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TV: Poirot Back in Murder on the Orient Express

July 11th, 2010 · 26 Comments

Based on the Agatha Christie, novel, Murder on the Orient Express premieres Sunday, July 11, 2010 at 9pm ET/PT on PBS *** 3 stars

by Gabrielle Pantera

David Suchet returns as Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express

David Suchet returns as Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 7/11/2010 – “When I was asked to play Poirot, the Agatha Christie estate made the point that she wrote a character who was far more full-dimensional than we had seen up to that time on the screen,” says Murder on the Orient Express star David Suchet who plays the role of detective Hercule Poirot.

Detective Hercule Poirot is in Istanbul when he’s called back to London for a case. The fastest way: the Orient Express. Samuel Ratchett, an American passenger on the Orient Express with lots of money and a bad attitude, asks Poirot for help. After the train becomes stuck in snow, Ratchett is found dead. Everyone on the train is a suspect. Who did it?

“In books like Murder on the Orient Express, there are sections that point to a very perturbed inner life,” says Suchet. “This side of him was totally ignored in the 1974 Sidney Lumet film of Murder on the Orient Express.”

Poirot in the Agatha Christie novels is likable and a bit comical in character. For the TV movies, Poirot is more serious and not as likable. In Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot stands by calmly as a vicious mob kills a women accused of adultery. When another bystander asks why he did nothing, he says it can be disturbing to witness justice. Poirot is surprisingly indifferent to local injustice in Istanbul for a man devoted to solving crimes. However, as always, Poirot watches and deduces from what he sees to try to solve a mystery.

Suchet has a 21-year career playing Hercule Poirot, He finds the newer adaptations of Poirot different yet the same from the ones he did in the 1980s. “Now, they are all very high-quality productions made like big movies,” says Suchet. “Apart from the fact that I’m getting older, which I can’t help, Poirot doesn’t change much, just as the man that Christie wrote about hardly changes. He does get lonelier as he gets older, which we are beginning to bring out in the films.”

Agatha Christie wrote more then forty novels featuring Poirot. Her first detective novel in the Poirot series was The Mysterious Affair at Styles that introduced Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.  Murder on the Orient Express features David Suchet as Hercule Poirot and stars Eileen Atkins (Cranford), Toby Jones (The Old Curiosity Shop), Barbara Hershey, Hugh Bonneville (Miss Austen Regrets), and David Morrissey (Sense and Sensibility).

When not on television as Poirot, Suchet appears in other roles or in theater, such the Arthur Miller play All My Sons in London’s West End. Thankfully, without the fake Poirot mustache.

David Suchet was Poirot in the UK television series from 1989 to 1991. He’s returned to star in Hercule Poirot: Series X:

  • David Suchet on the Orient Express, a documentary about the meticulously restored modern version of the Orient Express.
  • Murder on the Orient Express, Sunday, July 11 at 9pm. Poirot must solve the murder of a fellow passenger aboard the Calais-bound Orient Express.
  • Third Girl, Sunday, July 18 at 9pm. Troubled heiress Norma Restarick (Jemima Rooper, Lost in Austen) calls on Poirot to confess that she might have committed a murder.
  • Appointment with Death, Sunday, July 25 at 9pm. An obsessed archaeologist (Tim Curry, Rocky Horror Picture Show) searching for the head of John the Baptist has a more modern murder on his hands.

Other actors have portrayed Poirot. Peter Ustinov played Poirot in Death on the Nile (1978), Evil under the Sun (1982), and Appointment with Death (1988). Ian Holm as Poirot investigated his own murder in Murder by the Book (1986). Tony Randall played Poirot in Frank Tashlin’s unorthodox adaptation The Alphabet Murders (1965), in which Anita Ekberg galloped on horseback through Kensington Gardens.

Murder on the Orient Express on Sunday, July 11, 2010 at 9pm on PBS features Poirot solving the greatest case of his career aboard the world’s most glamorous train.


