MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!
Dead Man's Folly was broadcast in the UK on 30th October 2013 and is the third of five films that make up the thirteenth and final series of Agatha Christie's Poirot. It was adapted by Nick Dear (Mrs McGinty's Dead, Elephants Can Remember), directed by Tom Vaughan and produced by David Boulter.
Poirot is called by his dear friend Ariadne Oliver (Zoe Wanamaker) to Nasse House in Devon, where she is helping the owner of the house, George Stubbs (Sean Pertwee) to organise a murder hunt for his village fete. However, her instinct tells her that a real body will be found, and she is right...
Thankfully, Nick Dear's script remains faithful to the original novel (one of my favourites). Only a number of changes are made. He moves the setting to the early 40's instead of late 50's to fit the rest of the series. He removes the character of Miss Lemon, although she only answers the telephone so she wasn't really needed. He changes the death of Mrs Folliat's son from 'killed in the war' to 'killed in a plane crash'. Marilyn Tucker becomes Gertie Tucker, and is thinner than in the book (in the novel she is described as 'the fat child')
One more major change is the dramatic ending. Dear adds a moving scene where Mrs Folliat confronts her son. Poirot lets her go to her son against Inspector Bland's orders. However, it ends in tragedy, as we hear two gun shots, so both are presumably dead. A bitter Poirot says "Bon". (more on this later)
All in all, a faithful retelling of a brilliant book.
Direction, locations, soundtrack
Tom Vaughan's direction really makes use of the beautiful scenery (more on this later), but in contrast to the other later episodes it's not as dark. Yes, there are lots of lovely shots of the area but there's not many dark shots, not even when a child is murdered.
The main location, and star of the show, has to be Greenway House, Agatha Christie's holiday home now owned by The National Trust. It looks so beautiful and there are lots of wonderful shots of it throughout the episode, as well a parts like the boathouse, gardens and steam railway. The denouement at the end is shot almost entirely in the boathouse, which is great to see. There are lots of fantastic scenes where Poirot wanders through the gardens and around the house. It was wonderful to see Greenway in a Poirot, even more so having visited there myself only a month ago.
As usual, Christian Henson's soundtrack is perfect for this memorable episode. Notably, his version of the Poirot theme featured on the end credits.
Cast and characters
This episode is a very challenging one in terms of character, at least for Poirot. Dear adds a scene where Mrs Folliat confronts her son, ending in two gun shots. When heard, Poirot says "Bon.". This is very unusual for Poirot to take the law into his own hands, and reminds me somewhat of the endings to Orient Express and Death on the Nile. Poirot is happy that a 'justice' has occurred and the Folliats are now at rest. This is very fitting for the last series and I'm pleased it was added.
Another funny scene for Poirot is when Mr Legg says he will strangle Mr Weymen with his tie and Poirot says "Bon" and walks off. Then he returns and says "Do not actually kill him.".
Notably, this is the last episode to star Zoe Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver. Wanamaker is the perfect Mrs Oliver, she is so funny, she has the character perfectly. Suchet and Wanamaker have such a believable and great chemistry that really makes the relationship perfect. Poirot is a man of order and method; she is scatty. He likes fact; she has intuition. I noticed she's gone back to eating apples so the events of Hallowe'en Party must have been forgotten. The opening scene with Mrs Oliver is brilliant especilally when in contrast with the scene when Poirot calls her to Nasse later on.
Of the guest cast, Sinead Cusack stand out as Amy Folliat, one of Christie's most interesting characters, in my humble opinion. She gives a powerful performance, especially in the ending climax in the boathouse and when confronting 'George Stubbs'.
Sean Pertwee is also very good as Sir George Stubbs, Steph Leonidas plays a suitably subnormal Hattie Stubbs and Tom Ellis is great as the slow Inspector Bland.
A very good episode, but perhaps not perfect.
NEXT WEEK: Orla Brady plays Countess Rossakoff in David Suchet's penultimate Poirot film.
Wednesday 6th November 2013, 8pm ITV.