Tuesday, September 08, 2009

And now for something completely different...

For all intents and purposes, summer is now over. The often-trodden paths always seem to worn and familiar for me at this time of year. I long for something different. So today, I’m writing my first-ever review of something criminous.

I have a curious relationship with Agatha Christie. In the summer of my 18th year, I worked at a resort in Maine. I was the pool boy. This place was inhabited more by older folks, so there was a definite lack of bathing beauties frolicking in tiny bikinis at my watery workplace. Mostly, my clientele were women sitting around under umbrellas gossiping, having the occasional soft drinks (no alcohol by the pool) and reading while their hubby played golf or fished. After cleaning the pool every morning, I didn’t have much else to do but hand out ice-cold pop, towels and to stick my nose into my own book. It was here that I discovered Agatha Christie. I think the resort’s bookshelves had copies of everything she published. I especially remember reading her Hercule Poirot novels.

From that extensive background came a very definite mental idea of who and what he was, so it was with trepidation that I viewed a copy of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, The Movie Collection, Set 4, put out by Acorn Media. Not having a television hooked up to any TV stations, I’d never seen this series on PBS when originally broadcast.

The two stories are Mrs. McGinty’s Dead and Cat Among the Pigeons. The latter I remember well from my long-ago summer reading. David Suchet appears in the title role.

A lot of care went into the making of these episodes. The ‘feel’ of the stories is perfect and the attention to detail is really quite astounding. I suppose the production company, being British, cut no corners and damn the expense! The supporting cast led here by ZoĆ« Wanamaker and Harriet Walter is superb. Everything is there for two enjoyable evenings in Christie-land. And I did enjoy it. I also think Dame Agatha herself would have been pleased.

Suchet does he damnedest to become Poirot. He really is quite superb. The fussiness is there in just the right amount. The accent is perfect. He even moves the way I would expect Poirot to move: small, fast and precise. Basically, he succeeds on all but one critical point: he’s too darned BIG. One of the things about Poirot is that he often succeeded because the bad guy underestimated him because of his size.

Picky? Sure. But when you get this close to perfection (and Suchet does get that close), it’s a shame to be done in by something over which you have no control. I suppose if they’d wanted to go whole hog, they could have digitally shrunk him. It's the only real clunker in the entire DVD set.

NOTE: No, we're not going to make a habit of posting reviews on Type M. So unseal that package containing the copy of your latest novel or the query email to ask if we'll help you promote the book that you've been assigned to promote. This review is just something I thought would be, well, completely different.

ANOTHER NOTE: Speaking of video, here's a very funny and apropos clip for Type M. I believe from the laugh track that it must be a TV skit of some sort, purporting to be part of a tourism ad campaign. This is something our Charles would probably want to try as an approach...

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