There were a few comments that were posted about the recent Murder on the Orient Express television movie – starring the wonderful David Suchet (as Hercule Poirot), which aired on Sunday, July 11, 2010. I enjoyed the comments so much, that I decided to write a response in this entry. Here are some of the comments:
Lisa – July 12, 2010 at 5:26 pm
“After seeing the special with David Suchet on the magnificent train I was quite excited about last night’s broadcast. I must say I was disappointed. Very little character development for any of the suspects, Poirot didn’t seem his regular self either. As a Catholic, I was confused by this infusion into Poirot’s character. Suchet is and was marvelous, the production brilliant, but the screen play-script! Why make adjustments to Agatha’s Christie’s magnificent story? I recommend buying the dvd of Suchet’s actual trip on the historic and romantic train. I hope the others in this series are better written.”
Kim – July 12, 2010 at 9:03 pm
“I also was disappointed in the version on PBS, and I was so hopeful because I love David Suchet as Poirot. But I guess when you leave out a character, you have to make someone else one of the killers. Really?? And the 2 scenes showing us Poirot’s thoughts on justice…really not necessary. I have noticed tho, that the newer episodes don’t adhere to the books, and that is what I am watching for. I love the books and want to see those dramatized.”
So, here are my comments:
I, too, was disappointed with this last Masterpiece Mystery! show… Murder on the Orient Express. Don’t get me wrong, I think that it was a good movie on its own merit… I simply don’t think that it belonged with ALL of the other episodes in the David Suchet Poirot series. This one was DARK>>> Much darker than all of the other episodes. And, much darker than the Agatha Christie mysteries I have read… including Murder on the Orient Express! I totally agree with Kim: “the newer episodes don’t adhere to the books, and that is what I am watching for. I love the books and want to see those dramatized.”
I know that budgets have been cut on a lot of television productions, and I am assuming this show has felt the cuts BECAUSE, after seeing the magnificently opulent train in the 1974 movie version of this same mystery novel (Yes, yes, I realize that “real” movies spend millions of dollars on their sets!!!) – I have to say, I do not think that I would clamor to take a trip on this particular train. There was absolutely nothing extraordinary about the inside scenes. I had expected some type of almost-majestic fabrics, wood paneling, light fixtures… something! Lisa, I agree, there was nothing about the train that portrayed it as an “historic and romantic train.”
I was very surprised to see ANY reference to Poirot’s religion. Good grief! Where did that come from?!? I am pretty sure that I have never seen another Masterpiece Poirot show do that. Those scenes simply didn’t “belong” in this production. But, then again, almost all of the scenes didn’t belong! (Again, I think that the movie is good… it just isn’t anything like the others in this particular series.) Why bill this as a type of Poirot-returns show if it isn’t at all like the Poirot most of us have been watching for the last (+/-) 20 years?
This episode brought to my mind the Sesame Street song my children grew up with:
“One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong.
Can you tell which thing is not like the others,
By the time I finish my song?”
Well, in this case, it was this Agatha Christie Poirot episode!
PS>>>> If you disagree, please feel free to comment…
Danna – you said we should feel free to comment if we disagree – I hope you mean that it is ok to comment if I agree too!
I think you are correct that the tone of the show was wrong for what we expect of the typical Christie productions. Nevertheless, I have to say I enjoyed the movie for what it was, and I can see why the producers/director went for a darker tone.
Although I like to see “straight” dramatizations of classic mystery books, I think dramatic license can be interesting too! I definitely recommend that Christie fans watch this production.
I’m going to agree and comment as well. It’s hard for me to express my upset over this production. It’s one of the last Christie books starring Poirot left to be filmed and, as this is one of my favorite Poirot books, I was excited. I’ve loved David Suchet’s interpretation of the little Belgian detective. I loved the special I watched a few days prior to the movie in which Mr. Suchet took an actual trip on the Orient Express. He seemed thrilled and honored to make that journey.
So, I was saddened. So much so that I had to go back and watch the 1974 version again on Tuesday evening. I was not a big fan of Albert Finney’s Poirot, but he did an adequate job. The other characters were very good – lots of old Hollywood.
The added scenes at the beginning – the suicide of the officer and the stoning of the woman – were puzzling to me. Then, Poirot was so grave and somber and almost ill looking. I guess the writers wanted to portray his soul searching and uncertainty over his part in the suicide? He screamed at people though and was almost hysterical it seemed. And the whole religious angle was odd. It was too dark, in my opinion, and I stand by that after watching the earlier version. The solution presented there was suitably horrific as the murder was shown being committed. This one took it too much over the top and I was even afraid they would change the ending. It seemed they almost did.
