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Apart from a few added extras not originally in the novel (including a sub-plot that, surprisingly, pays off) this adaptation did justice to Christie's novel, and remains very true to it - something, I fear, some earlier adaptations failed to do. Elephants Can Remember was always one of my favourites as it featured Ariadne prominently, so it was wonderful seeing Zoe Wanamaker reprising the role and giving the episode a few fantastic giggles - as only Ariadne and her way with words can. Suchet was phenomenal as always, but what really made the episode was John Strickland's direction. It was a pleasure to watch and an excellent introduction to the 13th season.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I do feel saddened that the Poirot series is nearly at an end, seeing
as I have been a fan of the series and Agatha Christie for 10 years. It
really is not going to feel the same not having another adaptation to
look forward to; this said we do have the series and can always watch
every episode as much as we want. While Elephants Can Remember is not
one of the best of the series, it is still a fine and more than worthy
entry. It is also one of those rarities in the series where the
adaptation is an improvement over the book, that is the case with this
adaptation of Elephants Can Remember and the improvement actually is
quite vast. Agatha Christie is always worth reading, her mysteries,
writing and how she develops characters are always engrossing but
Elephants Can Remember is my least favourite of any of her books
featuring Hercule Poirot. The characters are interesting and I will
always admire Christie's writing style but the storytelling is
unusually contrived and inconsistent in Elephants Can Remember with a
final solution that is not that surprising.
With the adaptation I don't think it was quite perfect, but had so many merits. As always with the series,(apart from an out-of-place sighting of green screen in the first encounter with Dr Willoughby) it is beautifully photographed and evocatively evoked in period detail. The music when it's used is elegant and kept simply, not as much as the adaptations pre-2000 or so but a refreshing change from the more cinematic approach(very effective though) heard in the adaptations of Halloween Party and the much-maligned, but for me underrated, Appointment with Death. The dialogue is as thoughtful and intelligent as ever with the odd bit of subtle humour and its fair shares of dramatic(the final solution) and touching(the flashbacks) moments.
The adapted screen-writers do wonders adaptation the story, making it much more compelling and comprehensible than in the book. There are changes of course, characters are omitted and there are additional characters and subplots, but they don't distort things at all and are interesting. In fact, I really appreciated the idea of Dorothea's daughter wanting revenge and the character of Dr Willoughby being expanded. The Dr Willoughby Institute subplot was so seamlessly interwoven you could have sworn it was in the book. And even with the changes I found it remarkable in how true to Agatha Christie and her style it was. With how the story is told here, it makes sense and it draws you right and never lets go. The second half is a little more securely paced than the first, which- while it was a good idea to build things up with time to get to know the characters and such- is a tad pedestrian at times, but not to the extent that you were interminably bored or anything. The final half-hour is very dramatic and Poirot's trip to Paris and his scene with the au pare were a delight.
David Suchet is wonderful as Poirot, I wouldn't expect anything less as he always is and is by far and large the best of the Poirot actors. Zoe Wanamaker's Ariadne Oliver is a triumph, with great chemistry with Suchet and her scenes with the Elephants are beautifully played. Elsa Mollien is very moving in her role, and the Ravenscrofts and Iain Glenn's Dr Willoughby are similarly touchingly portrayed. Caroline Blackiston and Ruth Sheen give some fine comic moments, while Greta Scacchi does loathsome so convincingly that we instantly hate her character without being forced to do so. Vanessa Kirby and Ferdinand Kingsley's roles as Celia and Desmond are not quite written as memorably, but both are played solidly with no noticeable foibles. The weakest was Alexandra Dowling, her performance was on the bland side with a questionable accent and her character mostly didn't seem very necessary up until a certain point, which was very cleverly done.
