When the middle-Eastern country of Ramat is over-run by anti-monarchist revolutionaries, the surviving heir to the throne, Princess Shaista, is spirited away to safety in a small girls' school, Meadowbank, which is run by the progressive Miss Bulstrode. However, when the bullying games mistress Miss Springer is found stabbed through the chest with a javelin, it appears that Meadowbank may not be the haven it promised to be. As Poirot assists Inspector Kelsey, they begin to find that some of the staff may not be quite what they appear, a situation which is compounded when another teacher, Mademoiselle Blanche is found dead and Princess Shaista is kidnapped from the school. With the princess' life in peril, and the prized rubies of Ramat missing, it is up to Poirot to discover who is the cat among the pigeons. Written by
Screen adaptations of Christie's books usually play fast and loose with the original story and plot, with varying degrees of success. I always marvel at the audacity and hubris of producers and adapters confident that THEY know how to tell a story better than Christie herself, what a laugh - where is THEIR record of sales topped only by the Bible? In recent years they've been going kind of wild with very ambitious, high-gloss productions of Poirot, the results of which have been uneven to say the least, from "Five Little Pigs" (sublime) to "Sad Cypress" (hmmm) to "Taken at the Flood" (a vile wretched grade-Z trainwreck, and criminal waste of talented actors).
This one manages to come off fairly well, although there is considerable tinkering with the original story. The camera-work makes heavy use of diffusion filters throughout, giving the effect of the entire story taking place in a kind of a dreamy beige fairy-tale haze.
The lead Harriet Walter is an actress whom I respect, and who in the past I have repeatedly tried and failed to warm up to. Here she is less guarded and unusually accessible, and does an excellent job, in spite of the bizarre "period" hair and makeup inflicted on her.
My French isn't very good, but it seemed to me that the script had Poirot (and Mlle Blanche) using expressions that would never come out of the mouth of a native speaker. Also I had the English subtitles on while I watched the DVD, and there were some hilarious mistakes in the French, for example "pas du tout" showed up as "pas do tout", "oui, bien sûr" as "oui, bien, sure", and "Je vous en prie" showed up as - I swear! - "je vous emprie"!! I was in stitches and wondering what next, were they going to render "oui" as "wee" or something? Maybe it was done by computer voice-recognition software? Good lord, hire somebody who has a clue, or have someone competent copy-edit it.
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