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Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Sets 1 – 5

Release Year:         1989 – 2013
Studio:         Acorn Media
Format:         Colour; NTSC; Boxed set
Rated:         Not Rated
DVD Features:         SDH subtitles
E: Top Picks Rating:         9/10

Acorn Media Write-up:         He’s the most-watched sleuth in the history of PBS’s Mystery! David Suchet stars as the dapper, diminutive Belgian who solves the most serpentine cases with the sharpest of minds and the driest of wits. Set in the Art Deco elegance of 1930s England, each mysterious adventure is a treat for the eyes and the intellect.

Rhiannon Benedict & Jon Ted Wynne Review:         David Suchet was born to play Hercule Poirot. Dame Agatha Christie’s persnickety super-sleuth has been assayed by many before Suchet began his run in AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT in 1989, but no one comes close to epitomizing the eccentric sleuth the way Suchet does.

He’s as fine an actor as anyone who has played the part, and that includes Charles Laughton, Albert Finney and Peter Ustinov, to name a few. He was recommended for the role by Christie’s family, and he clearly took their confidence in him to heart – this English actor is the most convincing little Belgian detective to date.

Suchet is a purist, deeply dedicated to Agatha Christie’s vision of the character. He has an extensive file on Poirot’s mannerisms and personality traits, which he meticulously compiled when doing his initial research. Imagine an actor so passionate about a role, he reads all of the Poirot novels and short stories Agatha Christie wrote, makes note of every descriptor she uses, then infuses his work with her original ideas, completing his characterization before shooting even begins. Even Poirot would be impressed with that level of perfectionism!

His painstaking approach has borne fruit. Once you see him in the part, it really is difficult to imagine anyone else in the role. Christie’s grandson has publicly bemoaned the fact that she never had the chance to see Suchet’s Poirot. It really is a pity, as he has paid her the highest compliment an actor can pay a writer – he trusted her, and the audience reaps the dividends. The authenticity of his characterization is a Master Class in naturalism, despite the fact that Poirot is anything but natural in his thinking and behaviour. You’ll be hard-pressed to identify a false note in his performance. There’s an enormous talent tucked away in this small man.

While his acting is always exceptional, in AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT, David Suchet takes things one step past hard work and dedication and stands proudly as a completionist. He is committed to playing Poirot in all of Christie’s short stories and novels. (Some short stories were expanded and re-written into other stories by the writer herself, and therefore the original short story is not included in this canon to which Suchet is committed.) There is one exception to this, the short story “The Lemesurier Inheritance”, which was published in 1923 as part of the collection titled “Poirot’s Early Cases”. It appears to be off the “to be filmed” list, although the reason for this does not seem to have been articulated publicly.

However, the most important factor in all this is the fact that Suchet has run the gauntlet as Poirot – flexed and grown in the character, providing a modern audience with a truly unique opportunity to use their little grey cells alongside a great actor in great productions.

Suchet’s presence in the series has prompted an unprecedented commitment by ITV to film an entire canon as written by one author. It was Suchet’s dream, and it’s coming true. The only thing that comes close is Clive Merrison’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in all sixty stories and novels, but that was on radio. The continuity of character and style afforded by this endeavor puts this series in a category all its own.

Even those who aren’t fond of Agatha Christie generally, or of Poirot specifically, can find a great deal to appreciate here. It’s true that Christie herself found the little Belgian sleuth insufferable. In her own words, Poirot is a “detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep”. Not exactly traits that most people would find endearing. But in the hands of an actor of Suchet’s caliber, Poirot is an eminently watchable little creep. Although some plots prove to be sluggish or absurd, there are so many extraordinary elements to this series, it never fails to entertain. The production values are lavish. In combination with its fascinating lead actor, there is always something worth watching.

Acorn Media has released Sets 1 – 5 of AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT: thirty-eight 50-minute episodes (Sets 1 – 3 and 5), and three feature-length adaptations (Set 4), are available in the original UK broadcast order on DVD and Blu-Ray.