With Acorn's timely releases of the 'Poirot' series I've found out that the stout, mustachioed detective is one of my favorite eccentric TV characters. He was Monk before being Monk was considered cool. His obsessive-compulsive tendencies, coupled with his uncanny ability to deduce and solve crimes, make his stories so much fun to watch. We're now on the fourth series of the show, as Acorn continually releases them, and I find myself enjoying them now as much as ever.
However, this series release is a bit different. The subsequent releases have had numerous episodes, around nine or ten of them. This series release only has three episode, but each of them are feature-film length (around 100 minutes each). This new length leads to episodes that feel much different from the first three seasons. In the first three seasons the shorter episodes felt just like that, episodes. They had the pacing of a regular one-hour TV drama. Here the episodes have been stretched, providing a completely different feel. It takes the story much longer, in all three episodes, to set up the murder whereas the earlier episodes usually jumped right in on the murder within five to ten minutes. The detective work is drawn out as Poirot and Inspector Japp have lengthier discussions about the case. Although it does feel different, the stories are essentially the same as they have always been.
'Series 4' seems to take on a decidedly darker tone though. Especially the last episode, "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe," which features a creepy chorus of children signing the famous nursery rhyme song as their giggling echoes over the soundtrack. It reminded me of the creepy song the kids sang in 'Series 6's "Hallowe'en Party."
The same formula remains though: Poirot figures out the case at hand and then calls everyone together for the big reveal. The cases here seem much more complex though. With all three of the mysteries I only ever figured out the third one before the big reveal and even then I was only half right. Sometimes I found myself wondering if the cases even made sense as Poirot seemed to be picking facts out of thin air, but then again he is Poirot. Most of the time I feel like Inspector Japp, sitting on the sidelines just waiting for Poirot to finish up his detective work. That's okay though since Poirot makes every case utterly enjoyable with his idiosyncrasies and his improbable relationship with Japp.
This season really focuses on Poirot's relationship with his favorite inspector. Captain Hastings finds himself taking a back seat. He's featured in the first mystery, but then himself mysteriously disappears for the next two. Instead Poirot finds himself solving crimes side-by-side with Inspector Japp.
I really like the dynamic between Poirot and Japp. In any other show about an amateur detective you'd expect that the police would be annoyed by an outsider coming in and solving their cases. Not so with Japp. He welcomes Poirot with open arms and the two of them form a delightful oddball team.
There are three episodes in 'Series 4.' The first episode, "The ABC Murders" is a highly complex and intriguing murder mystery about a serial killer who taunts Poirot through a series of letters. Boasting that even Poirot can't figure out who he is. In the second episode, "A Death in the Clouds," an old woman is murdered on the same plane as Poirot when he flies home from watching a tennis match in France. Finally, in "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" Poirot's dentist seemingly commits suicide just moments after Poirot has been in for a visit. Poirot suspects murder, because he's Poirot.
Each episode is a joy. Really they are. If you're a fan of the show you know by now what you're getting when you pick up these wonderful sets from Acorn. The only difference here is that the episodes, with their length, have taken on a more movie-like feel instead of a TV episode feel. Either way, 'Poirot' is still a delight to watch.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Poirot: Series 4' comes in a 2-Disc set with 50GB Blu-ray Discs. They've been packaged in a regular size Blu-ray keepcase. They've been remastered and are presented in their original U.K. broadcast order. There are three mysteries total (two on the first disc and one on the second). This is a Region A release.
The seasons just keep looking better and better. Yes, 'Poirot: Series 4' has a few hang-ups, but on the whole it looks rather good considering the age of the source material (1992).
Right off you'll notice that 'Series 4' seems to have a bit more detail and a more refined look than 'Series 3' and the releases that came before it. More facial features are visible. Textures look much more realistic. There are less soft shots. Edges are more distinct and don't get lost in the backlight. Yes, the show still has a diffused look, but that's intentional to make it look as if its set in the 30s.
While detail looks very good, there are a few spots with considerable noise. Darker scenes feature quite a bit of noise that dances around the screen. The beginning of the third episode is especially soft and noisy, but I concluded that it was because the first of that episode features a flashback and they intended it to look different from the rest of the visuals. Colors look great, from the dark blues and grays of Poirot's wardrobe to the English greenery surrounding a country estate in the third episode. Shadows are nicely delineated in well-lit scenes, but they do feature a bit of crushing whenever the lights are dimmed for nighttime shots. Overall, though, this is quite possibly the best the show has looked.
The lossless PCM 2.0 mono soundtrack isn't going to illicit the "it's like I'm there" feeling that surround sound tracks produce, but it does a great job at representing the show. Even though it's a mono soundtrack each voice can be heard distinctly. Even the soft-spoken Poirot's dialogue is quite intelligible. There are some hard accents and some of them get lost in the fray, but for the most part dialogue seems easy to hear. The soundtrack is a bit muffled (especially the creep song in the third episode), as it's being confined. At times sound effects, like gunshots, can seem brash and tinny. It isn't a mix that will have you jumping for joy, but it adequately represents the series as a whole.
There are no special features included on this release.
If you haven't been picking up these Acorn releases of 'Poirot' you're missing out. It's been great to see Acorn steadily release these seasons. Even though they've been coming out relatively fast, the care that Acorn puts into them shows. These are releases meant for 'Poirot' fans. Some extras would have been nice, but it's just great to have the show on Blu-ray after all these years. Like all the other seasons, this one is recommended.