Sunday, 4 August 2013

Episode-by-episode: Lord Edgware Dies



©ITV
This episode was based on the novel Lord Edgware Dies, first published in 1933. It was adapted for television by Anthony Horowitz and directed by Brian Farnham.

Script versus novel
Horowitz stays fairly true to the source material, with several notable exceptions. First, he adds a scene from Macbeth (particularly fitting, both because Lady Edgware aka Lady Macbeth is an actress and because Lord Edgware will later be murdered with a dagger). Second, there’s the scenes that re-establish the Big Four after the four-year hiatus. Hastings is called back from Argentina (having lost the farm in speculative investments, perfectly in tune with his previous business attempts), Miss Lemon helps Poirot moving back in and Japp (who returned in the last episode) comes to dinner. These scenes are nicely done and actually very much in character, so I don’t object to them. Third, Carlotta’s impersonations include one of Poirot (unsurprisingly – that was begging to be added!). Fourth, Poirot and Hastings discover Carlotta’s body before the doctor and the police have been there (a sensible change). Fourth, Carlotta’s sister Lucie is in the UK, so Poirot gets to interview her face to face, rather than through letters and telegrams. Fifth, Horowitz adds a significant number of scenes between Poirot and Lady Edgware – and creates the impression throughout the episode that he is falling for her (one particular scene between Miss Lemon and Hastings is particularly reminiscent of ‘The Double Clue’). Sixth, Jenny Driver is changed into Penny Driver (for no particular reason it seems), and so is the inscription on the gold case (CA from P, not CA from D). Seventh, several scenes are removed (including the visit from the Dowager duchess, the taxi driver who sees Geraldine and Ronald Marsh outside Lord Edgware’s house, the intended restaurant meeting that Lady Edgware attends disguised as Carlotta, and the scene in which Poirot tries to find out if the pince-nez belong to Edgware’s secretary (but the scene in which Ellis is tested remains). None of these scenes are missed, though. On the subject of the Duke of Merton, he is much more involved and much less reserved than in the novel, so there is really no need for his mother to get involved. Eighth, Horowitz adds a chase scene in which Alton the butler tries to escape (and like the previous episode, it feels completely unnecessary). All in all, however, the denouement does tie thing neatly together, so this script isn’t half bad.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Farnham’s direction is largely competent. However, I must point out that the first dinner scene is a complete cheat, since there’s no attempt made at trying to conceal SPOILER the fact that Helen Grace (Lady Edgware) actually is in two places at the same time. In the denouement, the camera mostly shows the back of her (or rather Carlotta’s) head, and that works well, so why couldn’t the same trick have been used at that first dinner scene. Very annoying – almost as annoying as the obvious culprit in Hickory Dickory Dock. The production design is good as always, and several of the locations are lovely. These include Shoreham Airport (previously seen in ‘The Adventure of the Western Star’ and Death in the Clouds), ‘The Peacock House’ in Holland Park (later to be used as Shaitana’s house in Cards on the Table), Addisland Court (previously seen in ‘The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman’) and Highpoint flats in Highgate (used as Lady Edgware’s penthouse flat – previously seen in ‘The Affair at the Victory Ball’). Gunning’s soundtrack is particularly memorable, but it has sadly never been released on CD (apart from the Argentinean sections, which can be heard in the ‘Poirot Variants’ track).

Characters and actors
It’s nice to see the old gang back together again, but more importantly it’s nice to see the sombre, darker quality continue (I know many fans object to this element, but I think it’s fairly obvious that I like it), for instance in Poirot’s lamentations on marriage. Of the guest actors, Helen Grace (Lady Edgware) is the standout – she actually manages to make the denouement almost creepy (but not on an After the Funeral level!).

8 comments:

  1. The scene of the dinner, do you know where that was filmed?

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    1. The actual dinner? I'm afraid not, I think it might be a set?

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  2. My complaint...and it may seem trivial, was the "ship tease" between Poirot and Jane, with dialogue implying he had never been infatuated before. It felt like the writers of this one didn't know the Double Clue had happened. I wondered if they would make Big Four or Labours and have them meet for the first time. While flirting to distract Poirot seemed like something Jane would do, I wasn't convinced by his going for it. That wasn't how Rossokoff behaved...I always thought, at least as played by Markham, she genuinely liked Poirot and wasn't just playing with him to up her chances of getting away with the theft. However, he did not seem angry to find out she was the thief...it was played as though he knew all along...yet he was very angry about Jane, implying his pride was hurt.

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    1. I agree that you might get the impression in this adaptation that Poirot had never been infatuated before. After all, Hastings says: 'It's never too late. If the right woman came along...'. While this is in tune with his romantic attitude to life, it does seem strange that he and Miss Lemon have forgotten all about The Double Clue. Especially since both adaptations were written by Anthony Horowitz! (But he is known for some inaccuracies both in Poirot and other series). As to the Rossakoff-Poirot relationship, I do think there was some affection between them, but it's never clear - neither in the series or in the books - whether Rossakoff genuinely liked him. Still, I agree that Markham's portrayal suggests as much. She (the actress) even added that kiss on the forehead, which apparently is what Russians do when saying goodbye to someone close (I asked a Russian fan about this a while back, and he had never heard of that tradition, but anyway). I am convinced, though, that Poirot knew she was the culprit all along (everything in the adaptation points to him dragging out time to get to see more of her). With Jane, I think what Horowitz was trying to do was to imply that Poirot was disappointed, in himself most of all, for being lured into Jane's trap, so to speak. And that is out of character, actually. So I really do think you've raised some valid points of criticism here. I've never explored these two adaptations together, for some reason.

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    2. This does seem like an uncharacteristic lapse of the gray cells for Poirot...especially given that you'd think he'd pick up on the Catholicism issue. Even more uncharacteristically, Japp is ahead of him.

      It begins to seem as though Poirot is just susceptible to attractive women in general.

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  3. This is one of the harder Christie stories to "sell" to a modern audience because it's hard to believe it didn't occur to ANYONE (not even Poirot, for a considerable amount of time) that it was Carlotta at the party and Jane at the house, especially after we are told that the people at the party didn't know Jane well.

    Hastings even opens the book by saying that Poirot doesn't exactly view the case as a great success of his.

    Is Jane supposed to be so captivating that no one believes she can be a murderer?

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  4. I get that Hastings had been farming in Argentina...but why was Poirot moving back in to his place? Where had he been?

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  5. Miss Lemon actually says, "I've never seen him like this before," when Poirot is sitting at his desk seemingly mooning over Jane. Hastings said that very line in The Double Clue!

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About Me

I'm a passionate fan of Poirot, Agatha Christie and the ITV series. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or requests, please e-mail me at poirotchronology@gmail.com, post a comment on one of my blogs, or get in touch on Twitter @pchronology. (I previously called myself HickoryDickory)