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Thirteen at Dinner (1985)

An American movie actress, best known for playing dumb blondes, is Scotland Yard's prime suspect when her husband, Lord Edgware, is murdered. The great detective, Hercule Poirot, digs deeper into the case.

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(novel), (teleplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Jonathan Cecil ...
...
Diane Keen ...
John Stride ...
Film Director
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Lee Horsley ...
...
Glyn Baker ...
Lord Edgware's Butler
John Barron ...
Peter Clapham ...
Mr. Wildburn
...
Avril Elgar ...
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Storyline

Hercule Poirot appears on a TV talk show with actor Bryan Martin who is making an action/detective movie with Jane Wilkinson. He also meets impressionist Carlotta Adams. They all go to a party and Jane asks him and Captain Hastings to go and meet her husband, Lord Edgware in regards to a divorce. They do so, to discover that the Lord had already granted her a divorce. Jane is delighted but drops hints that she could have killed the Lord if he didn't grant her the divorce. The next day Lord Edgware is found dead and all the staff at the Lord's house swear that Jane was the one who did it but witnesses at another Lord's party swear that Jane was with them. Carlotta then dies and Poirot must investigate as Inspector Japp is determined to put Jane away... Written by Lee Horton <Leeh@tcp.co.uk>

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Details

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Release Date:

19 September 1985 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Agatha Christie's Thirteen at Dinner  »

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Technical Specs

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(video)

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Appearing here as Inspector Japp, David Suchet later played Hercule Poirot in the TV series Agatha Christie's Poirot (1989) and subsequent TV specials, including Agatha Christie's Poirot: Lord Edgware Dies (2000), another version of this story. See more »

Goofs

During Poirot's speech to the gathered suspects (shortly before the 1:20:00 mark), he addresses Bryan Martin by the name "Mr. Marsh." See more »

Quotes

Inspector Japp: Poirot - buzz off like a good chap, will you? I've got bigger fish to fry.
Hercule Poirot: In a good bouillabaisse the little fish are often tastier than the big ones.
Inspector Japp: What are you talking about?
Hercule Poirot: Add poison, however, and the whole soup is polluted. Then the size of the fish are immaterial.
Inspector Japp: What's fish got to do with it?
Hercule Poirot: It was your own metaphor; I didn't bring the fish...
Inspector Japp: I didn't either!
Hercule Poirot: Stop fish then! Let's leave it out!
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Soundtracks

Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries
(uncredited)
Composed by Richard Wagner
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User Reviews

Suchet Sachet
29 October 2009 | by (Virginia Beach) – See all my reviews

A new batch of old TeeVee Christie adaptations have become available on DVD. I've been marching through them valiantly, looking for anything of value. Here it is. This one is good.

The story on which it is based is one of Christie's more interesting experiments in playing with the mystery form: moving the narrative structure from one untrusted device to another. These sorts of narrative folds are challenging for filmmakers, which is why I movie versions of Agatha sleight of hand.

Here, the adapters did something clever in changing the whole focus of the story from the dinner in question to the surrounding lives of the actors (and the aristocrats, same thing). If you ignore the generally cheesy production values, you'll be faced with one of the best Christie film adaptations I know.

But the real gem is Ustinov's Poirot. Now I know I am in the minority here, but I find his Poirot the most satisfying. Its a tricky thing, making these evaluations, but the reason why has to do with his relationship to the process of discovery. With Marple, the process is a matter of already knowing what needs to be known about why things occur. All she has to do is match the circumstances she finds with what patterns she has stored.

Poirot is a different sort. He is engaged in a genuine battle with evil, an obsession which he camouflages as a way to address boredom. His method is closer to the Sherlock model, reasoning from cause; following paths and possibilities. When you travel with a real Poirot, you are always living in the future, many speculative futures mapped onto data from the past to extend cause. So the second murder in a Poirot mystery is always preventable, but for his openness to too many possibilities. He then punishes himself, resulting in his most characteristic personality traits.

TeeVee has taken the detective in a different direction. The engagement in the mystery is simply to present a series of baffling scenes and then explain them at the end. Along the way, you have to be, well, "entertained." So they create characters to do so. In the books, the humor was laid on top of the detective spine. Its because though Christie was a great plot designer, she was poor when it came to wordsmithery. She made up for this by creating engaging characters. The formula is reversed in TeeVee. That's why you have Suchet's Poirot, and Brett's Holmes. Their twitching and poking makes them amusing regardless of what happens around them. Ustinov creates a Poirot more in the spirit of one engaged with the narrative, and inspired by the drive to deduce.

The bonus here is that his foil is on screen, Inspector Japp. Japp plays a different role in the detection than Holmes' Lestrade. He is competent, but limited in the ability to live in the future. He is, in fact, a junior Poirot. Here he is played by the very David Suchet who would become the much admired Poirot in a later series. His mannerisms are apparent here and distracting.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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