The ABC Murders (TV mini series, 2018)


The ABC Murders (Mammoth Screen and Agatha Christie Productions, 2018) is a 3 episodes TV mini series, of 60 minutes each one, based on the homonymous novel by Agatha Christie, adapted by Sarah Phelps, produced by Farah Abushwesha, and directed by Alex Gabassi. It stars John Malkovich as Hercule Poirot, with Eamon Farren, Michael Shaeffer, Rupert Grint, Conrad McCroddan, Freya Mavor, Shirley Henderson, Anya Chalotra, Andrew Buchan, Tara Fitzgerald, Bronwyn James, Christopher Villiers, Jack Farthing, Suzanne Packer and Eve Austin, in main supporting roles. It was aired by BBC One in the UK, over three consecutive nights beginning on 26 December 2018 and by Movistar #0, in Spain, on Friday evenings starting 15 March 2019.

MV5BYmJmNzU0NTgtOGM5Ni00MWJiLTgwZmMtNDIyNjYzZDAzNzI5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjExMjk0ODk@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Synopsis: Set in the 1930s, a time when Britain is dangerously divided and suspicion and hatred are on the rise, the story sees Poirot face a serial killer known only as A.B.C. As the body count rises, the only clue is a copy of The ABC Railway Guide at each crime scene. Poirot’s investigations are continuously thwarted by an enemy determined to outsmart him. If Poirot is to match his nemesis, then everything about him will be called into question: his authority, his integrity, his past and his identity. (Source: IMDb)

My take: Last Friday, Begoña and I finished watching the third episode of The ABC Murders (2018 TV mini series) starring John Malkovich as Hercule Poirot. I can assure you I tried to watch it without bias and with an open mind. I was prepared to understand it was a recreation of the famous novel and it didn’t have to be necessarily faithful to the original novel. I was expecting it will reflect, in some sense, the spirit of the book, albeit in an up to date version. However, despite all the originality and brilliance in its execution and interpretation, I’ve been rather disappointed. At no point I felt interested in the series. I found its excessive realism quite disproportionate, or perhaps gratuitous and unnecessary. And I can assure you I’m not shy on sex related issues. Besides some sequences were disgusting and in the verge of bad taste. I also wonder what was the need to introduce a Poirot’s past, entirely artificial and invented. But I might be completely wrong and I would like to hear your views.

8 thoughts on “The ABC Murders (TV mini series, 2018)”

  1. While I agree with everything you said here, Jose, the thing that really rankles is that Sarah Phelps seems to feel she is doing Christie a service (by adapting the book the way the author “wanted” to write it) and us a favor (by using Christie to shine a light on the viciousness of Brits toward immigrants in 1934 and the obvious parallels to today.) Phelps is trying to make Christie “relevant” to modern audiences, but her method is excessively unpleasant.

    1. You have raised a good point, Brad. But as you says, Sarah Phelps’ attempt to make Christie relevant today, fails when using an excessively unpleasant method.

      1. I think Christie IS relevant and any attempt to MAKE Christie relevant is essentially saying that she is out-dated, ancient and no longer hold any kind of meaning. That’s what I feel about Sarah Phelps’ attempts at modernizing and making Christie relevant. The stories may be set in a certain time period in terms of fashion and trends but the human heart and the evil it contains, which Christie emphasized countless time throughout her books, is the same. And that is timeless. Christie is timeless!

  2. I was interested to hear what you’d make of this. It’s my favorite Christie novel so I came to it with a little more apprehension though I was optimistic that I would find material to like here.

    I think that it really suffers from the choice to eliminate Hastings. It is an understandable decision if you are doing a one off adaptation like this but he serves an important role in the book to puncture Poirot’s intellectualism. The attempt to substitute Ron from Harry Potter doesn’t really work because the relationship is more hostile rather than the Holmes-Watson dynamic.

    I didn’t care for the sadomasochism scenes or the grotesque neck boil moment at all. In fact I think the scenes in the boarding house were generally over the top and unnecessary.

    I will say though that the few people I know who did watch this without reading the book were fooled by the twist so that at least survived, even if I think it isn’t as effective.

    All of which is a shame because I quite enjoyed Malkovich’s performance (added uncanonical backstory notwithstanding).

    1. Thanks very much for your input, Aidan. Besides I don’t find reasoned enough how Poirot manages to solve the case in the film. And it is this aspect of the investigation what, in my view, is left in the background.

    2. I think a lot of the current Christie adaptations are over the top. These scriptwriters don’t seem to get the idea of “subtly” anymore.

  3. I was waiting to see what you thought of this. I usually don’t mind different takes on a novel when adapted to film, but based on what you say this goes too far. I do like Malkovich, so I may give it a try someday anyway.

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