Cool Down With AC – Agatha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party Discussion

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Masterpiece Mystery just aired Hallowe’en Party, the final Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot Series 6 movie.  The series also includes Three Act Tragedy, and The Clocks . As part of the Cool Down with AC read/watch-along, I will be watching the Miss Marple mystery, A Pale Horse next weekend, and I hope you will be joining in. If you missed the movie last night on PBS, make sure you catch it while it’s available to view online!

In Hallowe’en Party, a teenager confesses that she had been a witness to a murder years ago when she was a girl. The girl is unpopular and though no one believes her, she still turns up dead in the apple bobbing basin before the party has ended.

This is definitely the darkest Poirot movie that I have seen. I watched the movie with my aunt and mother and both seem disturbed by the death of the children. I was a bit surprised that they showed the murder of Joyce, and relieved that they didn’t show the death of her brother – although they did show other deaths. There were also prominently placed references to social issues, like homosexuality and single parenthood, which were probably more troubling in Agatha Christie’s day. I admit that I had a bit of a WTF moment when Joyce’s friend revealed why she hadn’t told anyone about the murder. Did that make sense to anyone else?

I didn’t guess the killer or the motives with this one, but it is the movie that I enjoyed the most. This time I watched the movie first and will follow-up reading the story at a later date, so I had absolutely nothing to go on. I also watched this one with subtitles on toward the end – David Suchet tends to go down at the end of his sentences and plays Poirot very soft-spoken in general. I had not idea what he was saying for most of the movie, and wish I had thought to put the closed captioning on earlier. I will definitely do that if I encounter the problem with Miss Marple!

For Discussion:

The discussion throughout this week, so check back and leave any questions that you have in the comments.

This is the last  of the movies in Season 6. Compare and contrast each of the films (Three Act Tragedy, The Clocks, and Hallowe’en Party? Which most closely resembled the books or your own personal vision of Poirot? Now that we have seen all three, which is your favorite?

Have you read the book and the movie? Which one did you like better? Did you get the feeling that one was more effective than the other at telling the story? What worked for you and what didn’t?

This plot around this movie involved the death of the child – did it affect the way Poirot felt or the way that he went about solving the crime. Were you satisfied with the action that he took in solving the crime?

Did you guess either the killer or the motive before the reveal in the movie? What tipped you off? Were there clues you picked up along the way, or did you know what to look for based on prior experience with the book?

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Cool Down With AC   Agatha Christies Three Act Tragedy Discussion

Participants in this week’s discussion will be eligible to win a dvd copy of The Pale Horse and an assorted goody bag with some of my favorite Christie novels. If you have something to add to the discussion, don’t be shy!

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  1. I’ve been waiting for this book to be made into a movie since I listened to the audio version a few years ago. The movie did the book justice although with the time limitations, it had to leave out a lot of the interplay between Poirot and the teen Miranda in the book.

  2. I think Hallowe’en Party was the one that stuck most to the book. Three Act Tragedy added a close friendship between Cartwright (I forgot his name lol?) and Poirot and The Clocks explore the espionage subplot more. I think the Clocks is my favorite, I think I have a crush on Colin Lamb, yes I’m shallow!

    I read the book before watching the movie, I liked them both equally, I suppose because the adaptation doesn’t differ much in this case. I think the visual format with all the dark images and special effects (flashbacks) got me a bit more scared.

    I don’t think it did affect Poirot, at least I didn’t’ see a difference from how he investigates other crimes. Yes, I don’t think I can complain, I didn’t see it coming and his explanation of the first clue (someone who had to be wet in the book) made total sense and still I wouldn’t have thought it myself.

    No, I didn’t guess when reading. I have to say girls explanation of why she didn’t know it was a murder didn’t take the “I thought it was a sacrifice” route in the book, the girl simply didn’t know it was a murder. I want to think it makes sense because there wasn’t as much TV back then LOL.

  3. Again I did not read the book (bad me). I found everyone in this story terribly unlikable. Okay, the kid is a pain but she’s still a kid. No one seemed sorry that she’s dead. I figured out that the hipster gardener had something to do with it as soon as I saw him but I didn’t know how.

    Miranda didn’t seem very bright.

    And what was with that crazy game the kids were playing? Can you imagine playing that now? “Here kids, some fire to play with.”

    I like The Clocks the most. It seemed like a more complicated plot.

  4. I must admit that I liked this book the best of the three “Cool Downs” because it featured Poirot most prominently, albeit at the end of his career.

    Yes, this one was “dark” because of the deaths of children, but considering the time when Christie was writing (I think this one was in the 1960s), she was tackling some pretty important social issues (homosexuality and single parents as well as mental health issues). I think she had tackled many social issues in her prior books, but I don’t recall any of these (especially the deaths of children) being so prominent. But, that is what made her an excellent writer.

    Approx. 3/4 through the book, I did guess the killer(s) but was still a bit sketchy on the motive. I knew Joyce was lying all along and that she had to have repeated a story that someone else told and that it had to have been Miranda, since she was the only child not present at the party when the boasting started. But I was perplexed with the other crimes involved and focused on the wrong one (right players, wrong crime).

