Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday's Favorite OTR

Hercule Poirot: “The Deadest Man in the World” 7/19/47

One of Agatha Christie’s two great detective creations, Hercule Poirot is a vain but brilliant former cop who has a knack for stumbling over mysteries. On radio he was played by Harold Huber, who did an excellent job of balancing Poirot’s vanity, brains and basic decency to help faithfully bring the character to a new medium. The radio show brought Poirot to New York City (for reasons never really explained) and gave him a number of clever mysteries to solve.

Huber, by the way, also had some detective cred from his honorable career as a character actor in films. He turned up as a cop helping out Charlie Chan in a number of Chan films, and popped up to help Mr. Moto in Mr. Moto’s Gamble.

Anyway, this particular Poirot episode opens with a frightened woman coming to Poirot for help. Her boyfriend, she claims, is violently jealous and she wants protection. Poirot doesn’t normally do bodyguard work, but he takes this case. Why? Is it perhaps because his “little grey cells” might be telling him the woman’s story isn’t on the up-and-up?

Soon, there’s a murder tossed into the mix. Rather than a whodunit, the story becomes a “how’s-he-gonna-catch-them” of the style later used so effectively on Columbo. Poirot seems to be fooled by the killer throughout much of the episode. But we should really know better than that. It all leads up to a great dénouement.

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