Updated: Mar 22, 2020
With a big screen version and Public Broadcast interpretation already made, Agatha Christie's A.B.C. Murders returns as a three-part streaming option on Amazon featuring top-notch production values. Filmic sets and cinematography join familiar faces with John Malkovich taking on the iconic role of Christie's most popular detective, Hercule Poirot. But just as Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh retooled the detective into an action figure for his recent revamping of Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot differs significantly from the finely tuned take portrayed by David Suchet in the long-running P.B.S. series. Nor does this Poirot show a gourmet appetite for mystery solving that inspired the likes of Albert Finney and Peter Ustinov in their turns as Poirot, gleefully working their little gray cells to showcase big, giant brainpower.
Malkovich melancholia dominates the Amazon version's downbeat view of Poirot as an older man with waning fame. With fewer references to the mustaches and grooming that so preoccupies the famed detective in his other stories, The A.B.C. Murders could easily use another name for its lead character, yet still hold a level of intrigue. After all, Christie demonstrated a spider's inexhaustible penchant for spinning impressive creations throughout her career. Her eighty-two books include key twists on the mystery format, tricks that still take audiences off guard.
The A.B.C. Murders, once called The Alphabet Murders for an old Tony Randall movie, plays its own set of games. Christie interpreter Sarah Phelps has already revised the author's other famed works such as And Then There Were None and once again shows no hesitation about providing an updated framework for Poirot's ABC adventures. Phelps writes a new backstory for Poirot, though she retains the book's basic murder plot and solution. While purists may disagree with the altered take on their beloved detective, they'll find both production and plotting work well. The A.B.C. Murders fails as definitive Christie but once again proves the mystery writer weaves a fine web of deception.
This review was originally aired on 2/28/2019.
You can listen to it online at https://www.kunr.org/post/amazons-abc-murders#stream/0