Murder by the Book (1986)
Agatha Christie’s agents propose that it’s time for her to publish the manuscript she wrote thirty-five years earlier, a novel in which she finally kills off her most famous creation. And it’s not an entirely sad occasion. “That wretched little man,” she says. “He’s always been so much trouble. How is it Miss Marple has never upset me at all, not ever?” That night, who should appear at her doorstep but the wretched little man himself, Hercule Poirot? The great fictional detective and his creator proceed to play a very Christie-like game of cat and mouse for the manuscript – and for their own lives.
Anybody who is a fan of Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot or both will jump for joy at the idea of Murder by the Book. And there is very little to be disappointed by either. The opening and closing scenes are not bad but I agree not as interesting or as relevant as the rest of the film. However, the period detail is evocative and very competently shot, neither cinematic or cheap-looking. Howard Goodall's music is good as well, it is atmospherically orchestrated and has a haunting undercurrent that is perfect for Murder by the Book. What I also liked was that it actually sounds like the sort of music you'd find in an Agatha Christie adaptation. The story makes the most of the great idea it stemmed from, is paced very much an Agatha Christie adaptation- I did like that they made an effort to make a film about Christie and one of her detectives and stick to the spirit of how she wrote and the adaptations of her books- and throughout is very entertaining. The script is knowing, with some nice nods, subtle humour and genuine poignancy. Peggy Ashcroft and Ian Holm(made up to look like one of the more faithful recreations of this iconic literary detective) are respectively wonderful as Agatha and Poirot, and the rest of the cast do solidly. All in all, a very nice film and does a good job with the interesting idea it had. 8/10 Bethany Cox
(The real) Christie meets (the fictional) Poirot! Talk about "high concept"! And although this fascinating idea does not result in a film as great as it could have possibly been, "Murder By The Book" is still a treat for fans of either, or both, of these legendary figures. It's filled with knowing moments and (as far as I know) accurate comments about both, and you can actually see both sides of their conflict: Christie feels burdened by the necessity to include Poirot in many more stories than she would like, while Poirot can't understand why he has to face such a humiliating literary death (for those, like me, who haven't read "Curtain", this film possibly reveals more than they would like to know, though still not too much). Peggy Ashcroft is a fine Agatha and Ian Holm makes a superb Poirot - from the screen portrayals I've seen, he's the one closer to the "definitive" David Suchet. I would say, however, that it's not that hard to guess what's really going on, and that the opening and closing scenes with Christie's husband and her agent are not as engaging as the rest of the film. *** out of 4.
Agatha Christie's agents propose that it's time for her to publish the manuscript she wrote thirty-five years earlier, a novel in which she finally kills off her most famous creation. And it's not an entirely sad occasion. "That wretched little man," she says. "He's always been so much trouble. How is it Miss Marple has never upset me at all, not ever?" That night who should appear at her doorstep but the wretched little man himself, Hercule Poirot.Does that sound like an unbearably cutesy idea? It did to me, but this hour-long story proves to be funny and even a little touching. Poirot is investigating a murder that hasn't yet taken place. He's the intended victim – and Christie herself is the would-be murderess. This leads to a cat-and-mouse game in which Poirot tries to get hold of her manuscript, while she poisons his cocoa to prevent him from interfering with it.The script is filled with in-joke references for mystery fans and Agatha Christie readers. Christie and Poirot even debate the merits of various actors who have played the great Belgian detective. "For some reason," she says, "they always wanted big fat men to play you: Francis Sullivan, Charles Laughton." Poirot replies that Albert Finney wasn't too off the mark, but Christie protests that his "moustache was simply ghastly." Peggy Ashcroft and Ian Holm play creator and creation, and do it so beautifully that they're not only funny but poignant. Christie has a love-hate relationship with her little Belgian, while Poirot feels betrayed by the woman who writes such unflattering descriptions of his appearance and plots such an ignoble demise for him.I shouldn't have been surprised that this situation moved me a bit. Poirot has always seemed to me to live beyond the confines of the printed page, just as many other great literary characters do. And I've always thought it was sad that the real Christie preferred the mildly entertaining Miss Marple – and even the wretched Tommy and Tuppence – to her one truly great character.
Interesting and offbeat look at Agatha Christie and her decision to 'murder' Poirot, who is on hand to question her motives. Not as good as it sounds, but deserves viewing by the faithful. Ian Holm's interpretation of Poirot fits somewhere between Albert Finney and David Suchet's definitive performance.