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
Mystery fans were fortunate in the late 1980s to have no less than 3 definitive television performances to enjoy: Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, Joan Hickson as Miss Marple, and David Suchet as Hercule Poirot. Suchet's performance as the fussy little Belgian detective was a joy. Every detail of the character was perfect, from the stilted, pedantic delivery to the exquisitely fastidious grooming. Suchet's skill as an actor was such that he was able to turn a rather flat, implausible character (and even fans of Agatha Christie admit that her characters are pretty two-dimensional) into a complex, eccentric but essentially believable person. Some of the credit for this also goes to the fine writing in the series. The writers were responsible for fleshing out the bare bones provided by Christie's stories, but they did it in such a way that the filmed versions flow naturally and seamlessly. The supporting actors were also very fine, especially Hugh Fraser as Captain Hastings - whereas in the stories Hastings, who is usually the narrator, remains a rather sketchy character, here he becomes a genuine person. He is not Poirot's mental equal by any means, but admirable in his sympathy, kindness and general embodiment of Englishness, and we can understand Poirot's affection for Hastings. It's difficult to see how this dramatization can be improved upon.
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