Title: Poirot: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Original Airdate: January 2, 2000
Synopsis: Renowned detective Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) has retired to a country village where he becomes involved in the murder of successful industrialist Roger Ackroyd. Where Poirot goes, murder follows. He's a lot like Jessica Fletcher in this way. Jamie plays Ralph Paton, Ackroyd's stepson.
Worth Watching? This is early work of Jamie's I can actually recommend! Suchet makes an excellent Poirot. The supporting cast is good. The story is engaging and, as with most of Agatha's Christie's stories, there is a surprising twist or two.
Does he live or die? They keep you guessing. So will I!
The majority of the film unfolds in flashback. We open with Hercule Poirot, entering a secured room and pulling a journal out of safety deposit box. As he sits down to read the journal, obviously written by someone with a lot of issues and resentments, the mystery begins.
The first characters we are introduced to are Parker, Roger Ackroyd's, butler/chauffeur, and the village's doctor, Dr. Sheppard. Parker has been sent to pick up Poirot and bring him to Ackroyd's factory. The characters are important to the story, but do we really care about them? No. Moving on...
We're introduced to Ralph when he drops by his stepfather's, Roger Ackroyd's, factory. Roger is surprised to see Ralph, who has been in London. Roger is also anxious to announce Ralph's engagement to his niece, Flora, which Ralph has been putting off for three months. Ralph doesn't seem eager to marry his sort-of first cousin, yet tries to deflect by explaining to Roger he's been looking for a job the last few months.
Roger tells Ralph he promised his late mother he'd look after him "as if he was his own son".
Caroline Sheppard, Dr. Sheppard's nosy sister, is walking through town when she spies Ralph, sitting by a (conveniently open) hotel window, having a heated conversation with a woman. The two are discussing the possibility of Ralph being cut off financially. Ralph asks the mystery woman to be patient as they wait for dear old dad to die and leave him his money. Caroline suspects the mystery woman might be Flora. Though Flora is a blonde and this woman is a brunette. And we know this is an Agatha Christie story and it has to be someone else.
A short time later we cut to Ralph, alone, in his room, looking pensive. Is he thinking about his debts? Or about having to marry a woman he doesn't love? Or why his dad doesn't accept him for who he is and love him? Oh, wait, wrong show!
After a small dinner party at Ackroyd's home, which Ralph was conveniently not invited to, Roger Ackroyd is murdered. His body is found with a knife sticking out of his neck. Ouch.
And we soon learn Ralph is nowhere to be found. Disappearing in the middle of the night is never a good sign of your innocence. Especially after the police learn of your serious financial difficulties and your shoes, taken from hotel, match footprints on the windowsill of the Ackroyd home. Also, Ralph is due to inherit the bulk of Roger's estate. It's not looking good for our Ralphie!
Even with all the evidence, Poirot is not convinced Ralph is the murderer. It probably helps Parker is suddenly killed in an 'accident'.
During the investigation, Poirot becomes very suspicious of the Ackroyd's maid, Ursula Bourne. She does act rather nervous and flustered, especially whenever Ralph is mentioned. When Poirot visits the Ackroyd home to ask more questions, Ackroyd's secretary, Geoffrey Raymond, informs Poirot Ursula is up in her room crying and refuses to come out. Poirot ventures up there and, yep, she refuses to open the door. Until he calls her.....Mrs. Ralph Paton! It turns out the mystery woman at the hotel with Ralph was Ursula.
There's the actual conversation and then there is my interpretation of it. Ralph: "It's only you I love, Ursula. Sure, maybe I'll have to become a bigamist in order for us not to end up penniless and on the street, but I'll be thinking of you the whole time. Really! Look at my head tilt of sincerity."
Ursula, tired of being The Secret Mrs. Paton - and worried she'll become The Other Mrs. Paton - informs Ralph she spilled the beans to his stepfather. Ralph is not pleased by this. They fight. She runs off. It's the last she saw of him and that makes her sad.
So with Ralph missing and falsely reported as being arrested in Liverpool (it's part of Poirot's supposedly cunning plan), there is growing concern Ralph has run off never to be seen again. Or is another victim of the killer. Given Jamie's track record, at this point, I'm thinking the latter.
But, wait. No! He Lives!!!
Following the reunion, Poirot informs the not-so-happy extended family (alive and innocent Ralph will inherit the bulk of Roger's estate) that the killer will be revealed.....tomorrow. Huh?
Nearly everyone leaves, but Dr. Sheppard remains behind with Poirot and Chief Inspector Jaff (Oops. I forgot to mention him. He may be from Scotland Yard, but he largely fills the role the useless sidekick while Poirot does the actual sleuthing.) They are soon joined by Sheppard's still nosy sister Caroline, who didn't get an invite to the waste of time meeting, and who has been sitting down in her brother's car. She just happened to find the journal - and a gun - in the glove box of the car. At this point we begin to learn the good doctor is the author of the journal.....and nuts. Knowing he's been found out, he begins to lay out the facts and how it all went down before Poirot, officially, outs him as the murderer. On a roll, he even cops to the murder of Mrs. Ferrars, Ackroyd's mistress, and a woman who it was presumed had committed suicide.
During Sheppard's recollection of events, we get one last look at Ralph. Like many of Jamie's scenes, he has no dialog and just sits/stands and looks pretty.
Coming up Next Month: Because, after several months, I had the idea to make a schedule for the rest of the year, I can tell you zegeekgirl will be sharing her thoughts on Detective Sargent Matt Devlin next month in honor of the return of Law & Order: UK. :)