Shortly after opening an ancient Egyptian tomb, members of an English-American museum expedition start dropping off like flies. Can it truly be the Pharaoh's curse? Poirot travels to Egypt to unravel the mystery.
Hercule Poirot is called upon to solve a series of mysterious deaths that are centered around the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Sir John Willard died moments after he and a group of archaeologists entered an ancient tomb. The expedition's physician, Dr. Ames, concluded it was a heart attack but soon other members begin to die in mysterious circumstances. One dies of blood poisoning from a relatively mild cut while another dies of tetanus. One member who has returned to New York has taken his own life. Rumors are soon circulating that an Egyptian curse is felling all those who desecrated the ancient tomb. Poirot and Captain Hastings set off for Egypt to determine what is happening and who might be behind it.Written by
The opening newsreel uses a shot of Dr. Fosswell from later in the episode when Poirot arrives at the dig site. See more »
The pyramids of Egypt, the last surviving of the seven wonders of the world. The latest expedition by famous archaeologist Sir John Willard may soon reveal more of this ancient world's mysteries with the discovery of the tomb of Egyptian king Men-Her-Ra. No doubt there will be rivalry between Doctor Fosswell of the British Museum and Doctor Schneider of the Metropolitan Museum of New York, but keep it friendly, eh, chaps. The local workers' fear of a death curse laid ...
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This is an especially enjoyable Poirot episode, owing mainly to the perennial allure of ancient Egypt and the perennial charm of Miss Lemon as played by Pauline Moran.
Miss Lemon combines calm efficiency with quick-witted gameness, and shifts between chilly eyebrow-raising and melodramatic enthusiasm. She can get out of the office and become the detective's intrepid Girl Friday, venturing into dangerous quarters to coax information out of shady characters -- and succeed without turning a hair. Or she can get deep into some personal fad like spiritualism, as she does in this episode. Please note that Miss Lemon's delightfully eccentric personality, like nearly all other delightful touches in this series of Poirot dramatizations, is entirely the work of the actor, TV writer, and director. The Miss Lemon who appears in a few of the original stories is a nearly inanimate lump of efficiency. Agatha Christie wrote of her characters becoming real people to her, but that should be set down to great powers of autosuggestion. One would say no writer had been so successful with such lifeless characters, but that no writer has been so successful with any characters.
The vulnerability to superstition that we find in Miss Lemon echoes a sad social phenomenon of the years after World War I, continuing into the 1930s. Miss Lemon turns to the planchette (an automatic-writing device that evolved into the Ouija board) in hopes of communicating with the departed spirit of her beloved cat. After the carnage of the Great War virtually wiped a generation of young men out of history, 19th-century spiritualism had a new vogue as a resort of bereft parents and lovers. Those people may have been doomed to frustration or exploitation, but Miss Lemon gains release from her much lighter grief through the kindness of her employer. Though Poirot never falters in his rationality, he is capable of compassion for the rest of us.
The plot of this episode is patterned on the sensation following the opening of King Tut's tomb, when several people connected with the expedition died unexpectedly. Romanticists attributed the deaths to a curse, while realists pointed to such factors as blood poisoning. It's hardly a spoiler to note that in Poirot's world neither curses nor blood poisoning will lie at the very bottom of things. That's the way we like it, of course, and we have to be willing to pay for our pleasure by swallowing a highly implausible plot. As with many of these stories, it's unthinkable that an intelligent person would risk the gallows for such a string of long shots. So don't think.
For that matter, "Don't think" could be the guiding principle that makes Hugh Fraser's Captain Hastings a joy to watch. Where Miss Lemon believes intensely, Hastings simply falls in with any passing stream of logic or nonsense. Watch him in the planchette scene and try to keep a straight face. Surely this character's literary cousin is not Dr. Watson, but Bertie Wooster, who once overhears his valet Jeeves describing him as "an exceedingly pleasant and amiable young gentleman, but not intelligent. By no means intelligent. Mentally he is negligible—quite negligible."
As always, you can't go wrong by watching this episode for the cast. The mummy's-tomb atmospherics are a big bonus, and the 1930s-style model shots are fun to spot.
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