Friday, 25 October 2013

Poirot Disappointment: The Big Four

Who watched 'The Big Four' on Wednesday evening?  It's the first in the final four interpretations of Christie's Poirot novels to be screened over the coming weeks.  As an addendum to this post, I will point you over to Bruce's blog, Eclectic Ephemera, where he also discusses this episode.

'The Big Four' must have been particularly problematic to bring to the screen.  If my memory serves correctly, it was originally a set of short stories, which already makes it difficult to put into one single tale.  Christie used these original short stories to cobble together the novel in 1927.  The tale was also very complicated, set over a long period of time, and had Hastings dashing off to Argentina, and was the ending somewhere in Europe?  I can't quite recall.

The media at the time gave it less than glowing reviews, this was one by the Scotsman, 17 March 1927:
"The activities of Poirot himself cannot be taken seriously, as one takes, for example, Sherlock Holmes, The book, indeed, reads more like an exaggerated parody of popular detective fiction than a serious essay in the type. But it certainly provides plenty of fun for the reader who is prepared to be amused. If that was the intention of the authoress, she has succeeded to perfection".

Anyway, in order to a) make the story simpler, b) set it over a shorter timeframe, and c) to avoid filming abroad, the story presented on our screens bore little resemblance to what Christie actually wrote.  They kept all the cliched bits that in retrospect Christie probably would have edited out, and then added more cliches in there. 

The Grand Reveal, in particular, was a little cringe-worthy.  All that standing around talking when there were two people poisoned with a paralysing drug, surely a bit of haste in getting them to hospital was required?!

Overall, the main theme of Christie's novel, international espionage, turned out to be nothing more than a red herring in this version, so they could trot out an even more implausible conclusion that it was a madman acting out of unrequited love for a woman he hadn't seen for a decade.

I have to admit I was also disappointed with the Poirot Christmas special they did a couple of years ago, an incredibly dark and depressing version of 'Murder on the Orient Express'.  Let's hope that the final 3 episodes give more joy.  There's always the old boxsets to return to, for restoration of faith in Monsieur Poirot, and some classic wardrobe moments displayed on Hastings and Miss Lemon.

What did you all think?

1 comment:

  1. You can read my complete thoughts about The Big Four on my own blog but in brief I agree with everything you've mentioned.

    I thought Murder on the Orient Express was a fairly good adaptation by later Poirot standards but was very bleak indeed, yes. At least there was some atmospheric snowy scenery and of course that famous train!


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