Judge Jason Panella is what the French call les incompetents.
French-language Mysteries from the Queen of Crime!
The Little Murders of Agatha Christie (French title: Les Petits Meurtres d'Agatha Christie) gives some stories from the Queen of Crime a looser, sexier translation for the small screen. In doing so, it gives two of Christie's most beloved characters—Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot—the boot.
The French series uses two new sets of protagonists to tie the disparate stories together: enigmatic ladies man Superintendent Jean Larosière (Antoine Duléry, All Girls Are Crazy) and Inspector Émile Lampion (Marius Colucci, Populaire), who solve cases in the 1930s; and Commissioner Laurence (Samuel Labarthe, Strayed) and reporter Alice Avril (Blandine Bellavoir, Maison close), who team up in the 1950s. Laurence and Alice and completely new to this series, while Larosière and Lampion were created for the 2006 French miniseries A Family Murder Party (a take on Hercule Poirot's Christmas).
With Set 1, Acorn Media gives a grab bag selection of episodes from the show's four seasons. All seven episodes are around 90 minutes in length.
• "Les meurtres ABC" ("The ABC Murders," 2009)—A serial killer toys with the great sleuth Larosière. Based on the Poirot novel The ABC Murders.
• "Am stram gram" ("Eenie Meenie Miney Mo," 2009)—The case involving the death of a philanthropist is reopened once Larosière learns one of her adopted children may be responsible for her murder. Based on the standalone novel Ordeal by Innocence.
• "La maison du péril" ("The House of Peril," 2009)—Larosière falls for a beautiful young woman who is haunted by a bunch of deaths in her rural home. Based on the Poirot novel Peril at End House.
• "Le chat et les souris" ("The Cat and the Mouse," 2010)—Larosière and Lampion investigate a murder near a girls boarding school and get caught up in a web of espionage. Based on the Poirot novel Cat Among the Pigeons.
• "Je ne suis pas coupable" ("I Am Not Guilty," 2010)—Lampion goes undercover at a women's retreat. Hilarity (and murder) ensues. Based on the Poirot novel Sad Cypress.
• "Un cadavre sur l'oreiller" ("The Body in the Library," 2011)—A teenager prostitude winds up dead in Larosière's bed. Could he be…guilty? Based on the Miss Marple novel The Body in the Library.
• "Jeux de glaces" ("They Do It With Mirrors," 2013)—Super smooth cop Laurence investigates murders at a mental institute with the help of plucky reporter Alice. Based on the Miss Marple novel They Do It With Mirrors.
The Little Murders of Agatha Christie stays relatively close to Christie's fiction, though not too close. Plots are shaken up, new elements are added, and characters feel more human and less like cogs in the great mystery machine. Plus, the episodes are spicier—there's sex, some surprisingly gory murders, and a devious sense of humor that helps lighten the mood considerably. All of this helps gives Christie's mysteries some new life, but in doing so saps away one of the key things that made her stories so fascinating: the characters of Poirot and Marple.
Don't get me wrong—The Little Murders is a well-made, interesting show. Plus, I welcome to change; I've always had some reservations about the airtight plotting and the ridiculous murder methods in Christie's fiction (same goes for her "Golden Age" crime novel ilk). But Marple and especially Poirot are such singularly fascinating characters that their absence is noticeable. Christie's protagonists were so meticulously constructed and, while often unbelievable, were always the most interesting thing about her stories. Larosière and Lampion are good characters too, especially once their trust grows to the "bickering couple" level. These two are more human than any of Christie's gang (which becomes especially clear in this set's fourth and best episode, "The Cat and the Mouse"). But sometimes the show doesn't know how to use them, especially Lampion—at times he's a genius, at other times he's a buffoon or a punchline for questionable gay-related jokes. But for the most part, these two are good characters…they just happen to be pretty tame next to Poirot's little gray cells.
The approach of this collection is also odd. As of now, four seasons of Les Petits Meurtres d'Agatha Christie have aired in France. The first three feature Larosière and Lampion, the fourth Laurence and Alice. The Little Murders of Agatha Christie: Set 1 collects episodes seemingly at random from the various seasons, and the inclusion of just one episode from the most recent season barely gives a taste of the new time period and characters. Will future sets fill in the blanks?
Acorn Media's release of The Little Murders of Agatha Christie: Set 1 features seven episodes spread out over four discs. The 1.78:1 widescreen video transfer is fine, as is the French Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track. No extras, which—considering how little English-language information is available about this series—is especially frustrating.
The dénouement: a good adaptation of Christie's novels, though some purists may not like it. What's gained in a more spirited approach to the source material is lost in the lack of Christie's iconic protagonists.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
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