Agatha Christie’s Poirot Series 7 & 8 (Blu-ray Review)

agatha-christies-poirot-series-7-8The fan favorite returns with four feature-length mysteries which are newly remastered and in original U.K. broadcast order. David Suchet stars as Agatha Christie’s mustachioed mystery-solver alongside Hugh Fraser as Captain Hastings, Philip Jackson (Little Voice) as Chief Inspector Japp, and Pauline Moran as Miss Lemon. Brimming with opulent 1930s period details and pitch-perfect performances, these lavish adaptations look better than ever in this remastered edition. ITV Studios’ Poirot has aired on ITV1 in the U.K. since 1989 and on PBS and A&E in the U.S. The episodes from series 7 and 8 debuted in 2000-02. The Mysteries: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Lord Edgware Dies, Murder in Mesopotamia, and Evil Under the Sun.

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I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot character and I’ve enjoyed the books, the movies, and especially the television show starring David Suchet as the incomparable Poirot.  No other actor has played Poirot more than Suchet, and it’s been recently announced that he will finally be able to achieve his dream of filming every story written for Poirot when the series finishes filming in 2013.  While Albert Finney was good in Murder on the Orient Express as was Peter Ustinov in the further theatrical movies, but Suchet has captured the character like no other.  Before taking on the role, Suchet read all of the stories and took notes about every description and characteristic of the character.  As he described his process later, “What I did was, I had my file on one side of me and a pile of stories on the other side and day after day, week after week, I ploughed through most of Agatha Christie’s novels about Hercule Poirot and wrote down characteristics until I had a file full of documentation of the character. And then it was my business not only to know what he was like, but to gradually become him. I had to become him before we started shooting.”

That attention to detail paid off as he has now become the de-facto Poirot for the public and has achieved the rare feat of playing a single character over a span of twenty-three years.  Over that period of time, the cast has changed over the years, with some characters coming and going depending on the the novels the show was based on.  Popular characters like Captain Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp, and Miss Lemon all disappeared when the series returned for the 2003 season, which was consistent with the plot-lines the shows were based on but it was unpopular with viewers.  It’s been difficult for fans of the show to watch it in any kind of semblance of order since it’s been released by a variety of studios but in a confusing hodgepodge of editions.  For the U.S. market, both Acorn Media and A&E Home Video have split the rights to the show with Acorn Media owning the rights for the 36 standard-length episodes, including the first nine double-length episodes, and the episodes broadcast since 2008.  The other movie-length episodes are distributed by A&E, who co-produced several of them.  (You can read my review of the Agatha Christie Poirot – Movie Collection Set 6 here).  In a much appreciated move, Acorn Media has now released the first eight sets of the series in it’s original UK broadcast order with more to follow.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Season 7: Episode 1 – Aired date:  Living quietly in the small village of King’s Abbot, sleuth Hercule Poirot becomes involved in the murder of successful industrialist Roger Ackroyd.  The number of potential killers is almost as great as the population of the village itself.  As Poirot investigates he sees that there might be a connection to the suicide of a local woman, and the death the previous year of her husband. Sometimes the movie is better than the book and sometimes it’s the other way around.  In this case, the story is definitely the better of the two since the structure of the story and its eventual resolution works a lot better on the written page thanks to the various points of view of the players.  The story’s pace moves a lot quicker than this production, although by the end of the movie it does pick up quite a bit.  It was interesting to see Oliver Ford Davies in a role other than the Star Wars prequels that I knew him from as was seeing a retired Poirot as well.  This movie feels like a missed opportunity due to the rare story-line where it’s personal for Poirot.  To be fair though, this is also a story that would be very difficult to adapt as well as the original book.

Lord Edgware Dies (Season 7: Episode 2 – Aired date:  Lady Edgware, the well-known stage actress Jane Wilkinson has a dilemma in that her husband has consistently refused to give her a divorce.  She asks Hercule Poirot to visit the man and see if there is any possibility of convincing him.  Lord Edgware is nothing short of nasty treating all of those around him very badly.  When he is found dead, there is no great surprise but there certainly a good number of suspects.  The police believe Lady Edgware to be the culprit but she has a cast iron alibi having attended a private dinner over the time her husband was killed.  There is also the man’s nephew, who would inherit his fortune; his personal assistant, whom he treated very badly; and then there is the family butler who clearly has his own interests at heart.   I enjoyed this movie a lot more than the first one as it not only has a great mystery, but it’s actors are also very good too.  We see that discovering that evil exists everywhere has made Poirot rethink his retirement in the country.  He’s back in London and that means that he’s also reunited with Miss Lemon and Captain Hastings too.  Of course, that reunion will be short-lived since from Series 9 on, they won’t be included except for Captain Hastings’ return in “Curtain.”  This mystery is probably the most unbelievable and it probably works a lot better as a novel, but it’s still entertaining and it benefits from some strong performances.  Helen Grace is especially good as Jane Wilkinson and this movie also serves as one of the few times we see Poirot smitten by a woman.

Murder in Mesopotamia (Season 8: Episode 2 – Aired date:  While accompanying his friend Hastings to a dig in Iraq, Hercule Poirot becomes involved in the murder of an archaeologist’s wife.  The victim, Mrs. Leidner, had been receiving threatening letters signed by her first husband, who was known to have been killed in a train wreck.  Did he survive?  Was it his younger brother who was avenging his memory?  Did Miss Johnson get rid of her rival for her employer’s affections? Did Richard Carey kill the woman he publicly announces that he hates?  Is the French priest really who he pretends to be?  And how many deaths will occur before Poirot unmasks the murderer?  While I enjoyed seeing how the crime was committed, this movie didn’t do much for me.  While the murder itself is clever, the rest of the movie doesn’t seem up to Agatha Christie’s usual standards.  It has the usual mix of suspects and no characters that are that interesting or elicits any kind of empathy from the viewer.  Pretty much every one of them doesn’t deserve the slightest bit of sympathy which kind of makes it harder to keep one’s attention.  The locations for the film are very nice and realistic looking however.

Evil under the Sun (Season 8: Episode 1 – Aired date:  After collapsing in front of his ‘rival’ Japp, being rushed into hospital and diagnosed with a weight problem that could cause a heart problem, private society detective Hercule Poirot, who must recover and hopes to lose some weight, visits a seaside health farm on “Burgh Island”, in Devon, which has about the best weather in Britain, accompanied by his British friend and assistant, major Hastings.  For once he needs to keep far from mysteries, but a murder happens right there: the flirtatious heiress Arlena Stewart is found strangled on a secluded beach where she went sunbathing near a cove. As usual Poirot has screens several suspects such as Christine Redfern, whose husband, journalist Patrick Redfern, was flirting with Arlena in front of Christine while Arlena’s husband Kenneth Marshall and 17-year-old step son Lionel Marshall resented her own flirtations with other men.  Others had much to loose by Arlena’s diva-bitching in professional life.  A strange guest at the resort, Major Barry, rather grimly warns Poirot and Hastings to leave as the island isn’t a safe place but refuses to explain why.  The mystery unravels slowly as he struggles with the exact method of the killer(s?) and especially the timing of events, for both deliberate deception and chance complicated matters.  Even though “Evil Under the Sun” was televised before “Murder in Mesopotamia”, it’s shown out of order on this set.  For my money, the most ingeniously plotted  murder is this one which will leave you guessing all the way until the end.  Not only is it believable, it’s also deviously clever and makes this the best movie in this set which is probably why they shifted it to the end.  Plus, we get plenty of humor as well, as Poirot is sent to a health resort for being obese and we see another investment opportunity for Hastings go awry.  This movie is a great way to close out the set and I’m already looking forward to series 9!

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These episodes are framed in their original broadcast ratio of 1.33:1 and presented in 1080p resolution.  When compared to the earlier DVD release, these remastered episodes look considerably better.  This set even looks better than the earlier Blu-ray sets as it has a much sharper picture.  There’s still some soft shots every now and then, but overall this is much better.  Colors are better defined and contrast is also improved.  Flesh tones look natural but occasionally veer to the pinkish side and black levels are fairly decent but not as dark as they should be.  These episodes don’t suffer from scratches or blemishes and for a show over twenty-five years old, this set look really good.  The final entry of this set, “Evil Under the Sun” looks especially good.

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Series 7 & 8 set’s uncompressed PCM 2.0 stereo mix also is a far cry better than the earlier home video release.  The dialogue is clear and crisp, and the scores by Christopher Gunning also sound wonderful (albeit the music is much louder than the rest of the show).  This is a mostly front channel delivery but the sound effects sound good and there’s no hiss or other audio issues to speak of.  Fans of the show should be plenty happy with this new uncompressed mix.

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There are no special features on this series set which is a shame for the fans and it will unfortunately bring down the final score.



This is a fantastic show and now there’s even more of a reason for you to start watching it now that it’s in the original broadcast order and in high definition.  These sets offer much better picture and audio quality than the earlier releases and even without  extras, they are worth the extra cost to upgrade to.  David Suchet is wonderful as the one and only Poirot and any fan of mysteries will love this show.

 Order your copy today!



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