Poirot: The New Mysteries Collection

Poirot: The New Mysteries Collection (2003)
A&E Home Video
Cast: David Suchet
Extras: Biographies

In this 4-disc box set A&E Home Entertainment is presenting the most recent "Poirot" made-for-television movies from their longstanding series. Produced in 2003 and 2004 here we have four new murder mysteries to be solved by Agatha Christie’s beloved Belgian sleuth. Und they have never looked better.

"Five Little Pigs" is based on Christie’s 1942 novel in which Hercule Poirot is consulted to help a daughter prove the innocence of her mother, who had been sent to the gallows 14 years ago for poisoning her husband. It is an emotional piece in which the players do not necessarily like what Poirot is finding out as the real truth behind the murder is much more vicious.

"Sad Cypress" is the story of a young woman who is accused of double-murder after her aunt and her love rival are being killed by morphine. Mislead by wrong evidence and information Hercule gradually unravels the truth, one tiny piece at a time, but will he be able to save Elinor Carlisle before she is being hanged for the murders she did not commit?

"Death On The Nile," of course is a Christie favorite that has seen a number of film incarnations before, but once again, this production shines on a number of aspects, most notably David Suchet’s portrayal of Poirot, of course as he solves the murder mystery on a vacation island.

"The Hollow" is the most recent film in the series, based on Agatha Christie’s 1946 novel. Here Poirot is witnessing what seems to be a clear-cut case of a woman killing her husband during a weekend-retreat, but once again, Poirot is not so easily mislead and soon he finds mounting evidence that lead him to the real killer.

All four of these films are of top notch quality and while there’s no weak entry here, "Sad Cypress" ranks as my favorite of the films. The subtleties of the case, the characters and the development of the story are Christie at her very best as she serves up a cocktail of poison, lovers, gallows, lies and deception, all wrapped up in a case that truly put Poirot’s gray cells to work.

Out of all "Poirot" DVD releases I have to say that this box set looks the best. However, there is an issue not to be overlooked. These films have been produced in 1.78:1 <$PS,widescreen> for 16×9 TV sets originally and sadly A&E is presenting the films on these DVDs in slightly cropped an & scan versions. I can’t explain why the studio would not have opted for a full <$16x9,anamorphic> widescree ntransfer on these films, as the image framing seems a bit awkward at times the way it currently is. While the films are still watchable in this format, of course, I do wish to urge A&E to present proper versions of their releases in the future accomodating the proper aspect ratios of their productions.
The image is well-defined and has a great balance. There are a few blemishes in the presentation, mostly video-related drop-outs from the source material, but other than that, the presentation is clean and clear. Colors are strong and vivid, nicely reproducing the wonderful settings and sets, while deep blacks, help root the image. No dot crawl is evident and shadows are always deep and very well defined. The image is still a tad soft at times but for the most part, "Poirot" has never looked better. No edge-enhancement mars the release either and the compression is without flaws, making sure to bring out the best of the films.

Each disc comes with the original Dolby Stereo audio track that is well produced. Dialogues is always clear and understandable without being drowned out. A good frequency response makes sure the audio always sounds natural, also making room for the subtle music to shine at all times. Unfortunately the releases do not contain subtitles or captions, which I personally think is a drawback that should not mar today’s mass production DVD releases, especially since the show is caption on TV if memory serves.

Each disc contains a brief biography for Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot ad David Suchet.

Fans of Poirot mysteries will love this release. The DVDs do a respectable job bringing these films to the screen, not to mention the fact that the series offers the very best Poirot interpretations ever brought to life on film. David Suchet’s portrayal of the Belgian detective is so finely nuanced, charismatic and fully in sync with Christie’s writing that it really is hard accepting anyone else in the part, once you have seen him. Go, get this DVD set while it is hot and get ready for some great evenings of the most stylish murder mysteries around.