I have been quasi-OK with inserting Miss Marple into stories where she does not appear and changing of storylines so dramatically. But, I just couldn’t be OK with this interpretation. My opinion only of course. 🙂
I have to disagree — though it wasn’t presented as a big part of the story lines, Poirot has said, in the books, that he is a “bon catholic”, that he was schooled by nuns (mentioned when he hears bells ringing in, I think, “Mrs. McGinty’s Dead”), and that he once considered going into the priesthood, but thought it would be too esoteric, and so he preferred the active contribution to working to stop crime by becoming a policeman, and then, of course, a detective. Now, I’m not a Catholic, but I think it made some sense for him to be more concerned with his moral role in gaining justice by working to find the murderers — so many of the various Poirot productions seem so glib about letting all 12 people go scott free, on their merry ways, with no moral dilemma or emotional struggle. I kind of liked to see some of the characters really trying to deal with what this means, for themselves, and, for Poirot, for his life mission. For Poirot, who is getting older, has no close family, not much in the way of friends (with Hastings supposedly in Argentina, and Japp only a crime colleague), not much love in his life, he only really has his profession. If that has any depth or meaning to him, he must be trying to figure out the gray areas of what is right and wrong. As a perfectionist, I think it must be difficult for him. Anyway, though I found some parts of this production difficult, I still really enjoyed it, and was interested to see their more serious interpretation.
I agree, Poirot was in a black mood all through this version, which started when he received the telegram at the hotel. That changed his mood. Does anybody know what it said? I couldn’t read it and was disappointed there was never any reference to it in the program.
The telegram’s note said, “Making progress on the Lustace Murder. When are you back? – Scotland Yard, London” (no name given)
Danna - cozy mystery list says
You’re right about dramatic license… it’s just that we don’t expect a Cozy to become quite so UN-Cozy. I enjoyed the episode, but was expecting it to be in the same vein as the others…
Wasn’t that Orient Express special neat? I thought that Suchet seemed overjoyed to be making the trip and being able to see the behind-the-scene machinations of what it takes to be a train of this magnificence.
I totally agree with you about the suicide and stoning scenes, and I also agree with Poirot’s overall dark mood. I would have been VERY depressed if I had witnessed the two opening scenes, also >>> but would the old Poirot productions have had those scenes? Were we (Poirot’s loyal fans) expecting those particularly gruesome events?
You make a good point about Poirot being a “bon Catholic” >>> but I (my opinion only!) think that the movie overdid the whole questioning bit… I understand that Poirot felt a struggle about letting the culprits go, it just seemed like in the past, the producers were able to show us Poirot as a man in control of his emotions, a man who didn’t question his methods or decisions.
Sorry, I have no idea what the telegram said.
Tim S. says
I thought this was the best Poirot ever. I think Suchet wanted to stretch himself and put Poirot in a very uncomfortable situation. He felt guilt about what happened in at least three ways: he refused to help the murdered man, he didn’t bring the guilty to justice and he tested his faith. That last shot with him holding his rosary out was haunting. Whether he was saying, “God give me strength” or “God forgive me” it was a very complex moment for a man whose sole motivation was justice. Too me, it was the expansion of the old-fashioned Murder Mystery into the Film Noir tradition- just like Kurosawa did to Westerns with his Samurai movies.
I liked the new version of Murder on the Orient Express! Poor Poirot was tortured and then faced with having to deal with another murder that was really not convenient. I think Suchet played it really brilliantly. My only disappointment was I never could figure out what he was tortured about. Was it a mistake he made that caused an innocent man to go to the gallows? I’ll have to watch it again at some point.
Has anyone read all of the AC books on Poirot? I miss Miss Lemon, Captain Hastings and Inspector Japp. Did AC just dump them in the stories without explanation and they never contact HP again? strange….
I found this adaptation to be very disappointing. Mind you, the 1974 version was a bit over-the-top at times in regard to acting and production design. But it never sunk to this . . . I do not even know what to call it. I really did not like it . . . and I include David Suchet’s performance.
I was really looking forward to this series and now I’m so disappointed. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans with Miss Marple? Really? She wasn’t even in that book. And to change Murder on the Orient Express so unnecessarily? They altered the entire tone of the book as well as Poirot’s character. He came across as morose and evil tempered and as someone else remarked, what was this about religion? Really out of character. What is the BBC thinking? I go back and read the books/stories after each presentation and the differences are unbelievable. Sadly, the TV shows will be the only version of these fine stories that millions will ever see.
Danna - cozy mystery list says
Tim, BC, Rosie, & Meg:
As you all can see, as with most things, there are pros and cons to most things… people who like something, and others who don’t… I guess I qualify as someone who can sort of say both: I liked the movie as an independent entity, but I don’t think it was a true adaptation of Agatha Christie’s cozy mystery style.
BC, I have read most of Agatha Christie’s mysteries… I am not crazy about her Tuppence & Tommy mysteries and I haven’t read her Superintendent Battles series… which I have to admit, I was unaware of until recently! However, I read Christies mysteries years ago, before I was so addicted to the chronological sequence of mystery series.
I am trying to make my way through all of Christies mysteries again, by listening to them (unabridged versions only!)… Because so many years have passed since my initial reading, I am enjoying them as if I had never read them! (That says more about my memory than Christie’s mysteries!)
Miss Lemon did not play a big part in the Poirot mysteries and Capt. Hastings does indeed leave for Argentina.
Meg, I hadn’t thought of that… and I agree with what you have said: “Sadly, the TV shows will be the only version of these fine stories that millions will ever see.” Hopefully, people will try to locate the earlier Poirot episodes (with David Suchet) and the Joan Hickson Miss Marple episodes. I (just my opinion!) believe that they give a more “Agatha Christie Cozy” representation.