Overall, vastly improved over the source material and while not quite perfect or among the best of the series I liked it very much indeed. 8.5/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ariadne Oliver was not a "fill in" character as one reviewer here
suggested. She was in Agatha Christie's original Elephants Can Remember
book and ITV, of course, included her in their TV adaptation. After
Colonel Hastings stopped being Poirot's assistant after her 1937 book
"Dumb Witness", Agatha Christie chose to eventually appoint Ariadne
Oliver as Poirot's new full time assistant from the 1952 Poirot
book--Mrs McGinty's Dead--onwards. (Ariadne Oliver did appear in Cards
on the Table with Poirot too in 1936 but that was a temporary post)
Suchet certainly does not seem out of breath playing Poirot in this
Anyhow, this ITV production does have new elements that were not in Christie's original book such as the Willoughby Institute angle and the murderous Marie McDermott, daughter of Dorothea Jarrow but for the most part I felt the producers tried to stay true to the book such as the fact that Molly Ravenscroft was indeed accidentally killed by her identical sister Dorothea Jarrow. But before dying, Molly asked her husband (General Ravenscroft) to protect her sister (Dorothea) from prosecution. Only the family dog could tell the difference between the identical twins Molly and Dorothea. The Colonel honoured his dead wife's wishes until the final day of reckoning with Dorothea at the cliff.
ITV had to adapt the original book since Elephants Can Remember was Agatha Christie's last Poirot book--from 1972--written when her mental faculties were in decline and she might have been suffering from dementia. John Curran, the Christie specialist, in "Agatha Christie's Murder in the Making" called her book here "a disappointment. Like the books published (by Christie) on either side of it (in the 1970's), there are too many rambling conversations that give the reader little solid information" but are merely repetitious. (Curran, p.394) ITV did a reasonable job of turning a below average book into a good TV adaptation.
Curtain, Christie's published Poirot book from 1975, was written three decades prior to Elephants Can Remember. John Curran who studied Christie's original manuscript for Curtain notes that "the address on the manuscript of Curtain is 'Greenway House', which Christie left in October 1942 on its requisition by the US navy" while one of the typewritten corrections to a notebook containing the manuscript for Curtain "seems to date to the early 1940s." (Curran, pp.211-213) So, Elephants Can Remember was certainly Christie's last written Poirot book since Curtain was actually written by the author in the early 1940's as a final farewell for Poirot.
In a very complicated plot, Poirot must find out the killer of a
psychiatrist by first establishing the motive. The psychiatrist was
found dead in his hydrotherapy bath.
But his friend Ariadne also wants wants him to find the motive for an apparent murder-suicide 13 years previously. The "murder-suicide" couple were found shot at the top of a cliff. Poirot is rather irritated that while he is trying to solve this recent murder case, Ariadne is preoccupied with a case long past dismissed as a murder-suicide.
Poirot's powers of deduction do not disappoint!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A good start for the ,alas,final Poirot's outings.An atmospheric tragedy with a very creepy lunatic asylum,a beautifully shot Gothic mansion over a cliff with anxious Vanessa Kirby as a modern Gothic heroine searching for her own past,a double suicide ,a tormented shrink wonderfully played by Glen,a mysterious,malicious secretary played with a mischievous,treacherous smile by promising Alexandra Dowling ,the powerfully domineering Wanamaker as an overwhelming,unstoppable Ariadne Oliver and a big bunch of elephants played by a delicious helping of old actresses like Hazel Douglas and the formidable Caroline Blakiston. My only reservation is for Kingsley,too bland and solid for playing the tormented artist,Tom Riley would have been perfect for the part.But above all,wonderful Elsa Mollien as a dark,secretive Au Pair,matching in acting skills even the colossal Poirot played by Suchet.If you want hope against hope itself that Curtain will be shelved for two or three years giving space to another couple of seasons of Poirot,please,watch the confrontation among Mollien and Suchet in Paris.This is Poirot with all its beauty,its grace, its drama played with effortless,elegant understatement .Time Out can close like News of the World.How they can't understand that this and not Boring Broadchurch is British (and,I'm afraid,Universal) TV at its own possible best? I have of course my objections,but they are not so important:personally I would have given more space to the flashback story,having very interesting dramatic possibilities,cleverly hinted but not entirely developed.The murder in the present is not seamlessly patched with the older story(the presence of the young girl at Overcliffe in the tragic momentum of the crisis is sheer lunacy ,a singular blunder in a wonderful construction).But writing ,directing,acting,everything is so splendid that nothing can destroy its magic,its enchantment,its tragedy.Good work,Poirot.You rendered to us a sterling service,as general Ravenscroft would say.Elephants will remember forever wistfully this wonderful British series.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The story of "Elephants Can Remember" is partly predictable (the "dog clue" is just a tad too obvious) and cannot really stand up to exhaustive scrutiny (unless forensic science in 1925 was more primitive than I imagine), but it also has a haunting quality similar to Agatha Christie's "Five Little Pigs": in both cases, the key to unlocking the murder mysteries can only be found by "delving into the past". As usual, the teamwork of David Suchet and Zoë Wanamaker is highly enjoyable; here, Hercule Poirot and Ariadne Oliver investigate two separate cases, one of the past and one of the present, which turn out to be strongly connected. There is also a welcome feeling of nostalgia created by the inclusion of several scenes set inside Poirot's apartment in Whitehaven Mansions. "Elephants Can Remember" is an entertaining and fairly fast-flowing addition to the series. *** out of 4.
