A tired Poirot finds himself reinvigorated when he begins investigating a series of murders linked by stockings, the alphabet, and his own travels Continue reading Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders
It’s New Year’s Eve, and a gathering of middle-aged friends is counting down the last few seconds to 1926. They toast the New Year as three children—two boys and a girl—watch secretly from above. The host—Andrew—thanks his friends for being there and reveals he’s pretty darn rich, thanks to his incredible luck of having happened to buy a farm on top of a copper seam. His lawyer takes the moment to announce that Andrew’s drawn up a will that heavily favors a local medical foundation of which another guest—Dr. Pritchard—is chairman. Pritchard promises to use the money well. Two bequests are left to the young boys upstairs—Robert Siddaway and Peter Baker. Their mothers thank Andrew, but another guest points out that Andrew’s left nothing to his ward, young Violet. Andrew shrugs that she’s a girl, so she’ll get married and doesn’t need money. Yes, marriages come cheap, you know. His lady guest is disgusted.
A balding man with a moustache and Geraldine Somerville make their way across a graveyard and lay a bunch of yellow iris on the grave of a woman named Iris Russell, who died in 1934 aged 32. Geraldine (Pauline here) refers to the man as Barton and pleads with him about something mysterious. He tells her not to stop him, because he has to do “it.” She flatly tells him she’s afraid, and he tells her not to be. He shares it’s been two years since Iris dies and vows to help her rest in peace.
Poirot’s getting an OCD start to his morning, placing perfect little dollops of jam on teeny, tiny squares of cracker or toast or something. Hastings comes in and suggests he have a proper English breakfast, but Poirot says that sounds dreadful and he’s fine with his toast bites. He then starts bitching about English food. Fortuitously, Hastings then catches sight of a large advertisement for a new restaurant called the Jardin des Cygnes (Swans’ Garden) on Jermyn Street. The name gives Poirot pause—it’s familiar to him. Hastings suggests dinner for two, undoubtedly fueling quite a bit of slashfic, if there is such a thing out there for Poirot, and I’m willing to bet there is. I’m not, however, willing to check, because that sort of fanfic scares me. Poirot snaps that it’s time for work.
A newsreel helpfully places us in Egypt, where archaeologist Sir John Willard is leading an expedition into the tomb of an ancient pharaoh. And apparently things are tense there, because there’s a representative from the British Museum (Dr. Foswell) and a rep from the Met in New York (Dr. Schneider, shown swirling some whiskey in a glass, which is unlikely in a newsreel of the time, but whatever, character establishment). There’s also a rich financier, Bleibner, and his nephew, Rupert, there for the ride, along with a secretary named Nigel, who’s photographing everything. All the principal players are gathered to watch as the tomb is opened. Got all that?
Newsreel ends and we join them in real time. There’s a seal over the door that Foswell wants to remove carefully, but Willard tells him to just break it. Isn’t this guy an archaeologist? It seems unlikely he’d just bust through a seal that’s thousands of years old. Even Bleibner wants to wait for the seal to be carefully pried off. Willard ignores him and busts through the seal, opens the door, and steps into the burial chamber. There, they find all sorts of statues and treasures. Almost as soon as they step inside and get a look, creepy music cues up, and Willard drops dead. Someone calls for the doctor, but it’s too late. Workers carry the body out as Nigel snaps away. Heh. Newsreel guy VOs news of the death from heart attack and swears that this has nothing to do with rumors of a curse on the tomb. No siree, everything’s fine here!
We start off with a good closeup of the Soviet flag, flying over the Soviet embassy in London, presumably. A woman in a totally covetable gray coat strides purposefully inside and meets one of the officials, whose office is primarily decorated by a HUGE portrait of Stalin. She doesn’t get to admire the décor, because he comes downstairs to meet her in the hall, where they have an exchange in Russian that, unhelpfully, is not subtitled, so it’s anyone’s guess what they’re talking about. He sounds annoyed (though I’ll admit, Russian always sounds annoyed or angry to me), and she seems to be pleading. That’s all I’ve got. At the end, they exchange smiles, and she hands him an envelope. As he heads back to his office, he opens it and pulls out a ticket to the Chelsea Flower show that, for some reason, has WTF stamped across it in big, red letters. I know it didn’t meant the same thing back then as it does now, but I still laughed when I saw that.
I’ve been spending so much time in the pre-Industrial age with Pillars of the Earth and The Tudors, I thought it might be a nice break to get a little closer to my era. A quick perusal of my collection brought three Poirot DVDs and I thought, well, why not? The 1930’s can be a fun time to dive into, and I’ve missed my favorite little Belgian (not French!) detective. This should help fill the time before Boardwalk Empire starts up.