I just saw Orient Express again and I agree with Tim S. Poirot was tortured because his words caused a man to kill himself and then he abandoned his firm belief in the law in favor of moral justice. All that was left him was his faith, in both instances, to get him through his own mental crisis at the actions and decisions he made. I believe poor Hercule was having a bit of a melt down as he walked away from the train in the snow praying. I didn’t read the book so I don’t know how far off the original writing that was, but I thought it was a “wow” and rather thought provoking.
Sorry Rosie, I still think Suchet was brilliant.
Tim S. says
I think the most important thing about these movies is that they get us to talk about good writing and seek it out. Even if you didn’t enjoy this episode, it probably provoked many of you to read the actual story, which is a good thing.
Danna - cozy mystery list says
You know, Tim, there is nothing like finding the silver lining!
You are so right… I bet a lot of people have gone back and read the books >>> to compare with Christie’s mystery novels.
I agree with most of your comments. I really wish the screenwriters would stop changing the books. I was really excited to see how David Suchet would portray the Poirot character. Agatha Christie’s genius is that she keeps her main character interesting and likeable. He’s not supposed to be so dark. The screenwriters did the same thing to the character in Death on the Nile. If they would stick to the earlier format, these new movies would have been a much bigger success. I wish there was a way to write to the director and tell them they are ruining the books and Suchet. The books speak for themselves, you know?
Danna - cozy mystery list says
Yes, Evie>>> Why mess with perfection?
The real problem with this production of “MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” is that I find it “overdone”. Over-the-top and unnecessarily so.
The 1974 version managed to convey a sense of tragedy via some performances and the brilliant montage regarding the Daisy Armstrong kidnapping at the beginning of the movie without resorting to the rantings and religious discussions featured in this latest film.
And I cannot believe I am saying this, but I found David Suchet’s performance rather heavy-handed. This is ironic, considering the complaints that have been made about Albert Finney’s interpretation of the role.
Danna - cozy mystery list says
Danielle, David Suchet’s dark Poirot was truly a shocker! I wonder why the director decided to go this route… maybe to make it more “modern” – while not adhering to Agatha Christie’s Poirot?
It is interesting to see all these comments almost on a 10th anniversary, and contemplate my current views. I to was a major fan of the Poirot series going back to the 1990’s. I wasn’t a big fan reader of all AC mysteries, for reasons I may list on a future post on a different subject.
However, as a fan of mysteries, both book and shows, in general, and a Miss Marple BBC/PBS, and AC movie fan, I was drawn in all those years ago to the Poirot series.
At the time it was the great original cast, the AMAZING locations, and impressive production values. The reasons were more shallow, but it was like watching any good series, and Suchet helped me appreciate Poirot in a way I didn’t get in the books.
Now a decade later we are cursed/blessed with these new methods of streaming episodes, and this has brought on the ability to “binge” this show and recapture the good and, let’s say, not so good.
I don’t binge in that unhealthy way of sitting in bed, devouring junk food while I try to watch 10 seasons in one weekend. I have taken my time, and savored a few episodes a week, but am now at the point that has led me to Blogs such as this.
As I missed many of the later season episodes, and now that I am seeing them in sequence, I too am at a crossroads.
First is is the dramatic way the show really took liberties in the later seasons when adapting AC’s work. Again, while not always a big fan of the original work, I too was expecting a dramatization, not a whole new plot with removed characters, replaced characters, or even different killers or methods of killing.
I tried to forgive this, as I still enjoyed some of the stories, and all the standard mystery twists and turns. I noticed the later seasons were more movies, than series. I try to justify that the changes may have been made to make it fresh to old readers or film viewers by still keeping it mysterious in the style of AC, but changing it up just enough to almost create a new story that was fresh to everyone. Some succeeded, but some made it more tedious, especially because many of the changes were to Poirot, which is led me to this original posting.
The religious zealously started in earnest in season 11, it may have already been touched on by season 10, but season 12 has almost driven me batty with this “Return to Jesus” posturing it keeps bringing to each episode. Even all these years later, I do not know what the writers was trying to convey. It doesn’t fit with AC or my versions of Poirot.
Now I speak as probably the only person on this blog who sadly never got to see season 13, but knows where it leads. My PBS did not promote it very well, then they aired them quickly without repeats. So season 13 came and went within a month, and now I am relegated to purchase it for future viewing, as it still not included in any streaming services. I figure they are trying to make every penny they can out of them.
Knowing how it ends, I can only surmise that the angrier, louder, impatient, darker and more postulating Poirot is a decision by writers to foreshadow a man who is coming to terms with many of the things we sadly face later in life.
Was it a good idea? As a man who is just ending season 12, and the Orient Express episode, my answer is a resounding NON, MON AMI! I still have a mystery in front of me approaching season 13. I like that. I just hope it is done in a way that doesn’t make me regret I ever liked the show in the first place (which Season 12 has come close to doing). Nothing like a bad ending to to a series to make you regret you ever watched the whole thing. (GOT, Lost, anyone?)