Catching up on my Poirot.


I may not see it this weekend, but I hope very soon to go and see the new adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, starring Kenneth Branagh as Belgian super-detective Hercule Poirot.

Murder on the Orient Express is not my favorite Agatha Christie novel or movie, not by the longest shot (I’m a Miss Marple Girl), but the trailer has me all abuzz with excitement.

I’ve seen the version of the movie starring Albert Finney, and although I like Albert Finney, it doesn’t really stand out in my memory as a great viewing experience for me. I’ve also seen several of the ITV adaptations of the Hercule Poirot stories, starring David Suchet as Poirot,* but his portrayal of the sleuth who believes in using his little grey cells (his brain) to solve crime cases was not one that knocked me out either.

So then I poked around to see who else has played the role, and I found a series of movies that starred Russian-English actor Peter Ustinov as Poirot. Over the past weekend I watched Death on the Nile, which actually is one of my favorite Christie books. (Before I grew up and dreamed of becoming a British TV Expert, I was a little kid who dreamed of becoming an Egyptologist. I love the setting of this book.) And it was a great watch. Quite slowly paced, but it was filmed partially in Egypt and actually does a very good job of using the scenery and the historic sites there to their full potential. The backgrounds of the massive ancient Egyptian pyramids, columns, and statues, are gorgeous and actually quite atmospherically spooky.

So how did I feel about Ustinov as Poirot? Well, I liked him. I’ve always thought Suchet was a bit too much of a cold fish to bring out the most in the role, but Ustinov seems to bring a lot of the human to Hercule. His abiding admiration for eating as many and as sumptuous meals as possible is fully on display here, and there is a bit of a sparkle in his eye when interacting with the other characters on his Nile cruise (one of whom is a murderer). He seems to have a bit of a sense of humor, which I enjoyed. On the other hand, I didn’t know if I could completely buy him as the brilliant Belgian detective who merely needs to think his way to the conclusion of each case.

I am going to watch more of the Ustinov adaptations. What do you say? Are you going to go see the new movie? Who’s your favorite Poirot?

*Did you know there have been 13 seasons of Poirot starring Suchet?!? I had no idea there were that many.

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