“The Fans Voted And The Results Are In!”
Who exactly these fans are and whether or not they’ve actually voted, Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Marple: Fan Favorites Collection has arrived.
With David Suchet (Foolproof) in the titular role, “The Poirot Mysteries” involves the fastidious Belgian private detective in a half-dozen whodunits:
* “Murder On The Orient Express” (Series 12, originally broadcast 2010)
* “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas” (Series 6, originally broadcast 1995)
* “The Mysterious Affair At Styles” (Series 3, originally broadcast 1990)
* “The ABC Murders” (Series 4, originally broadcast 1992)
* “The Adventure Of The Egyptian Tomb” (Series 5, originally broadcast 1993)
* “Four And Twenty Blackbirds” (Series 1, originally broadcast 1989)
While “The Marple Mysteries” numbers five, with the sweet little old spinster of St. Mary Mead being played by Geraldine McEwan (The Magdalene Sisters) in the first three, and Julia McKenzie (Fresh Fields) taking over for the last two:
* “The Murder At The Vicarage” (Series 1, originally broadcast 2004)
* “A Murder Is Announced” (Series 1, originally broadcast 2005)
* “At Bertram’s Hotel” (Series 3, originally broadcast 2007)
* “A Pocket Full Of Rye” (Series 4, originally broadcast 2008)
* “The Mirror Crack’d From Side To Side” (Series 5, originally broadcast 2010)
Please forgive me for smirking over my Stilton cheese and suet pudding, but I can’t help wondering whether or not the real mystery here lies in ascertaining just how many times faithful collectors of these crime dramas have paid for the same episodes in the various guises of “Volume” this, or “Definitive” that!
What can I say? The performances and the production values are completely unassailable, most likely ascribable to these stories and characters being a part of every English actor’s DNA by now. As the adventures listed above have been previously reviewed by several of my esteemed Verdict colleagues, I shan’t be redundant, but I would like to point out that this collection comes at an opportune time, featuring as it does, a prime guest appearance (in “Murder On The Orient Express”) by Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), currently the front-line favorite for nabbing Best Actress honors at this year’s Academy Awards.
Acorn has done a first-rate job with the transfers — some full-screen, some widescreen, all visually sumptuous — and while the audio levels are perfectly complimentary, English SDH subtitles are helpful for coping with some of the dialects, and considering the quality of the writing all-round, one won’t wish to miss a word.
Extras are limited to a slim booklet tucked into the “Marple” disc case, which includes the recipe for “Delicious Death,” a sinful confection devised by Jane Asher, “The British queen of party cakes.” In days gone by, Ms. Asher had achieved quite a bit of notoriety as a distinguished actress and the longtime sweetheart of Sir Paul McCartney. While the ex-Beatle is nowhere in evidence here, his ex-girlfriend makes a memorably splashy guest appearance in “The Murder At The Vicarage,” which is, incidentally, the tale that inspired the recipe.
For those who dream of drowsy Sunday afternoons with cucumber sandwiches and light orchestral playing on the wireless, Agatha Christie’s Poirot And Marple: Fan Favorites Collection may be the very thing for viewing before bedtime, but check your shelves first, in order to avoid double or even triple-dipping.
Not guilty, at least on aesthetic grounds.