Bon'. The new ending is intriguing. It gives the Folliats a more explicit fate, but we are not told who killed whom (reminiscent of Elephants Can Remember). Also, it's interesting to view Poirot's changed sense of justice since his encounter with the culprits in Murder on the Orient Express. The decision he had to make there has obviously affected his sense of justice (although he has 'allowed' suicides before - Peril at End House, The Hollow etc).

All in all, Dear has done an excellent job. The script is very faithful to its source material. He must know Christie pretty much inside out by now, having adapted a total of six episodes. That doesn't come close to Clive Exton, but his adaptations have generally done justice to the novels they were based on (possibly apart from the ending of Cards on the Table).

Direction, production design, locations, soundtrack
Tom Vaughan's direction really suits the atmosphere of the story and the location. He utilises the garden, the boathouse, and the woods to their utmost potential. They almost become a character of their own, helped along by the crows in the trees (reminiscent of The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor). The garden fête scene feels slightly rushed, but it does convey the hustle and bustle of the event. The production team have done an excellent job with the fête and the particularly colourful costumes in this episode. The main location used was Greenway, Agatha Christie's holiday home. It's a beautiful setting, and it really affects the way the story progresses. The house becomes a character of its own. Christian Henson's soundtrack works well for the episode (notice the minute hints to the theme tune every now and then). Some might find the muted brass instruments a bit too much, but I think they work for the atmosphere the adaptation is trying to create.

Characters and actors
Poirot is generally quite displeased with his skills this time around. That's partly based on the novel, but certain minute references are added to his 'grey cells' slowing down. Then there's his changing sense of justice, as evidenced in the end scene. It will be interesting to view this episode again when all 70 episodes have aired and consider the development of his sense of justice and morality. Of course, plenty of Poirot's eccentricities are added. He 'twirls his moustache to a ferocious couple of points' (the sentence, taken from the novel, was even a scene description in the script!), he struggles with the countryside and walking around in the woods, and he takes an instant dislike to the students in shorts. Also, there's a particularly funny scene with a large Kewpie doll, taken straight from the novel. Apparently, the scene was not intended to be included in the script, but Suchet asked for its inclusion (which reminds me of the scene with the marrow he insisted on for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd). The interaction between Suchet and Wanamaker is as brilliant as ever. Ariadne's incoherent police interview reminded me of the peacock scene from Third Girl. The afternoon tea between them in London was a nice addition. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Poirot called Ariadne back to Nasse by a telegram, the exact same method and the exact same meeting place (the battery). It highlighted the sense of humour between them. I only wish they had included the tiny reference to Hastings in that scene (but that's a minor complaint). The final exchange between them, on their two favourite methods (deduction and intuition) was also a nice touch.

Of the guest actors, Sinead Cusack stood out as Mrs Folliat. Sean Pertwee did a good job as Sir George, and several of the actors in minor roles suited their characters perfectly. The lack of an Italian accent (or small grammatical mistakes) in Stephanie Leonidas' Hattie was something of a plot hole. Similarly, Fransesca Zoutewelle's Dutch accent seemed a bit overdone, but then again the point of her character is to stand out as 'foreign', so perhaps it was necessary.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

'The Labours of Hercules': Screenshots from AleKino broadcast

"ueetba", a Poirot fan from Poland, very kindly sent me these screenshots from the broadcast of The Labours of Hercules.

SPOILERS if you don't want to see what the episode looks like. Click the 'read more' link to see all the screenshots.


Thursday, 31 October 2013

Adapting Poirot: Q&A with Ian Hallard



This is a very special blog post! Screenwriter and actor Ian Hallard kindly offered to do a Q&A on the process of adapting Agatha Christie's Poirot stories for television. He has co-written The Big Four (2013) with Mark Gatiss, and acted as a script associate on the other adaptations Gatiss has scripted, Cat Among the Pigeons (2008) and Hallowe'en Party (2010). He also played Edmund Drake in Hallowe'en Party, and appeared in a cameo as Mercutio in The Big Four

This Q&A offers a rare glimpse behind-the-scenes of the television series we all love. A big thanks to Hallard for taking the time to do this!

SPOILERS on Cat Among the Pigeons, Hallowe'en Party and The Big Four follow. Don't read on if you haven't seen the adaptations. 

A frame-by-frame look: Polish trailer for 'The Labours of Hercules'!

