Tag Archives: Agatha Christie

Who dunnit?


Almost fifty years on, I didn’t remember either the plot or who the murderer was. For that reason, I quite enjoyed the latest BBC version of Ordeal by Innocence. I feel as long as you don’t expect much, these period Agatha Christie rewrites are fun enough. Just not very ‘real.’

It used to be that screen scripts weren’t very true to the book, but since when do you have to change who the killer is? If you have so much better an idea, why not write your own?

I did wonder whether Bill Nighy was going to be the usual nice guy or if they were going outside their comfort zone and have him bludgeon his wife to death. And son Jack seemed quite unpleasant to begin with.

Considering what the theme for some of the reasons behind this dysfunctional family’s problems were [supposed to be], I’m not surprised they felt the need to reshoot all the scenes where the original actor might have an unpalatable sexual past. Or not.

But I felt the changeover worked well. Yes, you could see how cold it was in January, when it should have been summer, but that was all. The car radio scenes were more inaccurate, but I suppose people are too young to know.

So, yes, I enjoyed it. Even Matthew Goode being a bit bad. He’s a disturbingly good kind of bad.

But the satisfying television ending rings a bit hollow, when you consider how it was meant to be.

Who was best, the Doctor or Christie?

Doctoring your Agatha Christie… I wish they hadn’t. I didn’t initially remember* the original Witness for the Prosecution, but I gather the BBC added the odd thing at the end, and even when you don’t know the plot intimately, it was pretty obvious that someone had been allowed to go crazy. And I don’t mean the murderer or his unfortunate solicitor. Or even the sad victim who wasn’t the murderer after all.

The first half of this Agatha Christie short story was good and even a little enjoyable, bar the coughing from Toby Jones. Even the beginning of the second half was all right and the plot went in the expected direction. The falsely accused murderer and his ‘wife’ were both excellent. But I did hate the coughing. On the other hand, it was illuminating seeing the importance of good health care and how you can be virtually brought back from the almost dead. Unless you have been murdered.

The Return of Doctor Mysterio

Doctor Who, on the other hand, was a delight from beginning to end. I know people who hated it, but you need to keep in mind that Doctor Who is a programme for children, not adults. Doesn’t stop quite a few of us from liking it, though.

Superheroes, what’s not to like? The baby was a bit weird, but it was the babysitter we had an interest in. And his (her?) mother. Matt Lucas was fine, but I really didn’t grasp his role in all of this. Maybe his task was to look a bit odd and make a few funny comments?

But you know, the Doctor was expected, as he hung upside down outside the boy’s bedroom window. We all expect a visit from an unknown older male at Christmas, don’t we?

I had just about forgotten that we’d not had the Doctor round for the past year. But I’m ready for him now.

*It all came back to me after a while. The 1957 film was much better. And I also now recall trying to get my hands on the book, in Swedish translation, for a friend. It was impossible. I was at the back of a very long queue.

Pieces of Poirot

Poirot falling to pieces was a novelty. I’ll give them that. But the consensus in these parts seemed to be that we prefer a slightly saner Poirot, and if the murderers can be more cheerful as they go about their business that would not be a bad thing. At least if it’s Murder on the Orient Express, and they are almost justified, and they get to travel on that great train.

David Suchet, Murder on the Orient Express

But it must have been the justification that had the screenwriter in a twist. It wouldn’t be pc to allow murderers to get away with it (although it seems to be in vogue in real courts, here and now), so we need to have Poirot all religious and with flashback to a possible mistake made earlier, as well as putting the current murderers in context with the stoning of an adulteress.

It is a very Christmassy Christie, what with the snow and all. Considerably more current news than they could possibly have hoped for, as well. Trains stuck. Cold trains. Bad customer service. Ineffective digging in snow drifts. Almost British. The period feel is good, and the train is lovely.

But we don’t want Poirot falling to pieces. He didn’t in the ‘old’ film, nor, as far as I recall, did he in the book. When did he become a catholic, or at least, so overtly religious? As the film began Daughter muttered that she hoped they weren’t going to change who did it. A bit hard with this scenario, but it began to look as if they’d change Poirot’s decision at the end.

Was it just me, or had much of the casting been done by someone who knew exactly what each character should look like, as defined by the old film?

And was this intended as Poirot’s last case? If so, I suppose he’s allowed to go round the bend somewhat. As Son pointed out, everyone was so very angry.

