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.