With his rumpled raincoat, ever-present cigar, bumbling demeanour and Sherlock Holmesian powers of deduction, disarmingly polite homicide detective Lieutenant Columbo took on some of the most cunning murderers in Los Angeles, most of whom made one fatal, irrevocable mistake: underestimating his investigative genius.
This whodunit series based on Agatha Christie's crime novels and short stories, is named after its star sleuth, Hercule Poirot, a famous former Belgian policeman, who settled for good in London after the war, soon so famous as an infallible private detective that he becomes a society figure in his own right. In each episode Poirot gets to solve a crime mystery -mostly murder(s)- for a paying client or otherwise catching his attention, generally along with his faithful English sidekick Captain Hastings and/or his Scotland yard 'friendly rival' Detective Chief Inspector Japp. Written by
The adventures of eccentric Belgiun sleuth Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings, his British through and through sidekick. Other characters to appear in most episodes include Poirot's secretary and close friend Miss Lemon and Chief Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard who is close to Poirot even though he has often been outwitted by him and cannot adjust to Poirot's eccentric lifestyle.
Since it began in 1989 with "The Adventure Of The Clapham Cook", over thirty episodes have been made, including hour-long dramatisations of Agatha Christie's short stories and feature-length episodes of the full length novels featuring the detective. The series for some people marked a breath of fresh air from the overblown cinema films of the 1970's-80's like "Murder On The Orient Express" and "Evil Under The Sun", in which actors were cast on the basis of their celebrity status rather than their suitability to Agatha Christie's characters. This series has always chosen actors who are not big name stars, but many have had wide experience on stage and television and suit the parts down to the ground. The series is also distinguished by its impeccable production values and a remarkable attention to period detail of the mid-1930's with its cars, clothes and gloriously designed art-deco sets. In 1997 David Suchet announced that he would never play Poirot again after the filming of "Dumb Witness", but fortunately he has since returned his most celebrated role and it looks as if we've got many more of these quality films to look forward to. Of course the series has often fallen below it's own standard, but I am one who feels that Suchet is the definitive Poirot, just like some believe Joan Hickson to be the definitive Miss Marple. Suchet really does live his most famous role. In an interview he talked about how he has read all of Agatha Christie's Poirot novels and in doing so has created a dossier of all the characters eccentricities and habits in order to enhance his excellent performances.
Here are some of my favourite episodes;
1. Evil Under The Sun (2002) 2. Lord Edgware Dies (2000) 3. The ABC Murders (1992) 4. The Mystery Of Hunters Lodge (1991) 5. One Two Buckle My Shoe (1992) 6. The Case Of The Missing Will (1993)
The Case Of The Missing Will stands out for me because the original short story by Christie was very short and there wasn't much to it, it gave me the impression of something she wrote just to fill the gap in the short story collection entitled "Poirot Investigates". The screen writers had to add to it considerably, even to the extent of adding new characters and plot wise there was very little of the Christie stuff left in it. Sometimes you'd expect this situation to end in disaster, but in view of the circumstances I feel they did a first rate job. Like other episodes it was beautifully made as well.
The ABC Murders is another episode which is essential viewing for fans of this series. It had only been filmed once before as a dreadful comedy version called "The Alphabet Murders" in 1965, which starred Frank Tashlin as Poirot and Robert Morley as Hastings. In ITV's version under the skilled direction of Andrew Grieve, impeccable performances and tight editing, it came to full-blooded life as a dark, sinister and overall exciting thriller as Poirot tracks down an evil serial killer who travels around the country choosing his victims by their initials in the order of the alphabet. This really should have made the big-screen paired with the above in support.
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