Dead Man's Mirror Adapted by Anthony Horowitz. Directed by Brian Farnham. Airdate: 2/28/93. A fifth season show, this is a classic drawing room murder mystery about a murdered art dealer, the kind of episode that is essentially designed as a puzzle to be solved. For those familiar with Poirot only through movies like Murder on the Orient Express (1975) and the later films with Peter Ustinov, this episode is a good segue into the TV series. As is the case with all three shows, Poirot here is effusively polite -- the epitome of the continental gentleman -- and the program, set in the early-1930s, has an impressive eye for period detail.
Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan Adapted by Anthony Horowitz. Directed by Ken Grieve. Airdate: 3/7/93. The last of the regular series shows (specials have since followed, including an April 2004 adaptation of Death on the Nile), this episode revolves around a stolen jewels being used for publicity purposes by a touring theatrical company. This shows makes excellent use of seashore resort locales (with yet more stunning art and set decoration), and features an amusing running gag where Poirot is continually mistaken for a local bookie (!).
The Adventure of the Clapham Cook Adapted by Clive Exton. Directed by Edward Bennett. Airdate: 1/8/89. From the last of the regular series shows to its very first. This delightful first episode of the series is largely humorous, with Poirot initially insulted when approached to locate a missing servant. Fortunately for Poirot and his long-suffering associate, Hastings, the case quickly becomes more complex and sinister than it would first suggest. In this sense, this very satisfying mystery is for Poirot what "The Red-Headed League" is to Sherlock Holmes. Also of note in this episode is the actor playing its chief suspect, Mr. Simpson (Dermont Crowley), who bears an uncanny resemblance to Alec Guinness and whose appearance seems modeled after Guinness's character in The Lavender Hill Mob (1951).
Video & Audio
The first season of Poirot was shot in 16mm and looks it. The Adventure of the Clapham Cook is rather grainy and has a mild but odd effect noticeable in darker scenes, which appears in the form of ghostly vertical and horizontal lines, like that of a screen door. The impact of this is much less severe than it sounds, but curious just the same. The later episodes look much less grainy and have less negative dirt and other problems. The 2.0 Dolby Stereo on these shows is good. There are no subtitle options.
The only extras are short biographies of Suchet and Christie, along with filmographies of series regulars Suchet, Fraser and Philip Jackson (who plays Poirot's Lestrade, Chief Inspector Japp), along with guest stars Jeremy Northam and Trevor Cooper.
Early seasons of Poirot ran concurrently with the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series, and the programs nicely contrasted one another. The Victorian England of the Holmes series, with Brett's lithe, edgy, often flamboyant detective neatly the opposite of the Art Deco/Art Moderne London of the 1920s and '30s, and Suchet's plump, soft-spoken, and immaculately groomed sleuth.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Los Angeles and Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes The Emperor and the Wolf -- The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. He is presently writing a new book on Japanese cinema for Taschen.