by Rita Aresta
Having chosen Eyes Wide Shut as my Vulture Hound Film Of Christmas last year, I thought I would go for something less naughty this year. (Oh God, the mental image of a raunchy Poirot…it burns…!) I’m an absolute sucker for the Agatha Christie’s Poirot series, so this seemed an obvious choice.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is (needless to say this, really…) a brainchild of the Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie, first published in 1938. Not a film, strictly speaking, the novel’s first TV adaptation saw the light of day in 1994, as a feature-length special episode. As first of the show’s sixth season, it marked the beginning of a new era, as all episodes from that point onwards became feature-length, as opposite to the previous 50-minute running time.
“With all the horrible events happening in the world today, many wonder if God really exists or cares about what happens to the human race. Would you like to hear about Jesus?”
The plot, of course, is quintessential Poirot: millionaire Simeon Lee invites all his sons, and their respective wives, to spend Christmas at the family home – despite their rather problematic family dynamics. As you’d expect, there’s a whole plethora of characters, from altruistic to ambitious, sensitive to prodigal black sheep, and even an exotic and mysterious Spanish woman.
(Un)Fortunately, such an offer doesn’t come out of the kindness of his heart, but from a delightfully sadistic sense of humour. But alas, poor Simeon’s prank isn’t all that successful, as the miserable old sod ends up dead on Christmas Eve. In a locked room, no less, with an unusual amount of gore for this series…yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him! Of course, everyone has a secret past, and everyone has a motive to wish him dead…enter stage left, Poirot! Mostly motivated by the broken central heating at chez Poirot, but never mind.
“For the last time, I’ve told you I’ve not been involved in an accident!”
The adaptation is largely faithful to the novel, apart from some character changes such as the welcome presence of good old Chief Inspector Japp. While it may not be the show’s pièce de résistance, it knows exactly how to deliver well-defined character portrayals, dissecting their behaviour and true nature. The plot line is straightforward and direct, yet agile and engaging in keeping your little grey cells going. David Suchet is, as always, excellent as Poirot. In my mind – and presumably that of many others – he will always be the ultimate Poirot (sorry, Kenneth Branagh).
The original novel has also been adapted in French television as a four-part series, Petits Meurtres En Famille (Little Family Murders), broadcast in 2006 and 2009, with Poirot being poorly replaced by some random new duo. Allegedly, Christie’s grandson, Matthew Pritchard, said it was the best adaptation he had seen. Personally, I’m not convinced. I mean, you wouldn’t necessarily replace Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, would you?
The homoerotic tension is strong with this one.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas can and will provide you the perfect family-friendly Christmas entertainment – especially if you’re mostly sofa-bound as a result of one too many mince pies (or Grae Westgate’s roast potatoes).
And since it’s the festive season – enjoy this freebie. Compliments of the house.