THREE ACT TRAGEDY—After guests at successive dinner parties mysteriously drop dead, Poirot teams up with an old friend, retired stage star Sir Charles Cartwright (Martin Shaw), to ferret out the killer. Guest stars include Jane Asher, Art Malik, and Kimberley Nixon.
THE CLOCKS—As Britain readies for war, Poirot journeys to Dover to help the son of an old friend solve a case involving an unidentified corpse and four mysterious timepieces, all stopped at precisely the same time. Anna Massey guest stars.
HALLOWE’EN PARTY—Crime novelist Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker) calls Poirot in to investigate the macabre murder of a young girl at a children’s costume party who claimed to have witnessed a killing. Also stars Sophie Thompson, Deborah Findlay, and Amelia Bullmore.
I've never read a novel by Agatha Christie, but if Hercule Poirot is any bit as enigmatic and eccentric as he is in the ITV-produced television specials, then I might just have to pick up a couple of her books and start reading.
I had my first encounter with the character Poirot, as played by David Suchet, when I reviewed 'Murder on the Orient Express.' I was intrigued by Poirot's obsessive behavior, his devout belief in God and how it affected his detection abilities, and his hilariously groomed mustache. He's very serious about his sleuthing scales, and he's very good at it, too.
Now we have a set from Acorn Media featuring three full-length Poirot mysteries ('The Clocks,' 'Three Act Tragedy,' and 'Hallowe'en Party'). After 'Murder on the Orient Express,' I was excited to dig right into this new set of Poirot mysteries and see what was in store.
Poirot stories have a bit of a formula to them. He's usually called into a case by a friend or a well known acquaintance. In 'Hallowe'en Party' he's alerted to a gruesome drowning of a 13-year-old girl by a friend who happens to be a murder mystery author. In 'The Clocks' Poirot learns of a mysterious murder through an acquaintance in MI6. Finally, in 'Three Act Tragedy' he's been invited to a friend's party, who's an actor. At that party someone is poisoned.
There's no real reason to review each movie in this set – entitled Set 6 – because it's the whole that counts. This is a set of three individual mysteries that make up the whole. The driving force behind these mysteries is Poirot as a character, and believe me, he's quite the character. Like famous detective Sherlock Holmes, Poirot has his quirks, but unlike Sherlock, Poirot is refined. He's from high society and acts as such.
Christie's mysteries, at least in the three that are presented here, are your usual whodunit mysteries. Like 'Murder on the Orient Express' we're presented with a group of individuals who all had some sort of motive for pulling off the murder. It was hard, at least for me, to actually grasp who did it before Poirot spilled the beans in the final act. At the end of every story, Poirot spells out exactly what happened. I'm usually not a fan of monologues at the end of books or movies, but here it feels different. I want to know what happened, but I also want to observe how Poirot put it all together. Plus, hearing him speak is quite a treat.
If I had to pick a favorite out of this set it would have to be 'Hallowe'en Party'. The movie has a creepy vibe to it that is unrivaled in the other two mysteries. The movie's soundtrack uses the voices of kids from the Halloween party singing "Snip Snap Dragon…" a popular tune that goes along with one of the evening's games. It truly gave me the chills while watching it. There's nothing like malevolent children when it comes to giving me the heebie-jeebies.
At the center of every movie, however, is Suchet as Poirot. He's done a masterful job at portraying a detective who enjoys sleuthing, but also keeps his charm. There's something endearing about Poirot. Maybe it's the way he refers to himself in the third person, or maybe it's how everyone mistakes him for being French (and how mad it makes him). Whatever it is, Poirot is a damn fine detective, and an easy character to love. I hope Acorn releases more Poirot sets in the future, but until that happens these three charming films will have to tide me over.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Each movie is packaged in its own Blu-ray case, three in all. The movies are housed on three BD-25 Single Layer discs. The set comes with a cardboard sleeve that is embossed with Poirot's name on the front.
The 1080p video of these three movies closely resembles the video presentation we saw on the 'Murder on the Orient Express' release. They seem to film these movies with a diffuse filter on, which gives it more of a dreamy, nostalgic look, but it doesn't bode well for fine detail.
Halos appear around just about every object. Color bleeding is a common occurrence, because of the hazy filter being used. You can see blues from the sky or greens from plants blending into faces and clothes in the foreground. This has to do with the source and not with a glitch in the encoding, but still when it comes to HD this isn't something that people will turn to for demo material.
Blacks are hazy, and never approach that deep, inky state that we've become accustomed to. Crushing is often a problem, again, because of the style of photography that was used in the first place. Darker areas crop up with noise, but nothing that will overly strain your eyes. Fine detail is solid during extreme close-ups, but mid-range photography suffers.
While the 'Murder on the Orient Express' release featured a full-bodied DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation, these movies in this set only come with a 2.0 Stereo PCM soundtrack.
The stereo track, while lossless, doesn't provide the depth and satisfaction that the 'Murder on the Orient Express' featured. It would have been really unnerving to hear the kids from 'Hallowe'en Party' singing their mischievous song through the rear channels. It also would have added more ambiance to the presentation.
The sound on each of the discs presents clear and concise dialogue. Each of them sound exactly alike in every way, there's no way to really distinguish one movie from the other in terms of audio quality. The stereo aspect provides for a limited listening field, but Acorn pulls it off as best they can. Still, it would have been nice to have a more engrossing audio experience.
There are no special features in this set.
I've become quite fond of the portly detective from Belgium. Each of these movies offer a well thought out mystery coupled with a peculiar sleuth that waxes his mustache and keenly observes everything he sees. The video is hazy, but true to the source, and ic would have been nice to have a bit beefier audio mix, but at least it's lossless. And no special features is a real bummer. With that said, I think that Poirot and his stories could connect with anyone and not just Agatha Cristie fans. This set is lightly recommended.