Murder on the Orient Express 2010

Poirot v Branagh

Well, well, well. Hadn’t expected that at all. I had expected a slight problem deciding which to watch and which to record, when Poirot came head-to-head with Branagh’s Wallander on Sunday night. But when discussing the logistics, it soon became evident that the witch household wanted to watch Poirot, and could see no point in even recording Branagh.

Oh dear.

So we settled down to our third fresh Agatha Christie in eight days. The Christmas effect…

Martin Shaw was lovely, despite being the one who did it. In fact, he was lovelier than he usually is, so maybe we want him bad more often. (Though how on earth can you have a retired actor going round doing the work of the police? Private detective I can understand, but an idiotic actor?)

And Art Malik. He could have hung around a bit longer before snuffing it.

This was pretty good, and didn’t feel as silly as some ITV ‘based on’ episodes. I watched the Peter Ustinov and Tony Curtis film not long ago, and that really was weird. Tony Curtis was running around wearing shorts most of the time, so Martin Shaw was far more dignified. I almost wanted him to get away with it.

Appointment with a new plot

There was no feeling of recognition at all. I’m not sure how many years have passed since I read Appointment With Death, but it could be close to forty. Generally, though, there tends to be an ‘oh, yes, that’s what happened’ kind of thought when you come face to face with whodunnit.

Last night on ITV I just told myself that I was watching an ITV Poirot, so there was every likelihood of it having acquired a new plot. The summary on Wikipedia bears a little resemblance to the television drama, but not enough to disturb.

What we saw was attractive and sensational, which is how they prefer their crime dramas. Fair enough. John Hannah looked good in his desert outfit, even though he was a bit OTT. And as Son said, it’d be nice to be able to travel like that. Minus the murders.

‘You don’t look batty…’

‘Is it close to Midsomer, do you think?’ asked my companion in front of the television on Sunday. It looked a little Midsomerish, where Miss Marple went to investigate a possible murder or three. More like five or six before this lovely village was done.

Murder Is Easy certainly proved to be true. You could just tell who was on the bumping off list. And it was Moaning Myrtle who did it.

It was further away from Midsomer than you’d think. Miss Marple was found not to be even slightly batty by an awfully young ex-policeman from somewhere in the old empire. He can’t have been retired, can he, that delicious looking Benedict Cumberbatch? He proved that beauty does not mean you have to be ill equipped in the brains department. And that sweet young local policeman proved a very worthy companion to Jane Marple.

I’m surprised at how good the script was, having almost given up on ITV. This was positively intelligent. Although sometimes you get exhausted just trying to see the same old actors as the character they are portraying this time, rather than the one(s) you may know them as from somewhere else.

I’ll assume this was the reason my companion slept through the middle of Murder Is Easy. Won’t name him/her.


I still don’t think that ITV’s Marple is all that marvellous, but it does all right for a bit of mindless viewing. Sunday’s A Pocketful of Rye was suitable for a day spent fighting a headache. I needed entertaining, but couldn’t cope with anything demanding. Plenty of breaks for the commercials allowed the refilling of teacups.

Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple

Julia McKenzie made a much better Miss Marple than her predecessor. She’s no Joan Hickson, but pretty close. I still suspect they are mixing their ‘authentic periods’ rather, and don’t stop to consider whether people in the 1950s would have done or said what they put in the script, but then I’m an old fusspot.

Poirot v Barnaby

Is there any contest at all between these two gents?

I rarely watch Midsomer Murders these days. It’s not even like cake, because I can have too much cake and not enjoy the last piece, but it will taste good again after a long enough break. Not so with Midsomer, which now strikes me as silly all the time. Sometimes I may feel I can put up with that, so will watch it to keep someone else company. But was it always this ridiculous? Have I matured, or has dear Barnaby passed his sell by date?

Poirot, on the other hand, is always lovely. Not sure how authentic these newly made “authentic” episodes are, but they are fun to watch. And as much as I loved Peter Ustinov, the only real Poirot is David Suchet. Someone recently said how they couldn’t stand his Poirot, but I think it would be more true to say that Poirot isn’t necessarily all that nice. I don’t think he should be. But Suchet’s interpretation is so close to the Poirot of the books.

I suspect what brought this on, was watching the two latest Poirots with a recording of Midsomer in the middle. The thing is, both are equally popular in other countries. This is because they firmly believe this is how we live in England. Not necessarily going round murdering people at every opportunity, but the charming houses and the tea drinking and all that. Cluedo, really.