|Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot.|
Running Time: 94 minutes.
Status: CBS originally broadcast Thirteen at Dinner in September 1985. It's available on DVD as part of the Agatha Christie Classic Mystery Collection, which contains all three of Peter Ustinov's made-for-TV movies as Hercule Poirot plus other TV movies based on Agatha Christie novels.
Production Notes: This was the third of Peter Ustinov's six appearances as Hercule Poirot. It was preceded by the theatrical films Death on the Nile (1978) and Evil Under the Sun (1982), which was his best. His next three Poirot films were all made for CBS and broadcast in 1985-86: Thirteen at Dinner, Dead Man's Folly, and Murder in Three Acts. He returned as the Belgium detective one last time for the theatrical film Appointment with Death (1988). Thirteen at Dinner is notable for co-starring David Suchet as Inspector Japp. Suchet would go on to play Poirot in a long-running, critically-acclaimed television series beginning in 1989.
Our Review: The main problem with this adaptation of Christie's 1933 novel Lord Edgware Dies is that a key casting choice gives away the ingenious nature of the crime much too early. I won't say more at the risk of spoiling the plot. A secondary issue is the decision to update the novel from the 1930s to the 1980s. Hearing characters utter expressions like "dude" in a Christie mystery just doesn't seem right. And Lee Horsley's action movie star, played broadly for comedic effect, decreases the menace in a film that should reflect at least a modest tone of danger. Finally, it's also jarring to see Poirot looking at a model's posterior and remarking: "Not bad." Yes, Hercule admired ladies, but always in a respectful fashion. Weaknesses aside, Thirteen At Dinner benefits from location filming in England, a clever mystery, and the presence of Ustinov and Suchet. The latter, without his mustache and sporting an English accent, may be unrecognizable to fans of his Poirot series. He and Ustinov work well together and it's also fun to see a young Bill Nighy as one of the suspects. Still, Ustinov's next Poirot appearance, 1986's Dead Man's Folly, is a significant improvement and makes Poirot less of a bumbler. If you want to see a better version of Lord Edgware Dies, then I recommend you seek out the 2000 adaptation with Suchet. It make take some liberties with the novel, too, but it's the better of the two films.
This post is part of The Movie of the Week Blogathon hosted by the Classic Film & TV Cafe. Click here to visit the schedule and read about all the great made-for-TV movies in this blogathon.