Agatha Christie: Poirot-Complete First Series (1989)

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Released 12-Nov-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery Main Menu Audio
Filmographies
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Notes
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 499:14
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (25:56)
Multi Disc Set (4)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Andrew Grieve
Edward Bennett
Renny Rye
Brian Farnham
Studio
Distributor
Acorn Media Starring David Suchet
Case ?
RPI ? Music Christopher Gunning
Stephen McKeon


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    David Suchet is, in my opinion, the quintessential Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie's most famous sleuth. He has now played the role since 1989 (in an on again, off again manner) racking up over 50 episodes with more on the way. Some of the more recent episodes (which are movie length) have been released locally by Roadshow. This new four disc set takes us back to the very first series of 10 episodes from 1989. These episodes are all approximately 50 minutes in length. Suchet's grasp on the intricacies of the character was obviously strong from the very beginning of this series. His performance here as the fastidious, intelligent and politely sarcastic Poirot is wonderful. Unlike more recent episodes, this series features three other recurring characters, Poirot's fairly dim associate Capt. Hastings (Hugh Fraser), his personal secretary, Miss Lemon (Pauline Moran) and Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard (Phillip Jackson). Japp and Poirot have a difficult but ultimately respectful relationship. This set is divided into two volumes (of two discs each). I do not have the actual packaging, however, I believe each volume is packaged in a double amaray which are then stored in a slipcase.

    The episodes are set in the mid 1930s and feature much of the art deco style of the period, both in terms of the sets (such as Poirot's apartment) and in the show's credits. In keeping with the running time, these episodes seem to be based on short stories rather than novels mostly and therefore lack some of the complexity of the longer form, later episodes. Regardless, there are certainly some very entertaining and intriguing episodes here. In detail the episodes included are:

  1. The Adventure of the Clapham Cook (50:34) - A Mrs. Todd turns up unannounced to see Poirot and tells him that she wants him to find her cook who has disappeared. Despite some reservations, he eventually agrees and the case begins.
  2. Murder in the Mews (50:51) - A woman is found shot in a mews where Hastings parks his car. It appears to be suicide, but is it really?
  3. The Adventure of Johnny Waverly (50:13) - An extortion attempt is being made on a country squire with threats to kidnap his son.
  4. The Third Floor Flat (48:51) - A woman moves into a flat two floors down from Poirot. She has a mysterious visitor and is then found dead. NB : This and the next episode are incorrectly linked to the menu. Choose one and you get the other.
  5. Four & Twenty Blackbirds (50:50) - An old man is dying in Brighton but his family don't seem overly interested. Another old man is found dead in his house in London and they seem to have been brothers. Is there a link?
  6. Triangle At Rhodes (51:12) - The first case in this series which occurs on one of Poirot's travels. This time he is on the island of Rhodes. A love triangle forms between two holidaying couples and the woman ends up dead. Best of the series so far.
  7. Problem at Sea (51:06) - Poirot & Hastings are aboard a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. Lots of interesting and suspicious people are on board including an odious woman who winds up dead.
  8. The Incredible Theft (49:48) - A defence contractor who has developed a new fighter plane is having trouble getting the government to fund his work due to a past scandal. He tries to prove his loyalty by luring a suspected German spy into stealing something from him.
  9. The King of Clubs (46:37) - Poirot & Hastings visit the set of a film being directed by a friend of Hastings. The studio head is rude and arrogant and soon ends up dead. The lead actress is implicated.
  10. The Dream (49:12) - The owner of a major pie manufacturing company demands Poirot come to see him so that he can get his advice. The man is mean spirited, arrogant and an eccentric recluse. Poirot agrees to visit him where he recounts the story of a recurring dream in which he commits suicide.

    Recommended for Poirot fans and fans of English mystery in general.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is poor but watchable. There is one glaring mastering issue to go along with the menu issues mentioned below.

    The show is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, non-16x9 enhanced, which is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was quite soft and grainy throughout, with some low level noise. The shadow detail was average to poor.

    The colour was reasonable for the age of the show but certainly dull by modern standards. There was also some white bleeding.

    Artefacts of all kinds are plentiful including lots of specks, flecks and hairs, tape tracking issues, flashes of white spots, macro-blocking, edge enhancement, some aliasing and evidence of excessive noise reduction. There was a glaring mastering issue at 39:14 in episode 6 where a black screen flashed by bearing the legend 'No Video Signal' and the name of the digital mastering company. No much of an advertisement for their work!

    There are no subtitles on this disc.

    The first disc layer change occurs at 25:56 in episode 2 and caused a slight pause.
    

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is fine.

    This DVD contains an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s.

    Dialogue was mostly fairly easy to understand but the lack of subtitles was certainly felt in some scenes.

    The score by Christopher Gunning is very good but is getting somewhat dated these days. It features a memorable theme tune.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are text based only and some are repeated on all discs.

Menu

    The menu design is simple, featuring music and a still. There are two menu authoring errors that I encountered. On Disc 2, episodes 4 & 5 are incorrectly linked to the menu. They are switched. On Disc 3, the menu item for Carmen Du Sautoy's filmography leads to a filmography for Frances Low instead. Carmen's does not seem to be present as the menu item for Frances also shows Frances' filmography.

Disc 1

Text Extras

    There are text extras including David Suchet & Agatha Christie bios, a list of Poirot books, Filmographies for the three main cast members plus two guest stars, an essay on Inspector Japp, an essay on the actor's who have played Poirot and one on the Art Deco design.

Disc 2

Text Extras

    This disc repeats some of the things from Disc 1 and adds a filmography for a guest star.

Disc 3

Text Extras

    This disc repeats some of the things from Disc 1 and adds two filmographies for guest stars plus the dodgy menu item mentioned above.

Disc 4

Text Extras

    This disc repeats some of the things from Disc 1 and adds two filmographies for guest stars.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This series has been packaged very differently in Region 1 with mixed episodes from each season rather than season by season sets. Accordingly it is very hard to compare. I believe our local release is based on the Region 2 releases which seem to be the same.

Summary

    A great series of mysteries starring David Suchet as the Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot.

    The video quality is poor but watchable.

    The audio quality is fair.

    The extras are restricted to text-based essays and filmographies.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Yamaha YST SW90 subwoofer

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