Agatha Christie fans have had to wait for years to see their much-loved Belgium in high definition. Early last year, it looked as if the chance had arrived, as the US arm of distributors Acorn Media announced the release of the first six series in beautiful Blu-ray collections, fully remastered and in original UK broadcast order. But an announcement of a British alternative (since the discs were Region A locked) never came. But now there is an answer – the Spanish versions of these collections are Region B encoded (they will play on British players) and – better still – they are half the price of the US editions.
Series one takes us back to 1989 when Poirot was a new drama series, showing in 45-minute episodes on ITV. These days, the format has changed (the stories are now made as feature-length films), but it’s a joy to go back to the past when Poirot’s moustache was different, the tone much lighter and the stories neat and contained.
Viewers used to the darker, more recent adaptations may be surprised by the way these little gems of joy are presented. The scripts are far more humorous and the violence much less shocking. For example, the opening episode, The Adventure of the Clapham Cook, carries a ‘U’ certificate.
In terms of picture quality, JCA TV and ITV Studios have done a magnificent job on the series. Though shot on 16mm film, a source broadcasters regard as below high definition standards, the thorough frame-by-frame restoration has yielded truly remarkable results. A pleasing layer of film grain is (rightly) preserved, so the episodes don’t lose their look or feel, but levels of clarity are vastly improved, particularly when compared to the dated masters used for the current UK DVD releases. Colours look exceptionally vibrant, and sound quality is notably improved.
Those who already own the series on DVD and don’t feel the series is worth the upgrade may well be surprised: this is a superb HD restoration and offers fans a fresh new way to enjoy Poirot and his little grey cells in the glory they deserve.
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Series 1 – 3 (1989 – 1991) is released on Blu-ray disc by Llamentol Spain and ITV Studios Home Entertainment. The boxset can be imported into the United Kingdom via this Amazon link.