Hercule Poirot is hired by Lord Pearson, who happens to be the head of the bank where Poirot keeps his accounts, to find Mr. Wu Ling who was to have attended a meeting at the bank that morning, but who has disappeared. The missing man was to sell the bank a deed to a silver mine. When the man is found dead, Poirot finds himself searching for a killer. All of the evidence seems to point to an American, Charles Lester, but Poirot finds that to be just a little too convenient. At home, Poirot and Captain Hastings find themselves involved in a vicious game of Monopoly!Written by
While playing Monopoly, a player rolls a 9, then moves his piece eight spaces. See more »
Community Chest. You've won second prize in a beauty contest. Collect ten pounds.
Thank you very much, Hastings. It would appear that skill plays but a little part in this game, hein?
It's all about skill. What to buy and when. Where to put your property.
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London's Chinatown isn't on this Poirot's board game
"The Lost Mine" is one of the Agatha Christie mysteries first published in the U.S. and later in the U.K. It appeared in America in 1925 in the collection of short stories called "Poirot Investigates." It appeared in 1974 in the U.K. in the collection, "Poirot's Early Cases." This adaption for television in 1990 is the first of that kind. This is particularly relevant to a major aspect of this film. And, that is Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings playing a game of Monopoly - the U.K. version with London street and place names. The game goes on throughout the story, between and during segments of the mystery case, which is about a murder.
Although I began reading Christie mysteries in the early 1960s, I haven't read this or most of her short stories. So, I don't know if the Monopoly game might have been added by Christie to the story for its 1974 publication in the U.K., or if it was added entirely by the playwrights for the film. If the latter, it might have been in place of another board game. That's because the London version of Monopoly didn't come out until 1936. Indeed, a close look at the board in this film shows that it is a very early edition, in excellent condition. Under the title on the board, it reads, "Patent applied for No. 3795/36."
Monopoly was first produced and marketed as a game by Parker Brothers in America in 1935. It sold the rights for European production and sales to Waddington Games the next year. The English company changed the street and place names to those in London, and first marketed that version in 1936. For instance, the high rent places of Boardwalk and Park Place on the America game edition are changed to Mayfair and Park Lane on the London board.
But the setting for this film is August 1935. When the Chinese businessman signs the hotel registry as Wu Ling, he writes the date as 8/2/35. That's a clue Poirot later points out as pegging the Chinaman as an American. The two entries in the ledger above his are dated 2-8-35 and 2nd Aug., respectively.
All of that aside, this film is not up to the usual quality of a griping and entertaining Christie mystery. The number of principals is very small and the case isn't very complex. Except for a subplot involving opium use and dens that apparently were legal in that day, the story isn't up to the level of intrigue one is accustomed to with Poirot. The red herring of the subplot is the only thing that keeps one's interest in the story. That's because of the sojourns to London's Chinatown.
Who knew that London had a Chinatown? Although it would make sense to assume that all cities with a few million population would have such. Still, one seldom would hear or read anything about a Chinatown outside the big ones of Los Angeles or San Francisco. In 1935, this would have been the original Chinatown of London. It was all but destroyed in the World War II Nazi bombing blitz. After that, Chinese establishments dispersed over London, and a smaller new Chinese section gradually formed in a more upscale area. Anyhow, so one learns in reading about it.
One other thing that helps provide some life to this story is the portrayal of the then-new police radio control network and system. Inspector Japp is only too happy to demonstrate it to Poirot and Hastings. The large room has female police employees who move toy cars along the streets of London as radio reports come in. The whole thing resembles a war room in combat.
Here are some favorite lines from the film.
Hercule Poirot, "If you put your head in the mouth of a lion, you cannot complain if one day he bites it off, huh?"
Hercule Poirot, playing Monopoly, "I will build a hotel on Fenchurch Street." Captain Hastings, "You can't build a hotel on a railway station." Poirot, "Don't be absurd, Hastings. There are plenty of hotels at railway stations." Hastings, "But, that's not in the rules." Poirot, "Well, then, Hastings, the rules are wrong."
Hercule Poirot, "The Americans always put the month before the date, Hastings." Captain Hastings, "Ah!" Poirot, "Yes, they're very backward people."
Charles Lester, "When I read about the murder, you see... this kind of thing - it's, uh, not exactly good for business." Inspector Japp, "Right now, it's not exactly good for you."
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