Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Hercule Poirot: The cold heart indeed, madame, which deserves no pity.
1996'S Dumb Witness is a feature length mystery movie that originally aired on the BBC and later on PBS in the U.S. and is available as a stand-alone DVD, and in several Poirot collections. It was based on the 1937 Agatha Christie novel published in the U.K. as Dumb Witness and in the U.S. (also in 1937) as Poirot Loses A Client.
Hercule Poirot along with Miss Marple are Agatha Christie's most famous creations. Poirot was created in 1916-first published in 1920 and appeared in at least 51 short stories and 33 novels between 1920 and 1975. Poirot is a former Belgian police officer, turned genius private detective based out of England. He's a quirky, strange ‘little man' who would be described today as obsessive compulsive, needing everything to be balanced and orderly. His methods appear odd, but he always solves the mystery, always gets his man and always irritates someone around him. He has also become one of international television's most beloved characters. David Suchet -an stage-trained actor first played Poirot in 1989 and thoroughly researched everything he could about the character by reading every short story, every novel, Agatha Christie ever wrote about her character. There are only a few changed details in Poirot's appearance (balding for instance) that Suchet has made in re-creating the character for the BBC telefilm series. He intends to make programs out of all of Christie's stories and novels featuring Poirot.
In, Dumb Witness Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) and Captain Hastings (Hugh Fraser) are visiting an acquaintance, Charles Arundell in the Windermere, Lake District of England, on the occasion of Charles's attempt to the break the world water speed record in his ‘hot rod' boat. Something goes wrong, however and Charles barely escapes his boat as it malfunctions and catches fire. Was foul play involved?
Something is certainly amiss when Charles' Aunt Emily, the rich matriarch of the family falls down the stairs late one night. She doesn't die but suspects someone may be trying to kill her for her money. Poirot logically suggests she change her will and take away the motive for murdering her. Name someone in her will who would not expect to receive anything from her-he suggests. Aunt Emily does this....but then... suddenly.... she dies anyway. Is it murder?
Of course you know it is murder and almost all the characters we've met have a possible motive. The "Dumb Witness' of the title is a cute loyal fox terrier named Bob, that Poirot takes a surprising liking to-perhaps because BOB may be the only ‘one' who knows the identity the murderer.
Suchet and Fraser are given some wonderful bits of business and dialogue, and the perfectly cast supporting suspects... I mean characters are full of colorful characters and wonderful performances. Particularly enjoyable are the Tripp Sisters, older spinster women, one of whom is a spiritualist medium.
Hercule Poirot: You forgot the Sisters Tripp.
Captain Arthur Hastings: Oh those two? They're batty, yes, but not murderers surely?
Hercule Poirot: What is murder but a kind of madness, mon ami?
I won't spoil any of the details of the engrossing, entertaining who-done-it. For fans of the Suchet Poirot series(-even though the Inspector Japp and Felicity Lemon characters are not present this time out) Dumb Witness is one of this excellent series' very best. If you are new to the series-it may take a few episodes for you to really get hooked on Poirot since it is a quiet, restrained and stylized series.
Although the DVD transfers are not quite as bright and colorful as they could be, the series usually boasts memorable, colorful settings and has been well photographed. The 1989-2001 version of the series is set mostly in England pre-World War 2 in 1936/1937. Sets, locations, vehicles, props, costumes, all reflect the time period.
NOTES OF Interest
Hugh Fraser played Captain Arthur Hastings in 41 tele-film adaptations of Poirot (the 36 one hour episodes and 5 feature length adaptations from 1989 to 2001). He is an excellent friend and assistant to the genius detective, similar in many ways to Dr. Watson in Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series. He did not appear in several of the original stories and novels that were adapted, and has not appeared with Poirot (David Sachet) since 2001. Many fans of the series miss the wonderful chemistry Sachet and Fraser had when they appear together in the tele-adaptations, although the quality has remained quite good in recent feature length episodes.
Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Japp and Poirot's secretary Miss (Felicity) Lemon do not appear in this episode.
A few major changes were made from the original novel. The setting has been changed from the small southern country town of Market Basing to Windermere in the Lake District of England's Northwest. Hastings and Poirot arrive BEFORE the first murder occurs, an additional character is murdered in the tele-film and the murderer in the book commits suicide-but not in the telefilm. None of the changes diminishes the quality of this superb Christie adaptation.
1996's DUMB WITNESS is an excellent feature- length Hercule Poirot mystery in the very good long running series of adaptations (begun in 1989 and still continuing through 2012) starring David Suchet as Agatha Christie's Poirot. It has a particularly memorable group of colorful characters, an intriguing engrossing mystery and an excellent resolve. 4 stars.
Another entry for Talyseon's Mystery Write-off
and because there are seances and murder for swooshfan's Celebrate October Write-off
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV