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DVDS TV always plays Christie best

Friday, February 27, 2004

The set contains nine episodes of the 1980-'90s series.
With a few notable exceptions, the Agatha Christie detective novels have generally been better served by television than the movies. One reason is that filmmakers saw the mysteries as an excuse for assembling all-star international casts as colorful suspects.
The TV adaptations tend to focus on the sleuths, as seen in the properly titled "Agatha Christie Megaset Collection" (3 stars, $139.95, A & amp;E), with nine DVDs containing enough mischief to get even the most voracious fan of BBC-produced Christie through the winter. It contains nine episodes of the well-acted 1980s -'90s series starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple -- whom Christie always thought the best choice to play the proper Englishwoman.
Includes a classic
The episodes include the classic "4:50 from Paddington," in which Marple tries to get to the bottom of a railway murder that may have been witnessed by her friend.
As good as Albert Finney and Peter Ustinov were on the big screen, Hercule Poirot fans argue David Suchet was closer to Christie's conception of the fussy Belgian crime solver. The box contains four of the A & amp;E-produced TV films in which Suchet, who first played the role in a late '80s BBC series, revived the role. Jolly good fun.
Christie's clue-by-clue mysteries owed an acknowledged debt to Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, and while the argument over who was the best Holmes will probably never be solved, many favor Basil Rathbone (along with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson).
Remastering Rathbone series
MPI Home Video is on a long and painstaking campaign to digitally remaster the films in the Rathbone series, 12 of which are collected as "The Sherlock Holmes Collection Volume 1," "Volume 2" and "Volume 3," priced at $69.98 each.
"Volume 1" contains the four Universal films that followed the two original, 20th Century Fox-produced entries in 1939, and which fairly successfully updated the action to World War II: "Sherlock Holmes and The Voice of Terror" (3 stars), "Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon" (3 stars), "Sherlock Holmes in Washington" (2 stars) and "Sherlock Holmes Faces Death" (3 stars).
"Volume 2" collects 1944's "Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman" (2 stars); the best "modern" entry in the series, "The Scarlet Claw" (3 stars); "The Pearl of Death" (2 stars); and 1945's "The House of Fear" (3 stars). "Volume 3" packages 1945's "The Woman in Green" (3 stars) and "Pursuit to Algiers" (3 stars) with out-of-steam 1946 productions "Terror By Night" (2 stars) and "Dressed to Kill" (2 stars).
All the titles, which look better than I've seen them and include commentary tracks and trailers, are available individually for $19.98. The two Fox films, the excellent "Hound of the Baskervilles" (4 stars) and nearly-as-good "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" (3 stars), will be issued April 27.