Labours of Hercules airs tomorrow in Poland, and a trailer has finally been released. ITV also released a press pack today (finally!). By the way, this won't be spoiler-free, so if you don't want to know anything - look away now. If you do, then you should read the press pack synopsis as well, because that will help you understand the screencaps.

OK. Let's have a closer look:

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Episode-by-episode: The Big Four

(c) ITV
This episode was based on the novel The Big Four, first published in 1927. It was adapted for television by Mark Gatiss and Ian Hallard, and directed by Peter Lydon.

Script versus novel
The Big Four is generally considered to be one of Christie's most controversial (and least successful) novels. She finished the novel in 1926, in the wake of her traumatic divorce and the death of her mother. The story is based on a series of short stories that she worked into a novel in order to earn some much-needed money. The plot is quite ridiculous at times, with exploding mountains, caricature villains, racist Chinese manservants and global conspiracies. Unsurprisingly, the novel has been considered unfilmable. The wide range of locations (England, France, Italy, America etc) probably didn't help in that respect either. All in all, I'm not surprised this novel was left until the final series. It's as if the production team have been waiting for it conveniently disappear. (I don't usually go into aspects like the background of the novel and the context of the adaptation, but I think it's absolutely necessary here. It demonstrates what a complete challenge Gatiss and Hallard were facing.)

(READ MORE AFTER THE JUMP)

Monday, 21 October 2013

Episode-by-episode: Elephants Can Remember


©ITV
This episode was based on the novel Elephants Can Remember, first published in 1972. It was adapted for television by Nick Dear and directed by John Strickland.

Script versus novel
This was the last Poirot novel that Agatha Christie wrote (Curtain was written in the 1940s). It's not her most successful novel. It's been criticised as rambling, chatty and out of focus. Some even suggest that it shows early signs of Alzheimer's. With this in mind, Nick Dear faced a challenge. He needed to re-structure, trim and re-focus the plot and make it work as two hours (or 89 minutes, to be precise) of exciting television. I think he has been reasonably successful. Let's look at the obvious changes first. Obviously, the setting is moved from the 1970s to the 1930s. In fact, that makes hardly any difference. Yes, there are a few references to post-war objects and events in the novel, but the main plot could easily be set in the 30s.

A much more significant change, however, is to introduce a new subplot. Dear decides to flesh out a backstory that involves Dr. Willoughby (who was in the novel for a chapter). His elderly psychiatrist father (who was dead years ago in the novel) is found murdered in the basement of the Willoughby Institute, and Dr. Willoughby appears to be the only viable suspect. Dear also makes him a longtime friend of Poirot's. Someone suggested online that Poirot had been brought out of retirement in this episode, but this fact proves that he is still just taking cases that (a) interest him or (b) concern friends of his (Mrs Oliver gets him involved with the 'elephants', Willoughby with the death of his father. I think that's why Dear decided to make him a friend of Poirot's in the first place. The same goes for Inspector Neale, who is investigating the case. (He seems to partly substitute Superintendent Spence here, which is a shame, but the reason could be availability issues I suppose). Poirot was never really retired anyway (apart from the Ackroyd case), he has just entered a state of semi-retirement (which is in keeping with the later novels). I think The Labours of Hercules, due to be broadcast soon, will probably see him entering retirement for good. But back to the subplot. Dear adds an 'American' secretary/lover for Dr. Willoughby (later revealed to be Canadian, thanks to some fairly obvious hints in the script), and even ties the Institute and Dr. Willoughby's practise to the backstory of Desmond Burton-Cox. Poirot is only too keen to investigate the Willoughby case - so keen, in fact, that Mrs Oliver has to manage the 'elephants' case more or less on her own for about half the episode (which is a good thing - I'll come back to that later).

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Episode-by-episode: The Clocks

(c) ITV
This episode was based on the novel The Clocks, first published in 1963. It was adapted for television by Stewart Harcourt and directed by Charlie Palmer (son of Geoffrey Palmer, who plays Vice Admiral Hamling in the adaptation).