26 responses so far ↓

  • 1 frances // Jul 11, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    did poirot turn them all in or not? I know he mentioned the train caption.

  • 2 alfonse // Jul 11, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    in the book he resigns from the case agreeing that they would not be turned in. i don’t know why this movie leaves it unanswered.

  • 3 Deborah Allen // Jul 11, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    “David Suchet was Poirot in the UK television series from 1989 to 1991. He’s returned to star in Hercule Poirot: Series X:”

    Pls check your facts!

  • 4 cyberdoc0001 // Jul 11, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    This is NOT a comment on the site, rather it is a comment on the awful ‘update’ of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ — Trust me I understand that all too often updating often means ‘changes’ in an attempt increase viewership/market share — But alas, I have read the book and seen the earlier movie — and ‘making-up’ stuff, not to mention ruining the beauty of the train itself and reducing the ‘finale’ to either a claustrophobia candle lit confession or a Guilt ridden ‘whiteout of sin’ had not a single thing to do with the book, movie or earlier versions of the show. It was very flat and fell just short of ‘GODAWFUL’ — Sorry, thanks.

  • 5 cyberdoc0001 // Jul 11, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Postscript: to frances // Jul 11, 2010 at 8:32 pm — He did NOT turn them in — that is why this Poirot was in ‘moral distress’ – had he done so it would have completely change the story — Also years of study & majors in English-Film-Art et al (and more then a Masters in English) allow the ‘film wary’ to interperate to the intent of a scenes ‘visuals’ — AND wastes a lot of money! ;->

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  • 7 Alex Roman // Jul 12, 2010 at 6:11 am

    I saw the movie last night and thought it showed a side of Poirot through the interpretation of David Suchet that I had not seen before. He demonstrated a depth and moral passion that I found quite gripping. While I make no claim to being any kind of a movie critic or someone who is knowledgeable about Agatha Christie’s Poirot novels, I thought that this was David Suchet at his best.

  • 8 Jim Lacey // Jul 12, 2010 at 6:34 am

    For the most part in Christie’s novels, Poirot is a comic figure. In the recent Suchet version of Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot is suddenly a complicated, believing Catholic, with a rosary and a scrupulous conscience. That was not Christie’s take. In the novel the villain has got away with the brutal murder of a child, and twelve people who knew the child (a jury?) seek justice. Poirot knows what happened but lets the police believe the murderer was an unknown intruder. The Suchet version may work, but it isn’t Christie’s Poirot.

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  • 10 Gregor // Jul 12, 2010 at 8:08 am

    I’ve always been a David Suchet fan in his portrayal of Poirot. But I have to agree with cyberdoc0001 and Jim Lacey. This was horrible. This was not the Poirot Suchet has alway portrayed. When I saw him break out the rosary and when I witnessed his temper tantrum for “law and order” (not to mention the stoning of the woman for adultery, which Turks have never done), I realized this was nothing more than a screed to put us all on our guard. I’m surprised they couldn’t work a terrorist into the story somehow.

  • 11 will P. // Jul 12, 2010 at 8:26 am

    I liked this version. the 70′s version was more like the book. It focused on the mystery. David’s version focused on poirot and his moral view. I thought it was more consistent with the series than the book was. Poirot said so many times “I do not approve of murder”. Poirot has a strong view of justice and it is confronted in this version. I wonder if this is a setup for the adaption of “curtain”. He was never a comic figure in the books and he talked about his religion many times. Suchet is very accurate to Poirot not the story.

  • 12 Pemoore // Jul 12, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I have read almost all of the Poirot mysteries and I have seen every one of Suchet’s portrayals of the Belgian detective. I found this latest portayal to be quite superior. The more obvious introduction of Poirot’s religious beliefs added depth and drama. I found the production quality to be excellent. Even with the multiple complicated characters, I was able to readily follow the plot. I am no film critic and don’t know anything about the “art” of filmaking other than to know what I like, and I liked this movie. I caught it on my DVR and will be saving it to watch again.

