Charles S. Tashiro | Agoura Hills, CA USA | 02/14/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Fans of the London Weekend Television Poirot series may be surprised by this adaptation of the first of the novels. While ingredients familiar from the rest of the series are here, the feel is rather different, probably because the story is set in 1917. The Art Deco backgrounds that are a hallmark of the rest of the series are missing. We are treated instead to the dark, cluttered luxury of an English country estate, improbably well appointed for war time, as a familiar cast of suspects move in and out of the ample shadows. The episode is a little unusual in the central role played by Hastings, and even more unusual in its concentration on character. Most of the LWT Poirot adaptations focus on the puzzle, garnish it with playful character touches, lush backgrounds, and superb cinematography. This segment, probably because it is establishing the relationship between Poirot, Hastings and Japp (in a relatively modest role), spends more time on the interaction between people. As a result, the pace of the segment is also slower than most, perhaps also in an attempt to convey the feel of a vanished way of life.The episode is a particularly beautiful example from a series that specialized in gorgeous period evocations, with ample response to lush green landscapes, the creeping darkness of an early summer evening, or the harsh light slipping through the blinds of a shuttered room. The Moderne look of the thirties episodes here gives way to a slightly seedy Edwardianism, obviously past its prime, but still holding on to remembered glories. (One of the nicest touches is that the victim, an elderly matriarch, dresses in a manner more appropriate to some fifteen years earlier.) Even the graphic design of the credits has been changed, substituting a more traditional serif font for the curvilinear, Plaza type used in the other episodes. In short, if you can imagine one of the better English "Heritage Films" of the past few years crossed with the forward movement of a Christie detective story, you have a good sense of what to expect from "The Mysterious Affair at Styles." Somewhat atypical for the series, it is also one of the most subtly atmospheric episodes."
Take a step back to the beginning
Robert North | Midwest | 12/03/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Some actors play characters and some become them. Suchet is Poirot...or is Poirot Suchet? Missing is the greasiness that Albert Finney injected into the character in Murder on the Orient Express. Also missing is the familiarity that Ustinov brought--that feeling that Ustinov as Poirot was similar to Ustinov as anybody. Suchet is an original.One warning before I say more: I've read only a couple of the books, and am no expert to say the least. The Mysterious Affair at Styles is a good place to begin this series of DVDs, as it shows how Poirot and Hastings met. Especially memorable is the suggestion of a greater degree of depth of experience with Hastings than usually found in the shorter episodes. Don't worry though, you still get the enjoyable Hastings goofiness. Check out his marriage offer and the woman's response as an example.The story itself isn't as memorable as some, though I think it does do an excellent job with redirection that sets it apart from most. Specifically, I think it does an excellent job of playing on the jaded assumptions we often make as we leap ahead with our guesses; I admit that I was more smug in the middle than accurate in the end. In addition, the settings, from buildings to countryside, are wonderful and the dialog is engaging. However, I can only give the Acorn series 4 out of 5 stars. Why? Because until DVDs become the sole way people watch movies at home, expectations must be higher. I have no complaints about the audio or the picture, but where are the multimedia extras? The features that make owning (and paying more for) a DVD worthwhile. Except for some text-based items, this DVD is bereft of goodies. Shame on you, Acorn! How about a 10 minute interview with the actors? Behind the scenes footage? A brief documentary on Christie and where this episode fits in? Something? DVDs are not books. They are multimedia delivery devices. OK. Rant over. Suffice it so say, if you love the character, and especially if you love the series, the feature length DVDs are worth it."
Not the Best but Fine Enough
Francis M. Hough Jr. | Charlotte, NC USA | 03/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're at all familiar with the wonderful series of BBC adaptations of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, then you don't need me to tell you that David Suchet is the walking embodiment of the character. Though the case, Christie's first published mystery, isn't one of her most baffling (go to THE ABC MURDERS also available on DVD for that), it is certainly full of the author's well-known devices: a murder by poisoning (Christie was a poison expert having worked in a dispensery during World War I), a suitable cast of suspects who we inevitably learn all had reason enough for wanting the victim dead, and the studied investigation by our Belgian sleuth with the usual endearing incompetence of his friend Arthur Hastings.These BBC adaptations are beautifully made, faithful in their period touches (though, of course, Hastings and Poirot don't look any younger here than in their later adventures which take place at least ten to fifteen years later), and the casting as always couldn't be better.Though lacking much in the way of supplements (the information on Agatha Christie and David Suchet is repeated on each disc in the series), the clarity of the picture and clear sound (alas mono) make owning these DVDs a must for mystery lovers."