Hercule Poirot's friend, the crime-writer Ariadne Oliver, is approached
by a woman, Mrs Burton-Cox, who inquires about the death of General and
Lady Ravenscroft, 13 years earlier. Ms Oliver is initially shocked and
repulsed by her line of questioning but afterwards is intrigued about
the details of the event, as it seemed like a double suicide or
murder-suicide. She asks Poirot for help but he declines, having
another case, so she does her own investigating. Then Doctor
Willoughby, the psychiatrist who treated the sister of Lady
Ravenscroft, is murdered in his own asylum. Poirot investigates and
starts to think there may be a connection between the two events.
A bit convoluted but entertaining nevertheless. Not obvious who the murderer(s) is/are, largely through much of the detail not being available to the viewer, unfortunately. Still makes for a good story though.
Zoe Wanamaker is in top form as Ariadne Oliver. While not quite a Hastings, she's still a pretty good substitute.
Cast includes Greta Scacchi, Iain Glen (Jorah in Game of Thrones) and Ferdinand Kingsley, the son of Ben Kingsley.
Poirot (David Suchet) is back for season 13 with "Elephants Can
Remember," a good adaptation of the Agatha Christie book. The book, as
the episode, prominently features Ariadne Oliver (Zoe Wanamaker).
Poirot is called upon to investigate the death of a semi-retired psychiatrist who was murdered in a hydrotherapy bathtub in his institute.
Ariadne comes to him for help in the midst of his investigation. She has been asked to have a look at the death of her goddaughter Celia's parents 13 years ago. It was a big scandal at the time, and it seemed to have been a murder/suicide on a lonely cliff. No one could understand it, as the couple was a happy one. The woman asking, Mrs. Burton-Cox, has a son who wants to marry Celia. Mrs. B-C is concerned.
Poirot can't help due to his commitment. He advises her to interview anyone around at the time to jar their memories.
In time, Poirot's case and Ariadne's case intersects, and Poirot founds out a critical piece of information. The minute he learns this, he's on his way to figuring out the case.
Well, I figured it out before he did because of another piece of information, but I don't think Poirot got that one, either, until later. Also, even though I read the book probably 50 years ago, perhaps I subconsciously remembered it. But I don't think so.
Anyway, someone on the board was very critical of this episode, saying that they have cut Poirot's screen time, Suchet looks awful and doesn't want to be there, and it was a bad episode.
Well, David Suchet being the incredible actor he is may -- I say may - - have had another commitment, or in staying true to the book, they threw a lot to Oliver. When I saw Suchet interviewed, he seemed very committed to Poirot, though I admit he looked tired in this episode. He was about 67 during the last season and it's possible he couldn't keep up the schedule. However, I saw him in The Importance of Being Earnest this summer on stage and he was amazing.
I actually thought the episode was quite good. When you have seen a lot of Christie stories, or read them, you realize that she used some plot devices more than once and yes, some stories are better than others. Her best book was The Murder of Roger Acroyd, which was an awful episode. So there you go. You can't win them all, but I think the producers and writers succeeded here.
An elderly psychiatrist is drowned and the son and suspect is a family
friend of Poirot, who duly investigates; this leaves him unavailable to
assist crime writer Ariadne Oliver, who is approached by Lady
Burton-Cox, whose son is due to marry Oliver's goddaughter Celia but
not till Lady Burton-Cox knows the story behind the seeming
double-suicide of Celia's parents many years ago. While Poirot pursues
his mystery, Oliver steps out from behind the pages to become a sleuth
in her own right.
