Just when Agatha Christie fans might be feeling a bit bereft since David Suchet hung up his Poirot mustaches, Acorn Media has released a delightful new box set of Christie mysteries available from France — Les Petits Meurtres D'Agatha Christie, Set 1. Viewers should not be put off by the prospect of subtitles. Yes, the mysteries are all in French, with easy-to-read, large subtitling, and they are most definitely worth the effort. Originally made for French television in 2009-2012, this collection has dusted off the classic Christie tropes and given them a distinctly Gallic flavor, which surprisingly, works beautifully.
Christie's famous sleuths, Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple, have been replaced by two sets of French investigators. In the first six mysteries, set in the 1930s-era France, Superintendent Larosière (Antoine Duléry) and his trusty sidekick, Inspector Lampion (Marius Colucci) solve a variety of murders. Larosière, who loves fine food and has an eye for the ladies, can be both dismissive and gentle with poor Lampion (sometimes at the same time). Lampion seems to have trouble just trying to keep up with his brilliant yet mercurial boss. They are a witty pair, and these renditions definitely have brought a sense of humor to the fore. Although frequently funny, the pair is also deadly serious about crime and catching criminals — they continually remind the contemporary audience that the guillotine awaits their convicted murderers. There is also a dash of romance in these mysteries; they are French, after all. Larosière may find himself attracted to both a lady in peril as well as a possible suspect. Lampion also finds romance — with different men he meets during the course of their cases.
The look of the series is top-notch, with gorgeous French locations, costumes, and sets bringing the pre-WW2 era to life. The Larosière/Lampion episodes may have the most visually in common with the more familiar British adaptations. The Laurence/Alice episode definitely has fun with its updated setting, amping up the bright colors and playing with rear-screen projection and period automobiles to help viewers time-travel to 1950s France. The widescreen images on all of the episodes are sharp and clear and look great on a large-scale high-definition television screen. The total running time of the four-disc set is 663 minutes. The collection is NR (Not Rated), and these adaptations contain some nudity, sensual situations, violence, and coarse language.
Lampion and Larosière
Larosière and Lampion appeared in eleven episodes in the original series, of which six are included in this set. All but two of their episodes ("Am stram gram" and "Un cadavre sur l’oreiller") are based on Hercule Poirot novels. "Les meurtres ABC" (based on The ABC Murders) concerns a serial killer who is not only murdering victims alphabetically, but is taunting Larosière, daring him to try and stop his next crime. The second episode, "Am stram gram" (based on Ordeal by Innocence) has the pair of sleuths truing to discover which of a group of adopted children murdered their rich philanthropist mother.
One of the best episodes in the set is "La maison du péril" (based on Peril at End House). Larosière falls hard for a beautiful young heiress (Elsa Kikoïne) whose life is in danger. Can he save the woman he loves? Murder stalks the young female students of an exclusive boarding school in "Le chat et les souris" (based on Cat Among the Pigeons). Larosière soon realizes that a secret from his past may also have a bearing on the case. In "Je ne suis pas coupable" (based on Sad Cypress) Lampion must go undercover — as a woman — to solve a modern feminist's murder. And in the last entry from the pair, "Un cadavre sur l’oreiller" (based on the Miss Marple story The Body in the Library) Larosière wakes up with a dead prostitute in his bed. Lampion jumps into action to clear the name of his beloved boss.
The final episode in the collection features a new set of detectives, Commissioner Laurence Swan (Samuel Labarthe) and reporter for Voix du Nord Alice (Blandine Bellavoir), with the stories now set in 1950s France. The two appeared in four episodes in the original series. Their first pairing, "Jeux de glaces," (based on the Marple mystery, They Do It with Mirrors), is included here.
Laurence and Alice
The only complaint one might have about Les Petits Meurtres D'Agatha Christie, Set 1 is that it is just a sampling of all the episodes available from this series. Hopefully Acorn Media will release all of the episodes. This viewer would love to see the complete adventures of Larosière and Lampion, and just one episode featuring the team of Commissioner Laurence and Alice was definitely not enough.