CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Agatha Christie and the secret of a thriller who has no idea

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviewed last night on television: Agatha Christie and the secret of a thriller who has no idea

Agatha and the Midnight Murders


The savoy cabbage


Boris doesn't need wind turbines for his green revolution. He could just use the energy of Dame Agatha Christie spinning like a diamond drill in her grave.

The queen of crime and her inheritance have been dealt with thoroughly Agatha and the Midnight Murders (C5). Helen Baxendale played the writer as a devious, calloused doppelganger who was ready to sew up her publishers and kill Hercule Poirot to avoid bankruptcy.

When her bodyguard Travis (Blake Harrison), a petty crook, tried to steal her manuscript for himself, she calmly dosed him with poisoned whiskey and watched him die.

Helen Baxendale played Agatha Christie as a devious, calloused double cruiser ready to sew up her publishers

Helen Baxendale played Agatha Christie as a devious, calloused double cruiser ready to sew up her publishers

The two-hour drama during the Blitz concluded with a disclaimer: "This film has not been endorsed, licensed or authorized by the estate of Agatha Christie." You don't say that!

From the first scene it was hideously wrong. After an air strike, an ARP guard wearing a gas mask followed the debris with a knife to cut off the victims' fingers and steal their jewelry.

What was that, a remake of Psycho with Mr. Hodges of Dad's Army as Norman Bates? Then the opening credits rolled and we never saw the cruel looter again.

Instead, Travis and Agatha strolled into the bar of a glamorous London hotel that was sparsely populated with Sub-Cluedo characters. Then a policewoman showed up. She drew a revolver and locked everyone in the basement for the duration of an air strike.

There was a Chinese gangster (the first died), a stuttering waiter (the second died), an Italian black marketeer (the third died), a mysterious femme fatale (the fourth died) and two tourists who turned out to be secret agents and one fearless one War hero with his dark blonde girlfriend.

Who else . . . Oh yes, the Chinese gangster had his own bodyguard, a thug from Malta (seriously, Malta). His name was Rocco, and the actor who played him (Morgan Watkins) had to invent an accent that sounded half Spanish, half Russian. Can you put a Maltese accent?

Blunt tour of the week:

Scottish detectives chasing a murderer in Murder Case (BBC2) had to go through 500 hours of CCTV footage to identify their suspect. Keep that in mind next time you scroll through 30 channels and find that nothing is playing.

As the number of corpses increased and someone stole their precious manuscript, Agatha became the truth.

Oddly enough, she failed to notice that the city police shouldn't be carrying guns and that the Italian Spiv shouldn't be in jail as this was 1940 and we were at war with his country.

But she discovered a blood stain on her bodyguard's index finger, which indicated that he was the killer.

She waited for him to shoot the policewoman before revealing what she knew. There is no point in rushing these things.

It was all limited to three tight sets, with the cast posing and static like a third-grade am-dram production. The dialogue was full of foul language.

No historical fact has been disentangled. Even the clothes looked hopelessly wrong, early 1930s rather than wartime.

But I let go of the show lightly. The real savages of the night were handed out by Sean, the chief butler The savoy cabbage (ITV). Sean, a short, bald Irishman, whose devotion to the five-star hotel is more than fanatical, is constantly bubbling with anger. Veins pound in his eyeballs when he spots a room service truck with a wobbly wheel or a badly folded napkin.

Like a goblin stuffed with chili peppers, he's ready to break out at any moment.

I fear to think of his reaction if anyone dared to point out that all he and his butlers offer is room service glorified.

Meanwhile, they sell £ 25 cocktails in the hotel bar with names borrowed from songs. One is called something stupid. You'd have to be to pay for a drink.


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