Script versus novel
Harcourt, who also scripted Murder on the Orient Express, is admirably faithful to the source material here. The most significant change, perhaps, is to set the adaptation in the late 1930s, directly preceding the Second World War. It's both a necessary and a wise move. It's necessary because of the production team's creative decision to keep Poirot in the Thirties, and it's wise, because the transition of an essentially 1960s spy novel into pre-war espionage is seamless. The setting is Dover, and Dover Castle is a perfect backdrop for this pre-war story (reminiscent of Foyle's War's Hastings at times). Another change that's also dictated by the series itself is the decision to change Colin Lamb's name to Lt. Colin Race and make him the son of Colonel Race. In the novel, Christie implies that Colin might be Superintendent Battle's son ('Lamb' is a cover), but since Battle was never introduced to the television series; he was deleted from Cards on the Table and replaced by Superintendent Wheeler. Now, Colonel Race was introduced to the viewers in Death on the Nile as an old and cherished friend of Poirot's. He should also have been in Cards on the Table, but actor James Fox was unavailable to reprise the role. To delete the fake identity and make Colin his son makes absolute sense, and I'm glad the scriptwriters pay attention to continuity every now and then.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

First promotional photos from 'The Labours of Hercules'!

(UPDATE 21/10/13: We have a press release and air date - 6 November, 8 pm!)

Here are the first promotional photos for The Labours of Hercules. Image source: ETomlinsonCom on Twitter, www.eleanor-tomlinson.com/thumbnails.php?album=110. Photos linked to their source. Copyright ITV. This particular episode is still a mystery in every sense of the word; very little is known about how this collection of short stories will be adapted into one episode. Any thoughts after seeing these photos?

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Episode-by-episode: Murder on the Orient Express

(c) ITV
This episode was based on the novel Murder on the Orient Express, first published in 1934. It was adapted for television by Stewart Harcourt and directed by Philip Martin. (Beware of SPOILERS).

Script versus novel
Context
Opinion is particularly divided on this episode. That is hardly surprising. We are, after all, talking about  Christie’s most famous Poirot novel, which just happened to be adapted into an Oscar-winning big screen movie, directed by Sidney Lumet, in 1974. Not to mention the fact that this was one of the most intensely anticipated episodes of the ITV series. With this in mind, Stewart Harcourt faced a near impossible challenge when adapting this novel. How do you adapt one of the most famous crime novels in crime fiction history and avoid comparison with the successful 1974 film? And how do you make exciting television, when most people already know the solution?

 I’m not an expert on scriptwriting and the adaptation process. But it seems to me that anyone adapting a famous, universally acclaimed masterpiece is faced with two options for, or approaches to, the source material. They can (a) decide to write a plot-centred adaptation, focusing on Christie’s famous ‘puzzle’, or (b) explore the broader themes of the text and emphasise the characters in relation to those themes. Both approaches can be seen in adaptations of a number of famous novels and plays. Anything by Shakespeare is the prime example. In the case of Murder on the Orient Express, Harcourt was faced with some constraints – but also some considerable advantages – that probably had an impact on the choice between these two approaches. I’ll look into these before I come back to Harcourt’s script. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The End is Near


A new Poirot trailer has just been released by ITV, to mark the beginning of the end.

It's an incredibly moving trailer, with the voice-over from the final part of Curtain (anyone who has read the book will recognise it), accompanied by clips from several of the episodes, all the way from The Adventure of the Clapham Cook (1989) to what I assume must be Dead Man's Folly (2013) (he's walking between some hedges in a garden, and I don't recognise it from any of the earlier episodes - correct me if I'm wrong).

I particularly enjoy the collage of portrait close-ups of Poirot/Suchet towards the end. It's a beautiful to show the evolution, the aging and the development of the character. Top marks to whoever put this thing together.

See the trailer here: Poirot: The End is Near (trailer) | presscentre

Now, let's speculate. First, we know that The Big Four will air 23rd of October. Here's the press pack, which also includes interviews with David Suchet, Philip Jackson and Sarah Parish (Flossie Monro), and the episode trailer. Second, we are told in the trailer that 'the final four cases of Poirot start with The Big Four'. Third, we know that there will be a preview of Dead Man's Folly at the BFI on the 29th of October. The conclusion to be drawn from this (and from certain rumours I've heard the last couple of days) is that we can probably look forward to Dead Man's Folly on the 30th of October, and possibly even The Labours of Hercules on the 6th of November and Curtain on the 13th. If so, we are only a couple of weeks away from The End. In the words of the trailer: UPDATE 15/10: ITV have just announced that 'Dead Man's Folly will be broadcast on Wednesday 30th October 2013! Here's the press pack. Thanks to the anonymous commenter who alerted me.

After an incredible journey, the end is near.

Monday, 7 October 2013

'The Big Four': Behind-the-scenes photos and episode screencaps

While we wait for the forthcoming UK broadcast of The Big Four, here are some some set photos and screencaps!

