DATELINE: A Worthy Series
Suchet as the inimitable Hercule
David Suchet’s bravissimo performance over two decades as Hercule Poirot might be appreciated many times. This week we took in The ABC Murders again.
The climactic murder scene takes place in a cinema where Hitchcock’s Number Seventeen is on the screen as a backdrop for the serial killer. We suspect the Master of Suspense would approve.
The Agatha Christie story became the first full-length movie episode from the delightful TV series. For that reason alone, the plot is clever and intriguing. Christie uses a device that brings together the grieving family of the serial ABC serial killer as Poirot’s band of intrepid sleuths.
The notion that the victims’ family would want to take an active role in catching their beloved one’s killer is compelling, even if Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson) is exasperated by his friendly nemesis with the mincing steps, and obsessive neatness.
Poirot’s demeanor as a private investigator remains firm in its resolve, but already we begin to see in the nuances of Suchet’s performance that Poirot is beginning to become jaded and horrified by the endless murders he deals with.
Indeed, this serial killer sends Poirot a series of letters, challenging him to stop the carnage. It becomes so personal that the Belgian detective is more distracted by his moral repugnance.
As his aide-de-camp Captain Hastings, Hugh Fraser matches Suchet as the obtuse man of action—as they both seem weary from four seasons of sadistic killers. Pauline Moran’s Miss Lemon, Poirot’s dedicated secretary, is absent from this episode.
Christie had such brilliant creativity in finding ways to develop characters and contrive plots that are truly mysteries to entertain an audience.
Over the length of the Poirot series, bringing all the stories to film (something the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series could not do), is a monumental achievement, matching the flavor of the literature of the Christie stories with film plays. A large debt is owed to Suchet, the driving force behind the detective.