I cannot imagine that it would ruin anything for anyone 13 seasons into Poirot to suggest that of course the dual mysteries of this film are bound to be connected it is obvious from the start, even if the solution is not. Forgiving the film this device, the rest of the drama unfolds with a brisk pace and reasonably good sense of intrigue. Aspects of it feel like it is rather going through the motions of this in some regards the wigs, the dog, and some other clues all being a bit obviously "clues" in many cases. Perhaps there is a certain irony in me usually praising the series for making the mysteries accessible, but then complaining that it overdoes it here, but to a point it does. The solution also seems a bit lacking in the pleasure of the big reveal, of all the pieces falling into place it seems too easy, and a bit too convenient when it happens.
This is not to suggest that the film doesn't work, because it still does have good energy and flow to it, but it is not the most satisfying of mysteries or deliveries. Suchet matches this it is not his biggest effort. He has some nice comedic touches, and he does his usual work, but it does feel like he gives less and the involvement of Oliver limits his time too. By contrast Wanamaker gets more time and does well, and the support cast is particularly good, with solid turns from Scacchi, Regan, Dowling, Kirby and others all doing well. Perhaps I am biased due to the strength of his work in Game of Thrones, but I thought Glen was very good making his supporting character very human and sympathetic. Technically the production is to the usual standard of period detail just a shame that the back-projection on the cliffs was so poor.
All told, this is not one of my favorite films, but it does have a brisk pace and good energy. The connections are obviously coming in the mystery, and this does make some elements of it feel a bit lacking in effort (as does the conclusion) but it still works and has good turns in the cast and production. Solid, but not the film I was hoping for as it represents the beginning of the end for the series; hopefully Big Four can be a much stronger film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Another failure in the series. Adopters make a bad story worse because
they stick to Cristie's spirit.
Instead trying deny and ignore the holes and faults, if fans pay attention, they will see that in the episode Poirot and Oliver in fact discover almost nothing, as usual.
Whole of the 'solution' for early murders, though pronounced by Poirot, comes from the mouth of Zelie Rouxelle, with no supporting evidence.
But what does Zelie say? She actively conspired to murder Dorothea, after she has concealed another murder and actively taken part in an impersonation (that improbable Cristie cliché is here too). She also suppresses evidence by packing victim's child off to a lonely fate in another culture regardless of her feelings. Since General is dead, this abuse of child only benefits Zelie, and possibly Celia. These actions, indicate Zelie to be a monster. Where is Poirot's/Oliver's psychology? Now what if Zelie was lying? What if she and General murdered the wife and forced the impersonation on sick woman? Then decided to kill her too (and commit suicide in case of General) when she demanded her daughter be brought to house as price of cooperation? That is as good an explanation as what comes from Zelie's mouth.
Remember also the odd fact that she is in correspondence, 'as a friend' she insists, with the man who as a teenager had an obsession with her. But this correspondence, and her whereabouts, are actively concealed by both, from his fiancée, who has as much, non obsession, childhood links with her as him, and has sought their renewal.
After all that, Poirot completely trusts and empathizes with this admitted criminal, but pontificates with, and aggressively show contempt for, victim's abused child seeking revenge? Moral blinkers anyone? In this, adopters were certainly in line with Cristie's highly blinkered spirit.
Now let us consider the new murder, an addition by adopters. Poirot indeed discovers that secretary is not who she is, but he does not really break her alibi. No evidence for drugging the doctor is produced (or even mentioned until this is referred to at the end, in a classic mystery story 'cheat'). And why should she try to recklessly kill Desmond? How does she find about him and his connection to her family (remember he has no medical records with doctor)? If she is willing to take huge risks to kill Desmond, why doesn't she try to kill Celia, who she knows about, with much less risk, earlier? Seems psychologically and factually inconsistent. Of course structuring story as it is presented, allows for a cheap melodramatic throwing over the balcony and rescue thrill.
One of the best things about this series from start was the art direction, but this episode spoils that too, by use of obvious fake backgrounds in Paris and overcliffe scenes.
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