  • 13 Gregor // Jul 12, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    will P. says “I thought it was more consistent with the series than the book was.” Forgive me, Will, perhaps I am obtuse, but where did the character originate? I had always thought it was from the pen of Agatha Christie.

  • 14 yuri_nahl // Jul 12, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    I like the Peter Ustinov portrayal and the whole cast in the 1970s version. Although it’s in general a fluff movie, the talent of the actors allows them to modulate this depth of their portrayal of their characters so that one moment it’s almost comedic, then soon after, one is almost weeping. It’s just too compelling for a reason or lack of reason which I can’t discern. I also like the other Ustinov Poirot stories. In general, I like the travelogue aspect of these films, the character Hastings, Miss Lemon, Chief Inspector Japp. I have seen mere specs of this new episode but before I forget, in the incomprehensible vein, I can’t understand why anyone would stuff a Catholic spin into the film. This in itself would repel me, if I were not a Suchet fan. Just for the record, Turks may not stone people to death, but right now in the news is a story of a girl being buried alive, for “honor”. (!)

  • 15 suchetistheman // Jul 13, 2010 at 12:36 am

    I liked this movie, in fact my whole family has seen it three times now, since yesterday. Something about it has captivated us. Perhaps it was seeing the complicated soul of Poirot for the first time.

    I agree that this movie was not about the plot. No careful unraveling of the clues happened, and the crew just up and confessed, which disappointed me. I *did* love Suchet’s giving Poirot a human side, though I don’t see any reason the director could not have given us the careful unraveling of the plot as well as the sweet emotional twists.

    I also missed the beautiful details of the train, which were highlighted so well in his documentary, but dimmed to shades of gray in the actual movie.

    And I missed Poirot’s wit and innocence. He was a scowling introvert in this movie, kind of a shame. But my hat is off to Suchet, he may not have actually cried while portraying the great detective, but he made the rest of us do so. Great performance.

    So…now that we know he’s got a soul, shall we press the producers to get him at least one good kiss before he retires his role? I swear the plot they left open with that beautiful aristocratic Russian cat-burglar needs to have some sewing up done to it, or the man is not the man after all.

  • 16 DRush76 // Jul 13, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Poirot in the Agatha Christie novels is likable and a bit comical in character. For the TV movies, Poirot is more serious and not as likable. In Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot stands by calmly as a vicious mob kills a women accused of adultery. When another bystander asks why he did nothing, he says it can be disturbing to witness justice. Poirot is surprisingly indifferent to local injustice in Istanbul for a man devoted to solving crimes. However, as always, Poirot watches and deduces from what he sees to try to solve a mystery.

    What on earth could Poirot have done? He was a foreigner in Turkey, not in a country under British rule.

  • 17 Trish // Jul 13, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    I hated this version. Poirot is portrayed as an angry, bitter, lonely man. Where is the empathy that Poirot shows time and again for nearly everyone he meets? The beauty and romanace of the train is completely ignored. Some have written this version give Poirot a soul, if go it’s not a good one.

  • 18 Jeri Massi // Jul 14, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    The opener with the woman being stoned was inaccurate and un-Agatha Christie, especially in the way Poirot just passively accepts it. But I think it was meant to show his absolute morality and view of justice. Poirot’s rosary and prayers surprised me, because overall Christie draws him as a Deistic rationalist: a good man who believes there is a good God somewhere, but who, in the end, advocates enlightened reason over faith. However the ending is clear. Poirot takes the extra conductor’s coat and button to the Turkish officers and explains that a stranger came in and killed the man. It’s not open-ended. Don’t know why people are saying it is. The 12 killers all see that he is letting them off the hook and are starkly relieved. Then Poirot walks away, mumbling over his rosary for forgiveness.

