Hastings returns to Britain after a long absence to find Poirot anxious for a new case which will challenge his gray cells. Poirot quickly gets his wish in the form of taunting letters from a serial killer who has dubbed himself ABC and who leaves an ABC railroad schedule at the scene of each crime. The victims as well as the crime scenes appear to be chosen randomly, but maintain an obsessive adherence to alphabetical order. However, Poirot grows to believe that the killer is not the madman the authorities believe, but a methodical murderer with a very tangible motive. Written by
G. Taverney (email@example.com)
A Faithful Television Movie Version of The Christie novel
David Suchet succeeded where Charles Laughton and Tony Randall failed. Like Albert Finney and Peter Ustinov, Suchet became the definitively correct "Hercule Poirot" in a series of television versions of the Agatha Christie stories. Playing the role seriously, but brightening the role with flashes of humor, Suchet makes the eccentric former Belgian Police Chief seem real and not a caricature.
He is well supported in his series with Philip Jackson as his friend and rival Superintendent Jopp of Scotland Yard, and Hugh Fraser as Captain Hastings (Poirot's "Watson"). But it is the care of the casting director and the screen writers who have kept the series going so very well all this time.
I have chosen THE ABC MURDERS to symbolize the best work in the series in maintaining what Dame Agatha sought - an honest attempt to tell her mysteries straight and with full entertainment value. You have to compare this version with the funny but spoof version with Tony Randall called THE ALPHABET MURDERS to understand.
SPOILER COMING UP The way THE ALPHABET MURDERS was developed it is supposed (by Scotland Yard and even a confused Poirot/Randall) that the murders are committed by a woman (Anita Eckbert) with psychiatric problems. The key to the psychiatric problem seems to be that Eckbert's character is killing people off who have first and second names with the same letter, so that the murders are A.A., B.B., C.C., D.D., etc.
Now part of this is actually in the original novel. The victims of the mysterious killer do have names that follow the alphabetical pattern. But in the original there is no lovely looking "Anita Eckbert" character. There is a gentleman named "Alexander Bonaparte Cuff" (Donald Sumpter) whom pieces of evidence from the police suggest is that homicidal killer. He is a quiet, respectable type - a lover of chess. And when Poirot meets him he realizes that Cuff could not be the killer. So he reviews the killings, and finds the flaw the killer overlooked.
But it is a close case. And it involves one of the most unattractive killers in Christie's works. He is an ambitious killer, who sees a chance to make millions at everyone's expense (especially the murder victims). He also is (in the novel more than this version, unfortunately), quite a belligerent bigot - constantly referring to Poirot as a "frog" (Poirot is Belgian, not French). In the novel, when he is finally revealed by Poirot, and thwarted in a last suicide attempt, he snarls another "Dirty Frog" comment - and is told off by Poirot that given the underhanded, sneaky, and cowardly manner he used to commit his crimes he really did not live up to British standards. Figuratively, Poirot leaves some spit in the face of the killer - a rare action of retaliation by the detective. That (as I said) is not in this version, but the fact that the original story was used raises this as the best version of THE ABC MURDERS that was done.
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