The first of the Poirot novels
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 02/13/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It was in 1920 that Hercule Poirot's egg-shaped head first appeared in print. He was a Belgian refugee living in a small English town near a manor house named Styles, at which there was a mysterious affair. Told from the point of view of Hastings, a recent participant in the Great War, the story tells of a poisoning through a cup of coffee that was never drunk, a cup of cocoa that contained no poison, and several possible wills. This and the usual "crowded murder scene" all add up to a superior murder mystery called . As soon as I finished viewing the DVD version released by Acorn Media, I reread the novel and marveled at how closely the script adheres to the original. Even the dialogue is, for the most part, drawn from the pages of the novel and the casting of the film seems just right, especially the despicable Mr. Inglethorpe (Michael Cronin). One prominent character in the book is gone from the film; and my rereading showed how dispensable he was originally. As always, a few comic touches are added to the film, such as Poirot's trying to Anglicize a group of fellow "Belgies" who are more interested in the local pub than in British marching songs. Also, while Poirot's lust for neatness will be a running joke throughout his many novels and short stories, here it actually leads to the solution. Of course, there is that old routine of the Watson character (Hastings, played as always by the excellent Hugh Fraser) making a chance comment that provides the "missing link" needed to close the case; but we can forgive that cliché in an old mystery where it would be laughed out of court in a modern one. Also Hastings is given some depth by showing his nightmares of trench warfare--just possibly to contrast the ado caused by a single death in a tiny village as thousands were being slaughtered in continental Europe. (Or am I reading too much into it?) David Suchet has the character of Poirot as part of himself , while Philip Jackson has little enough to do as Japp of Scotland Yard and does it very well. The young women are reasonably attractive and do not look like the fashion models who would be cast in many American productions. The rest of the cast ranges from very very good to excellent, all helped enormously by the World War I ambiance of soldiers lounging on wonderful stone bridges and doctors who make house calls. A Must addition to your collection of Poirot and Wimsey productions available from Acorn Media, not to mention the Jane Marple and Avengers sets put out by A&E."
Story content versus film quality.....
Dianne Foster | USA | 06/23/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you're an Agatha Christie-Poirot fan, you will probably enjoy this DVD in spite of the less than perfect quality of the recording. THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES is one of the longer Poirot tales (1 story, two 50 minute segments-merged), compared with the short stories (three stories, 50 minutes each) released in VHS format. Because the tapes are so vulnerable, I prefer the DVD mode even when the film is simply a "copy" of a tape (which seems to be the case for STYLES). STYLES--the DVD--is not of the caliber of the earlier ACORN DVDs-MUDER IN THE AIR, ABC MURDERS, etc., however, I would buy it again because I like the content. THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES is one of the eariest Poirot tales, and like THE ABC MURDERS takes place in the English countryside Agatha Christie depicted so well from the 1920s to the 1950s. Styles is also the setting for FINAL CURTAIN, the last Poirot tale. Seems Ms Christie was as obsessive about balance, order, and loose ends as her little sleuth. In STYLES, Poirot is a war refugee who has been evacuated from his beloved Belgium where he was a police inspector-one step ahead of the Kaiser's troops. He is part of a group of other Belgian men--all dressed in little black suits, white shirts and spats, and bowler hats--reminiscent of a flock of penguins or Charlie Chaplins--whom he quickly attempts to "order". Some very humorous scenes occur with Poirot and his little group of immigrants. At STYLES, Poirot meets by chance Captain Hastings whom he had met earlier in Belgium on another muder case where Hastings was a suspect. Captain Hastings is recovering from war wounds he suffered at the Battle of the Somme in northern France near the Belgium border, and he has been invited by an old school chum to come to his home at STYLES to recover from his wounds. As you might imagine, the film depicts the bucolic countryside of the upper crust--clay tennis courts, afternoon tea on the lawn, horseback riding on fine looking "farm" animals with neatly coiffed manes and tails, and vintage period hair, clothing, automobiles, etc. -- a feast for the eyes. The handsome and aristocratic David Rintoul plays Hastings friend (Darcy in the BBC production of PRIDE AND PREDJUDICE with Elizabeth Garvey--everyone who has seen this film 18 times raise your hand!!, and a suspect in the recently released FIVE RED HERRINGS a Dorothy Sayers mystery I recommend).When a family member dies under mysterious circumstances that point to murder by poison, Hastings suggests to his friend they recruit the services of Poirot. Enter Inspector Japp, and in no time Hastings friend is in the dock and accused of murder. Is he the perpetrator of the crime? Hercule will discover the truth and all shall be known."