"Agatha Christie's Poirot and Marple: Fan Favorites" collection is the DVD equivalent of a greatest hits collection, gathering 11 episodes from the British TV adaptations of Christie's two most famous literary creations, Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. While both series have had DVD and Blu-Ray releases over the years, to the newcomer, to ask one to invest money and time into such long-running (at least in the case of "Poirot) series' is no easy feat and this moderately priced collection serves as a great entry point, highlighting some of the best of each series over the years and in the case of "Miss Marple" giving viewers a look at the work of both Geraldine McEwan and Julie McKenzie's work as the iconic character.
Despite her predating the character by decades, I'm always going to think of Jessica Fletcher when I watch an episode of "Miss Marple." Represented with five episodes, three of which star Geraldine McEwan and the latter two find Julie McKenzie in the role, "Miss Marple" only spans a time frame of seven years, but the episodes offered find Miss Marple tackling a surprising variety of mysteries. To be honest, I'm a bit biased towards the series as I grew up on "Murder, She Wrote" and frankly, "Miss Marple" has always been a bit dry for my tastes. That said, the series is a solid exercise in often-understated narrative with both McEwan and McKenzie making an impression on screen in the role of a character that can often be a subtle, silent observer. A lot of the enjoyment comes from the wide variety of guest stars including Herbert Lom and Derek Jacobi in "The Murder at the Vicarage." The remaining episodes include "A Murder is Announced," "At Bertram's Hotel," "A Pocket Full of Rye," and "The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side." Ultimately the episodes follow a generally predictable format, one perfected by Christie, but the journey to the inevitable conclusion by our titular hero is what makes these a treat to watch, and at around 90-minutes each, they feel like miniature movies, a result of them all being adaptations of Christie's original stories.
"Poirot" on the other hand, at least for me, is the selling point of the package. While many actors have portrayed the Belgian detective on the small screen and silver screen (including famously in an Academy Award nominated performance by Albert Finney), no single actor is synonymous with the role as David Suchet, who by this time has filmed an adaptation of every single Christie penned Poirot story to date. The collection's wide time span shows viewers how Suchet perfectly captured the essence of the character from day one in episodes like "Four and Twenty Blackbirds" and the somewhat campy "Adventures of the Egyptian Tomb," but still managed to evolve and perfect the character, so that 20-years later in "Murder on the Orient Express" the character seemed infinitely familiar, yet refined. The episodes "The ABC Murders," "The Mysterious Affair," and "Hercule Poirot's Christmas" round out the collection. Unlike Miss Marple, Poirot himself, particularly David Suchet's performance is why you keep coming back for more and his straight-faced portrayal of the character, including all his idiosyncrasies, make the supernatural-tinged camp of "Adventures of the Egyptian Tomb" seem less out of place. I will say with a slight hint of sorrow, the adaptation of "Murder on the Orient Express" doesn't really compare with the famous 1974 adaptation, but it's still a worthy entry in the Suchet-era canon.
Despite their recent production, the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers for the "Miss Marple" episodes as well as "Murder on the Orient Express" aren't as sharp as expected with some noticeable digital noise/grain. Color reproduction is a little more notable, with exteriors having a colder feel than interiors. The other "Poirot" episodes date back to time range of 1989-1995 and have evidence of video transfers to them. They are much noisier transfers, colors can feel a tad washed out at times, and there is some artifacting present.
The Dolby Digital English stereo audio tracks are perfectly acceptable. Dynamic range is not expected, but voices are clearly reproduced and there's enough warmth to the track to make each episode feel inviting. The "Murder on the Orient Express" track and the "Miss Marple" offerings sounds a little more rich and cinematic due to their more recent production date. English SDH subtitles are included.
The lone extra is a booklet that contains information, including the recipe for the "Delicious Death" from the "A Murder Is Announced" episode.
This isn't the first compilation offering of "Miss Marple" and "Poirot" I've encountered, but it feels like the most comprehensive, making sure to span more than 20 years in the latter series. For seasoned fans, this set is a waste of time as it offers nothing new, but to the novice mystery fan or those who haven't taken the plunge, the quality and variety of the episodes is strong enough to warrant a purchase and countless replays. Recommended.