ITV 3 repeated a documentary from 2005 the other day, which took us ‘behind the scenes’ with a year of Poirot stories for the small screen. I found it interesting, and a reminder of what a fine actor David Suchet is, and of how completely he has made the role of the Belgiam supersleuth his own.
There were clips from four episodes. One (The Mystery of the Blue Train) was based on a mediocre book, but the other three stories – Cards on the Table, After the Funeral, and Taken at the Flood, all boast high calibre plotting. But as one of the galaxy of talent in the various casts said, you can’t spot the murderer by figuring out who is the most famous star in the show, ‘because everyone is famous’!
Whenever I’ve seen Suchet interviewed, he comes across as a charming and modest man (the same seems to be true of his brother John, who was an affable news reader for many years.). It’s clear that he is a perfectionist, and that his attention to detail has helped to bring out the human side of Poirot. I think that, in original concept, he was something of a cipher, a great reasoning machine, with a personality that was largely composed of a collection of eccentric mannerisms. But out of Agatha Christie’s raw material, Suchet has fashioned a very appealing character. Among classic tv interpretations of detectives from novels, he is right up there with John Thaw’s Morse and Joan Hickson’s Jane Marple.
To my mind, Suchet is a better Poirot than Peter Ustinov, and far better than Albert Finney. One Poirot I haven’t seen is Tony Randall, who played the part in The Alphabet Murders, based on The ABC Murders. This is apparently a case of a very fine book and a rotten film adaptation, but I’ve always wanted to see it, to check whether the universally scornful reviews are justified, and just what the screenwriter did to mess up such a good story. But the film is unavailable on DVD and I’ve never seen it on telly. Maybe that speaks volumes?