Sunday, 3 January 2010

Agatha Christie's Poirot - Appointment with Death: review


Appointment with Death is one of my least favourite Poirot novels, but I’ve just caught up with the David Suchet version screened on Christmas Day and it made enjoyable viewing. This was the result of a number of pleasing ingredients, including good background music and excellent photography – the setting of the screenplay is Syria in 1937, and the programme was visually impressive.

The cast, needless to say, was of high quality. I’ve talked before about my admiration for Suchet’s interpretation of Poirot, but among the other performances I enjoyed was that of Paul Freeman as Colonel Carbury. I always associate Freeman with his role in The Long Good Friday, in which his unwise shady dealings lead to disaster for Harold Shand, played by Bob Hoskins. A very different role here, and he played it with gusto. Other notable cast members included Cheryl Campbell, Mark Gatiss, Tim Curry – and Beth Goddard, who is so attractive that the nun she played was instantly noticeable and therefore highly suspicious.

Guy Andrews’ screenplay took plenty of liberties with the original, but got away with it, because the criminal’s motivation in the book is profoundly unsatisfactory. I still remember being disappointed by it when, as a Christie addict, I first devoured the book as a teenager. In the tv version, the motivation is totally different, and there are two culprits working hand in glove rather than one, as well as new characters and (groan!) that now hoary old stand-by, child abuse.

Purists will say that the screenplay was wildly over the top, and this is certainly true of the climactic scene. But on the whole, this is surely forgivable in the case where the original book is very far from being a classic. Appointment with Death was fun to watch.

13 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for this review. Appointment With Death isn't to everyone's taste, so I'm glad that the film version appealed to you. David Suchet is, without a doubt, my favorite Poirot, and that makes that episode even more enjoyable : ).

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

A little embellishment is nice when the original story wasn't all that hot.

Tim Curry--he's an excellent actor...really talented. But I just can't seem to get past his doing the Time Warp. :)

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

seana said...

I love Suchet's portrayal of Poirot. It's a revelation.

And you remind me that I actually have the DVD of Long Good Friday to watch, it's just that I don't seem to be able to make any of my DVD devices play right now. Something that definitely needs to be fixed in 2010!

Ann Elle Altman said...

I really enjoyed this movie when I watched it. I happen to like that book. I thought the actor (David Suchet) who played Poirot was exactly how I pictured him in the book.

One of my favorite AC films is Death on the Nile but that's because I really like JJ Field.

ann

BooksPlease said...

I enjoyed this one too. I haven't read the book so wasn't plagued by thinking "it's not like that in the book". It'll be interesting to see if I think "it wasn't like that in the TV version" when I do read the book.

Kerrie said...

Hello Martin. can I get you to submit this to the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival please?

Martin Edwards said...

Many thanks for these comments. If time permits, I may watch the new Poirot tonight. Then it's back to the office after a long break...
Seana, The Long Good Friday is one of my favourite films, and is worth watching more than once, I think. Not much like Christie, though, I must admit.
Kerrie, will do.

Nicole_Hadaway said...

Is this a new TV adaptation? I've not seen it, and I love the Suchet adaptations of Poirot. I can't really remember the book, I read it so long ago, but I liked the Bette Davis movie (in part because it was so star-studded). I do find that the recent Suchet adaptations have taken some over-the-top liberties with the plot. In some instances (the motivation in Cards On the Table) they fit, but in others, not so much.

Hopefully this will come to the USA soon (we used to get a steady diet of Poirot on the A&E channel, but sadly, it's all reality shows now. Perhaps I'll have to write to BBC America!

Thanks for the review, Martin!

Deb said...

I agree that Appointment with Death is not one of Christie's best; but even second-rate Christie is better than a lot of first-rate others, so I read it just the same.

I've always been sorry that The Long Good Friday (produced by George Harrison's Hand-Made Films, incidently) never received the popular success it should have at the time it was released (and the score is terrific too). It's one of those movies that you have to watch several times in order to catch all the plot twists. Paul Freeman will also be recognizable to many as the French archeologist who works with the Nazis in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Martin, but I can't agree with you on this. Appointment was beautifully filmed but the script was a shoddy reworking of themes from Death on the Nile and hopelessly OTT. This was the first year that AC dropped out of the top 100 bestseller list, and these terrible adaptations can only have helped.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Nicole, yes - this is a brand new one.
Deb - I share your enthusiasm for Francis Monkman's score for The Long Good Friday - excellent.
Anon - I just watched Three Act Tragedy, and it was certainly better than AWD, just as the book is. A review is coming soon...

Elaine said...

I thought this was far and away the worst Poirot in this series and I was simply amazed at the liberties taken with it. I have no problem with changes for dramatic reasons but in this case (1) the method of murder was changed (2) the reason for the murder was changed (3) the identity of the murderer was changed and we also had a new character, a female white slave trafficker disguised as a nun! Also the husband of the lady murdered did not feature in the book as she was a widow. Really really poor stuff.

Juanita's Journal said...

I'm not a big fan of the 1987 or 1988 version of "APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH" with Peter Ustinov. Needless to say, I believe that it is a masterpiece in compare to the recent version with David Suchet. Especially with its rip-off of the ending from "DEATH ON THE NILE".