Diana from Germany very kindly gave me permission to post these photos she took on the set of The Big Four earlier this year:



MORE AFTER THE JUMP! (with possible spoilers)

Saturday, 5 October 2013

A very eventful (Poirot) autumn!


© ITV
As we await the UK broadcast of the final episodes (and envy those people in Poland who have already seen The Big Four!), there's lots of exciting things happening in a couple of weeks; a preview screening, a book, a UK tour and a soundtrack album! Let's have a look:









29 October 2013: Dead Man's Folly Preview + Q&A
BFI Southbank, 6:20 p.m. Tickets £11. On sale from 8 October.
Yes, you read that correctly. The British Film Institute in London is hosting a preview screening of Dead Man's Folly, in association with BAFTA. I quote from their website:
'Introduced by Mathew Prichard, Agatha Christie’s grandson and Chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd. Interview and audience Q&A with David Suchet, who discusses the role and his departure with his biographer Geoffrey Wansell. It has always been David Suchet’s ambition to bring Agatha Christie’s canon of works to completion. Join us for this significant moment in UK broadcasting history.'
[This leads me to believe that the UK broadcast date for this episode will follow shortly after the preview, since this tends to be the case with BFI previews. Also, script editor Thom Hutchinson has reported on Twitter that Dead Man's Folly will be the second episode to air in the UK]

7 November 2013: Poirot and Me by David Suchet is released
I've mention this before. It's (almost) as interesting as the new episodes; David Suchet's story of how he developed the character (plus loads of photos etc.). Should be a great Christmas present for any Poirot fan.

7 November - 10 December 2013: David Suchet Poirot and Me Tour
Next on the list is a promotional tour to coincide with the release of the book. He will visit Theatre Royal Nottingham (7 November), Chepstow Drill Hall (10 November), Chorleywood Memorial Hall (11 November), London/Dulwich (12 November), and finally, Harrogate (10 December). More information here.

11 November 2013: Poirot - Music from the TV Series is released
Yes, we have a new soundtrack! They're spoiling us this year, with the re-release of Gunning's score earlier this year and now this release, with music by Stephen McKeon (Series Ten and Eleven) and Christian Henson (Series Twelve and Thirteen). Here's the track list: 
1. After the Funeral - The Gathering
2. Mrs McGinty's Dead - Murder Montage
3. Taken at the Flood - A Conspiracy
4. Clocks Denouement - Christian Henson
5. Taken at the Flood - Poirot Investigates
6. After the Funeral - The Last Dance
7. Mrs McGinty's Dead - Poirot Investigates
8. Mystery of the Blue Train - Poirot Sees All
9. After the Funeral - The Past Will Not Die
10. Taken at the Flood - Smoke and Mirrors
11. Mystery of the Blue Train - The Journey Begins
12. The White Mountains - Christian Henson
13. Taken at the Flood - Secrets and Lies
14. The Man Who Blends In - Christian Henson
15. Adieu Poirot
Now, the final track, 'Adieu Poirot' seems to suggest some sort of version of Gunning's theme. Having searched the Internet for more information, I think this might be 'Adieu Poirot' by Amy Dickson, which is basically a re-recording of Gunning's 'The Belgian Detective'. You can listen to it on Spotify or buy her album on Amazon. But we can't be sure until we've heard the album, I suppose.

November/December: Dead Man's Folly, The Big Four, Labours of Hercules?
Judging by all of the above, as well as other rumours, I think it's safe to say that the UK will get the next episodes from November onwards. As mentioned, Dead Man's Folly will be the second episode, which means the most likely broadcast order is Dead Man's Folly, The Big Four, Labours of Hercules and finally Curtain. But it would be nice to have a press release from ITV.

UPDATE: We now have a press release. And The Big Four  will be the second episode to air. This means the most likely broadcast order will be The Big Four, Dead Man's Folly, Labours of Hercules and Curtain. Also, according to play.com, the Collection 9 (Series 13) DVD has an estimated release date; November 18th 2013! If that's correct, we'll get to see the final series a lot sooner than we expected. Thanks to Paul who alerted me to this.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The old gang is back - photo released for 'The Big Four'!

A big thank you to the anonymous commenter who alerted me - here's the first promotional photo for The Big Four! It's amazing to see the 'Big Four' (Poirot, Hastings, Japp, Miss Lemon) back together again!


Source: http://www.cyfraplus.pl/ms_galeria/fotobase/41551_c.jpg
Copyright ITV.

