Sun 19 Jul 2009
LORD EDGWARE DIES. TV movie/episode of Agatha Christie: Poirot (ITV, A&E).. First shown in the UK on 19 February 2000 [Season 7, Episode 2]. David Suchet (Poirot), Hugh Fraser (Captain Hastings), Philip Jackson (Inspector Japp), Pauline Moran (Miss Lemon), with Helen Grace, John Castle, Fiona Allen, Dominic Guard, Deborah Cornelius, Hannah Yelland, Tim Steed. Based on the novel by Agatha Christie (US title: Thirteen at Dinner). Dramatization: Anthony Horowitz; director: Brian Farnham.
In the comments that follow Geoff Bradley’s review of Toward Zero, David Vineyard and others, including myself, have been discussing the viability of movie and TV adaptations, as compared to the original books upon which they’re based.
Which of course brought to mind (mine, that is) my disappointment in the preceding entry in this series of Hercule Poirot dramatizations, that being The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which I reviewed here quite some time ago.
Regarding the latter, allow me to quote my slightly younger self: “I certainly did not recognize the shootout in the chemical factory between the killer on one side at the end, and Poirot and Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson) on the other. Good grief. What were they thinking?”
With Lord Edgware Dies, however, they writer, producer and director get another chance to do it right, and except for one or two details, as far as I could tell, they did. I’ve read all of the comments on IMBD, and they all agree. This was an almost perfect reproduction of the book.
In which the wife of Lord Edgware hires Poirot to intercede on her behalf in terms of his agreeing to grant her a divorce. Even though the good man (who is not, otherwise why are there so many possible suspects?) says he’s willing, he’s found dead later the same evening.
The primary suspect is Poirot’s client, played most wonderfully by Helen Grace — she’s supposed to be a woman who attracts men to her like that other Helen, the one from Troy — and she does.
The problem is, she has an alibi, an unshakable one, such as being at a dinner party set for thirteen at exactly the same time the murder takes place. And what’s more, a well-dressed look-alike is seen entering the dead man’s home just before he died.
She’s been framed, and it’s up to Poirot, with a little help from Hastings and Japp, not to mention his long-time secretary, Miss Lemon to sort through the evidence, which insists on piling up, and picking the correct killer out of the long list of possibilities.
Beautifully, beautifully done. Not perfectly done, though. There are some flaws in the story line that won’t come to mind immediately, but they may later. I knew who the killer was early on, but I confess I had my doubts when so many creatively manufactured red herrings did their best to tempt me off the trail.
Books and books, and movies are movies, and the existence of one does not negate the existence of the other. And sometimes the twain do meet. What this filmed episode of Lord Edgeware does do is to show that it can be done with fidelity to the original, that liberties do not have to be taken, and that the end result can also be as delightful and entertaining as the original.
As for Roger Ackroyd, if you’ve read the book, you know what the problems are in terms of converting it to cinematic form. It wouldn’t be easy. But the gunfight in a chemical plant? No way.