Poirot – Elephants Can Remember, ITV, with David Suchet, Greta Scacchi PREVIEW

ZOE WANAMAKER as Mrs oliver, DAVID SUCHET as Hercule Poirot and GRETA SCACCHI as Mrs Burton-Cox.  Poirot: Elephants Can Remember Copyright ITV.
Zoë Wanamaker, David Suchet and Greta Scacchi. Pics ITV

Rating: ★★★½

ITV: Sunday, 9 June, 8pm

Story: While Poirot is pre-occupied with investigating the strange and gruesome murder of an elderly psychiatrist, his old friend, the crime writer Ariadne Oliver, has a case of her own to solve.

MES AMIS, it is almost time for a last au revoir. Having first played Hercule Poirot 1988, David Suchet is stepping into the spats for the last few times as ITV starts showing the final five remaining Agatha Christie adaptations of the Belgian sleuth’s mysteries.

Elephants Can Remember is a suitably lavish and star-studded production, featuring the return of Zoë Wanamaker as Poirot’s old chum Mrs Ariadne Oliver, along with Greta Scacchi – rather shockingly the former screen siren turns up as an old battleaxe – Iain Glen, Vincent Regan and Vanessa Kirby.

Who shot who?

It’s a tale of two investigations. Ariadne is cornered at a crime writers’ convention by a domineering old

VINCENT REGAN as Chief Sup. Beale, ANNABEL MULLION as Lady Ravenscroft and FERDINAND KINGSLEY as Desmond.  Poirot: Elephants Can Remember Copyright ITV
Vincent Regan, Annabel Mullion and Ferdinand Kingsley

boot, Mrs Burton-Cox (Greta Scacchi), who insists she look into two 10-year-old unsolved murders. Did General Ravenscroft shoot his wife, Margaret, Ariadne’s old school chum, or did Margaret shoot the general?

Ariadne requests Poirot’s assistance, but the buttoned-up detective is already fully engaged in the case of a psychiatrist who has been murdered in one of his old treatment baths, a rather cruel looking contraption.

It would be interesting to compare this latest Poirot with one of ITV’s productions from the early years. Surely those originals come nowhere near today’s almost fetishistic recreation of the 1920s, with its luxurious settings and beautiful furnishings, clothes and wirelesses, right down to the tea sets. If you like period setttings, this is a feast.

Ariadne and Poirot

Another trademark is the gentle humour in the scenes between Ariadne and Poirot, who’s often perplexed by his friend, and during Ariadne’s questioning of several forgetful old biddies in her quest for a solution to the Ravenscroft case.

Of course Poirot and his stablemate Miss Marple are hardly cutting-edge television. Poirot is a pretty

VINCENT REGAN as Chief Insp Beale and DAVID SUCHET as Hercules Poirot.  Elephants Can Remember Copyright ITV
Chief Insp Beale and Hercules Poirot confer

dull character (Ariadne is more fun), and much of the dialogue is dreary exposition – ‘Awful business… they left the house for a walk… didn’t come back… somebody or other found them dead… the revolver was lying by their bodies… bloody hard on the dog…’

But there has long been a big audience for period whodunits, and as Poirot comes to an end, ITV has fairly perfected the recreation of Agatha Christie’s world.

This thirteenth series still has The Big Four, Dead Man’s Folly (still to be filmed), The Labours of Hercules and Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case to come. Poirot and the whole cosy drawing-room whodunit game feels dull and bland to many of us, but there is no doubt that a swathe of fans will miss him in their millions. Man alive, the thing airs on over 200 broadcasters worldwide including: USA (WGBH), Australia (ABC), Brazil (Globosat), France (France Televisions), Italy (Mediaset), Japan (NHK) and Russia (TV Center).

So, perhaps a homburg should be raised to ITV for lavishing so much care on the detective for 25 years. They’ve done him justice.

Cast: David Suchet Hercule Poirot, Zoë Wanamaker Mrs Ariadne Oliver, Greta Scacchi Mrs Burton-Cox, Vanessa Kirby Celia, Adrian Lukis General Ravenscroft, Annabel Mullion Lady Ravenscroft, Ferdinand Kingsley Desmond, Iain Glen Dr Willoughby, Jo-Anne Stockham Mrs Willoughby, Vincent Regan Detective Inspector Beale, Alexandra Dowling Marie, Danny Webb Superintendent Garroway, Elsa Mollien Zelie, Claire Cox Dorothea, Caroline Blakiston Julia Carstairs, Hazel Douglas Mrs Matcham, Maxine Evans Mrs Buckle, Ruth Sheen Madame Rosentelle
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Agatha Christie Poirot: Hallowe’en Party PREVIEW

Ariadne and Poirot (pics ITV)

Rating ★★★

Wednesday, 27 Oct, 8pm ITV1

Since 1989 ITV has produced more than 60 Poirot’s with David Suchet as the smug Belgian.

There is no mystery in concluding that Agatha Christie’s sleuth has his fans, that a hardcore of viewers relish Suchet’s performance along with the period of steam trains, sensible cardies and roaring hearths.

Equally, there are many left bored by the formula, finding the implausible dramas as satisfying as solving sudoku puzzles, and ‘Ercule Poirot with his GCSE French (‘Oui,’ ‘N’est-ce pas?’ etc), references to himself in the third person (‘Poirot will find out all’) and all-round pomposity simply naff.

C’est la vie (that’s enough school French, Ed). But whether the series is considered a trick or a treat, it is back with a decent seasonal mystery that should delight devotees. Hallowe’en Party is dark and atmospheric, as should be expected from a script by Mark Gatiss (who not only co-wrote and starred in Sherlock this summer, but has his History of Horror on BBC Four, and is soon to be seen in The First Men in the Moon, also on BBC Four).


It features the return of one of Poirot’s few female friends, crime writer Ariadne Oliver in an almost affectionate performance again by Zoë Wanamaker. Timothy West, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Deborah Findlay are among the suspects.

It is Ariadne who is attending a children’s Hallowe’en party at Woodleigh Common when  a young girl, Joyce, brags that she once witnessed a murder. Everyone pooh-poohs her story, but when the child is found with her head submerged in an apple-bobbing tub, Ariadne knows who to call.

Poirot realises that even if Joyce was a fantasist she may not have lied about the murder, and that if he can work out which of three recent local murders the girl was talking about, he will be close to the killer.

Armchair sleuths will have to strain every little grey cell to fathom out whether a forged codicil in will, a missing au pair or a secret love affair is the key. 

Only six or seven Poirot stories remain to be filmed, and from what David Suchet says it is not only older viewers who will be saddened that the production line is coming to an end. ‘I’m now getting letters from seven year olds who have suddenly got hooked!’ the actor said. ‘I recently sent photographs to two eight year old twins who come home from school and make their mother put on Poirot! In the same month I sent a box of chocolates to someone who was 94 in an old people’s home. Almost 90 years difference in age yet they are watching the same programme.’

Go figure.   

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