I love Poirot. It started with a family vacation at a lake in Missouri. I was about 13, and there was no TV in our cabin, so we took turns reading a few chapters each night of “Sad Cypress” by Agatha Christie, featuring – Hercule Poirot. Each night we discussed the case and offered up theories, and on the evening we were to finish the book we all guessed the identity of the killer, and as I remember nobody was correct.
This MGM movie came out at the same time Margaret Rutherford was making four Miss Marple films for that studio, but this was the only Tony Randall Poirot movie. And there’s a good reason for that: it was sold as a Poirot mystery and on that level it stinks. As a comedy with Randall using a strange-sounding French accent and being accompanied in all the exterior shots by jaunty French music it actually works. You just have to forget all about Hercule Poirot. It’s as if Randall is playing an impostor of the great Belgian detective. First, he’s very much too thin. Second, his mustache does not curl up at the ends, so all that time David Suchet spends with mustache pomade simply does not apply. Robert Morley plays Hastings, and they seem unknown to each other, as Hastings is assigned by the British Secret Service to tail Poirot. Maurice Denham is Inspector Japp and is almost not in the movie, his role is so abbreviated. Anita Ekberg has the female lead as a crazy woman who turns up all the time supposedly trying to kill Poirot. The mystery is really unimportant since we’re going for laughs only – and succeeding.
Tony Randall is a very energetic actor, full of verve with his line readings and able to make great exaggerated expressions. And there’s even a sort of cameo with Margaret Rutherford and her husband Stringer Davis making an appearance briefly as Marple and her gentleman helper. Just know it’s not your idea of Poirot, and give it a chance. I think knowing it’s funny going in will erase all possible disappointment. Just sit back, unplug your brain, and enjoy.