Agatha Christie: Poirot & Marple Review

Agatha Christie gifted the world with a series of mysteries so intricate and well-conceived that her name has a legendary aura in the world of mystery literature. With so much source material in the Agatha Christie library it really should come as no surprise that Agatha Christie: Poirot and Agatha Christie Marple, brilliant adaptations of two of her most famous detectives, feature compelling stories for viewers who find the offerings of the small and silver screens sorely lacking in good whodunits. David Suchet and Joan Hickson embody the characters with such familiarity and comfortable style that make each installment a feature-film quality presentation.

Keep in mind that this box set is by no means a complete collection of either series, but rather a compilation of the two with a rhyme and reason to the selections. The Poirot mysteries aren’t even a random selection of the so-called “best” of the series; instead it’s a very simple a-to-z explanation: this is seasons 7-10. It’s interesting they chose that chunk, but perhaps there are some who would consider these the golden years of the still ongoing series? I’m not sure I’d agree with that assessment, but the only other explanation is that they’ve released the first six seasons in a similar fashion before this point. While the Poirot collection makes a little bit of sense, the selection of Marple mysteries is truly perplexing as it includes all of Hickson’s performances as Miss Jane Marple – save for 3. But why?

It’s not obvious why they’ve chosen these episodes, but here they are:

Agatha Christie: Poirot

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Lord Edgeware Dies, Murder in Mesopotamia, Evil Under the Sun, Death on the Nile, Sad Cypress, The Hollow, Five Little Pigs, The Mystery of the Blue Train, Taken at the Flood, After the Funeral, Cards on the Table

They’re not even in order according to when they aired – but at least it stands as four solid seasons of a brilliant televised mystery serial. Take it as it is.

Agatha Christie Marple

A Caribbean Mystery, The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, Sleeping Murder, 4:50 from Paddington, The Moving Finger, At Bertram’s Hotel, Murder at the Vicarage, Nemesis, They Do it With Mirrors

What’s most odd about this selection is the omission of three random features. It’s not the first three or even the last three that they cut out – it’s a random grouping towards the front. The Body in the Library, A Pocket Full of Rye and A Murder is Announced are all absent from the set which leaves it sadly incomplete. Considering the set is already a solid brick of quality programming, was it really too much to ask that they include the last three? I don’t think so. But maybe this is a matter of not looking a gift horse in the mouth. Or maybe there’re plans for a full series release down the road. It’s probably the latter.

David Suchet and Joan Hickson give the characters just the right amount of personality – thought there is an issue to be noted. David Suchet, after 63 episodes into the adventures of Hercule Poirot has maintained the same characterization with no growth. He has personality quirks that fans of the show will come to find endearing, but the lack of change in Poirot’s countenance can make the character somewhat tired at times. Hickson on the other hand gives her character all sorts of nuances and isn’t afraid to let her character evolve. With that said, both series remain superb examples of whodunit programming worthy of your purchase.

In terms of video quality there are a few minor qualms worth considering. For one, there's an unvanquishable tracking glitch which appears at the top of a few of the Poirot episodes. Secondly, even without the tracking bar, the video quality hasn't held up to the test of time; the grainy composition can be distracting at times but is never so bad as to ruin the enjoyment.

DVD Bonus Features

The DVDs are sparsely endowed with little biography features (text-only) on each program’s main stars and, of course, Agatha Christie herself. But at 34 hours, if you’re still clamoring for extra features you’re some sort of television watching god.

It’s still a great set even with the odd episodes of Marple that it lacks. If you’re looking for a more complete collection of either one, this might not be your best option. But, if you want a good heaping of mysteries at a reasonable price then maybe you should try it out.

"Agatha Christie: Poirot & Marple" is on sale July 28, 2009 and is rated NR. Drama, Mystery, Television. Directed by Various. Written by Agatha Christie. Starring David Suchet, Donald Pleasence, Hugh Fraser, Joan Hickson, Pauline Moran, Philip Jackson.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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