    It was not really Poirot-like, but for our times of violence but no justice, I thought the story worked. I don’t think it was horrible. I don’t think it was as good as other Poirots from Suchet. But the rationalistic, dandified, fastidious Poirot of the novels, solving such a ghastly murder and then letting the killers go, would not have rung true in these days of moral dilemma and moral failure. Suchet’s Murder on the Orient Express was capably done for this era.

  • 19 Lynn // Jul 15, 2010 at 12:52 am

    I have to say I thought this was an excellent MOTOE adaptation. For those of you claiming to have read the books and comparing this Poirot to the earlier TV shows you would know that the TV shows were not straight from the books.
    I think they have decided to handle the latest stories with greater care of Poirot’s inner turmoil which is clearly in the books. MOTOE was never intended to be a jaunty trip of light hearted humor. Poirot is older. This story is the best of Christie’s Poirot’s because he actually breaks.
    Go back and re read the books then watch the shows before complaining about how these shows aren’t like the earlier ones.

  • 20 eleanor // Jul 16, 2010 at 9:16 am

    What is with the God-Awful science fiction too loud music in this film?
    Dreadful and wrong for the era. Didn’t anyone else hear that racket drowning out the movie?

  • 21 Unreasonable Interpretation // Jul 18, 2010 at 10:45 am

    “Then, having placed my solution before you, I have the honour to retire from the case….”

    That quote from the book accurately describes the differences between the original story and this sham.

    Where is the humour? Where is “What is this noise that approaches? It resembles a locomotive in motion!”? Where is Mrs. Hubbard’s daughter? Where are “the Turks and their slipshot ways and the condition of their roads”?

    “La Sainte-Sophie, I have heard it is very fine…” No surprise in the fact that neither Poirot nor Lieutenant Dubosc are ever freezing on the platform before Poirot boards the Taurus express. Did I mention no Taurus Express?

    For anyone who would like to experience Murder on the Orient Express as it was intended, listening to the audio book narrated by David Suchet is “a necessity of the first water.”

  • 22 Jenn A // Jul 25, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Anything, in my opinion, by Christie is worth watching. David was very good. I also enjoyed seeing the special afterward on the actual Orient Express. I remember the old Tony Randall ABC Murders from the 1960′s, as well as the Miss Marple movies that were made many years ago. Makes me want to go dig out all the old books and reread them. Remember the 10 Little Indians redone as And Then There Was None? Bad acting but it was Christie.

  • 23 DRush76 // Nov 24, 2010 at 11:41 am

    The real problem with this production of “MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” is that I find it “overdone”. Over-the-top and unnecessarily so.

    The 1974 version managed to convey a sense of tragedy via some performances and the brilliant montage regarding the Daisy Armstrong kidnapping at the beginning of the movie without resorting to the rantings and religious discussions featured in this latest film.

    And I cannot believe I am saying this, but I found David Suchet’s performance rather heavy-handed. This is ironic, considering the complaints that have been made about Albert Finney’s interpretation of the role.

  • 24 Lemont Curaines // Jan 8, 2011 at 7:27 am

    Yet another victory for Team Suchet, David has ‘saddled up’ the midden line in this fine adaptation of Agatha’s book. One could almost hear the turning of pages and the crinkling of spats when Poirot stumbled through to the dining car in search of some bees. Bravo!

  • 25 T. G. Hebert // Jan 29, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    It’s official. I am a David Suchet groupie. Hands down, he’s the absolute best Poirot, even with the fake mustache. The Masterpiece Theatre version, while considered over the top by some, was intelligent and well crafted. I want all the bells and whistles. I want it over the top, otherwise don’t bore me.

  • 26 LadySylvia // Jul 15, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    “MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” has always been a grim film. Even the glossy 1974 version managed to inject a good deal of melancholy and tragedy into the story.

    But this version went overboard in trying to convey the tragic circumstances of Christie’s tale.

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