UPDATE: Commenter "ueetba" just alerted me to two more photos (see below)!

Source: http://www.alekinoplus.pl/program/film/poirot-wielka-czworka_41551
Copyright ITV.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Episode-by-episode: Hallowe'en Party

© ITV
This episode was based on the novel Hallowe'en Party, first published in 1969. It was adapted for television by Mark Gatiss (who previously scripted Cat Among the Pigeons, acted in Appointment with Death and co-wrote the upcoming The Big Four with Ian Hallard) and directed by Charlie Palmer.

Script versus novel
Gatiss's script manages to transport the plot from its 1960s setting to the series' 1930s setting almost seamlessly, with the odd fact that Halloween parties in the UK probably were far less common in the 30s. For instance, he removes any references to LSD and other drugs. As to changes to the plot, he removes a couple of characters, most notably Superintendent Spence and his sister Elspeth McKay, but also Ann Reynolds, Dr Ferguson, Harriet Leaman (the cleaner), Miss Emlyn, and the boys, Nicholas Ransom and Desmond Holland. It would be nice to have Spence included, particularly since he was present in the two previous novels he was in (Taken at the Flood and Mrs McGinty's Dead), but I suppose he felt there would be too many investigators on the case (Poirot, Mrs Oliver, the local police and a retired Spence). The other characters are minor and consequently their removal matters little to the plot. Gatiss adds a couple of new characters, i.e. two grown-up children for Mrs Drake (Edmund and Frances). He makes Mrs Reynolds a step-mother to her children. Also, Mrs Goodbody (the local 'witch') fittingly replaces Elspeth as the local gossip from whom Poirot gets his information on the suspicious deaths (one suspicious death, Charlotte Benfield, is removed). Moreover, the Jane White (Beatrice in the adaptation) death is given a somewhat different backstory (or, perhaps I should say, a more outspoken one). The character of Ambrose is deleted, so Beatrice White is revealed to have been in love with Miss Whittaker (who is a church organist, not a teacher here). Some viewers have reacted to the more upfront display of homosexuality, but I think it's been beautifully done in a very touching scene by the lake where she drowned (as an aside, this is the only Christie novel in which the word 'lesbian' is used). Furthermore, Lesley Ferrier was seeing Frances Drake rather than Nora Ambrose. Also, the reverend gets a more central role, with an au pair scheme to help girls like Olga (making him a potential suspect). Of minor changes, Mrs Oliver is down with a flu for most of the episode (I'm not sure if that's supposed to add comedy to the proceedings or if it was a result of Zoë Wanamaker's availability), Poirot arrives on the train together with Michael Garfield (who has just arrived from Greece), Poirot doesn't stay at a guest house but at Mrs Butler's house, Mrs Drake's husband was killed by what seems like a hit-and-run accident, and several horror and spookiness references are added, e.g. to Edgar Allan Poe and Matthew Hopkins (probably a result of Gatiss being a big horror fan). Poirot, obviously, dislikes the tradition of reading horror stories around Halloween (he prefers remembering the dead).All in all, Gatiss's adaptation works well, and it's a more or less faithful retelling of the novel.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Palmer's direction suits the episode. He has emphasised the darkness and autumn colours of the season. Also, I particularly like the use of the snap-dragon game, which I assume is partly Gatiss's and partly Palmer's idea. This brings to mind other adaptations that revolve around games and rhymes, like One, Two, Buckle My Shoe and 'How Does Your Garden Grow?'. The production design also suits the episode, again with an emphasis on the season. The main location is a private estate in Oxfordshire. The soundtrack works particularly well for the episode. Composer Christian Henson emphasises the snap-dragon game in collaboration with Palmer and Gatiss.

Characters and actors
It's always a joy to see David Suchet and Zoë Wanamaker together as Poirot and Mrs Oliver. They really have excellent screen chemistry. A shame that Mrs Oliver is bedridden for most of the episode, though. Poirot is in investigation mode in this story, even if faced with opposition from the local police. Also, it's good to see George back in the fold, too. Of the other actors, Deborah Findlay and Julian Rhind-Tutt both stand out, but I think particular credit should go to Mary Higgins, who plays Miranda.

About Me

I'm a passionate fan of Poirot, Agatha Christie and the ITV series. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or requests, please e-mail me at poirotchronology@gmail.com, post a comment on one of my blogs, or get in touch on Twitter @pchronology. (I used to call myself HickoryDickory)