    I think my favorite part(s) of these later books (and the TV adaptations) is seeing old, familiar faces. I love Zoe Wannamaker (Harry Potter fans should recognize her as Madame Hootch from the early movies) and in the book, I love seeing Superintendent Spence again. The other thing I like about Christie is that she was dead-on about small town gossip and how everyone knows everything. Someone always sees or hears something… they just may not realize that what they saw was important in the greater scheme of life. Miss Marple does this well too… sitting and observing human nature. I think Christie pegs human nature in her writings! That’s why I love reading her!

    Enjoyed the book tremedously. Watching the TV adaptation on a re-run (hopefully tonight)!!! Thanks for a great blog and summer reading program! I’ve tried to keep up with all the reading and the TV adaptations and it’s been wonderful fun!

  5. I just finished watching all 3 mysteries and I have to agree with others that The Clocks was the most intriguing of Christie’s tale starring Poirot.
    They are all such fine-tuned murder/detective stories, but The Clocks stands out as the favorite because of the comedy. Examples: -Poirot sneezing in the cat lady’s house. -The girls in the treehouse
    telling Poirot his name isn’t a name but a sound. -The other characters adding their own funny faces or red herring expressions.
    This made it the best out of 3 for me.
    Halloween Party is the book I would go to for a good scare though.
    Oh yes, I too agree with Suchet’s French accent. Rather thick, his performance is very good though. I didn’t think to turn on subtitles. Next time.
    Also, I must give a shout out to Masterpiece Mystery host Alan Cumming, he does a wonderful job setting up the mystery.
    One last thing I noticed, in the credits of each episode there are red letters that spell out 3 names. (I think) I know what they spell out, but why did they do it? Clues? For what? It’s a mystery.

    1. Virginia: I noticed that too with the red letters in the credits…. if you figure it out, post back! I cannot figure it out!

  6. I just watched the replay of Hallowe’en Party on PBS (was sick on Sunday night) and I do admit that I liked it more than I thought I would. After reading the above comments, I was a bit apprehensive about how they would show the death of the children… but one was not even shown and the other, was in a flashback, and was not as disturbing as I dreaded. I agree that Poirot is sometimes difficult to understand, but having just finished the book, I did notice that the dialog was quite close so it was not a problem for me.

    I did miss the Superintendent in the Adaptation, as he is a recurring figure in some of Christie’s books, but he really was not necessary to the adaptation’s story line. I also thought they could have done a bit better casting of Mrs. Drake…. in the book she is described more as a mid-aged (maybe 40ish) too-early widow who still had “passion”… I thought the actress was a bit too old for that part to make it believable but they had to account for those two older children (sorry to Ms. Findlay)…. Also, Michael Garfield, in the book, is described by Poirot himself as being “beautiful” but in the end a Narcissis. I thought his part might have been cast a bit better (again, sorry to the actor but I just didn’t think he carried the part properly). I had a hard time at the end of the movie believing their story line that was, I think, much better portrayed in writing.

    On the whole, it was a good and entertaining movie. I am sad that the three Poirot films are now completed but looking forward to the Miss Marple ones.

    Thanks again for some great insights!

  7. I had a problem with the killer and the child being alone in the same room together, giving the killer the opportunity to murder the child. The killer took a risk (because she believed the child knew she was the killer) being in the room alone with her. The child (who didn’t know the woman was the killer) could’ve easily yelled out for help, exposing her. And yet they spoke so kindly to one another. That told the killer that the child had no idea it was her and she didn’t have to kill her. The child (if she had known the woman was the killer) would’ve been nervous and anxious to leave the room.

    1. You’re absolutely right.
      Why would the killer do away with a child? It just goes to show how desperate and psycho some characters are… That’s why Agatha Christie’s stories are still being discussed today, because we can learn a lot about the motives of killers… the psychological aspects that drive them. And Poirot swoops in with the reveal. Justice is served.

    2. Now that I think about it (especially after reading your comment) I completely agree. Everyone thought the child was lying anyway. If Mrs. Drake was alone with the child speaking to her in the library, and the child showed no fear of being alone in a room with her, it should have proved to Mrs. Drake that the child was in fact lying and her secret was safe. But Virginia is right… that is the mind of a psychotic killer. Excellent points!

      1. Surely the killer assumed that the murder the child “witnessed” was carried out by her accomplice? The child did not know the connection between the two murderers therefore it was not a surprise to the killer that the child was OK being alone with her. But she did it to protect her lover.

  8. Virginia and Susan :
    Great responses. Although I enjoy reading the books more, the movies are very captivating. I think what we found was a flaw in the writing structure, but, oh well. I still love Agatha Christie and will continue to be a fan.

  9. I finally got to view the movie after reading the book. This was my favorite too, both the book and movie. For one thing I was finally able to stay awake throughout the whole movie. I think it would be even more fun if watched in October. The movie was a lot tighter than the book. The movie did an excellent job of clarifying some plot points I was still fuzzy on when reading the book. The part about the forgery in the book even confuses Poirot. I was also confused in the book about what elephants had to do with anything but when watching the movie I finally understood that Joyce talking about the elephants in India showed gave the Poirot the idea that Joyce took on other people’s experiences as her own. This movie was more up to the level of Orient Express for me as far as being able to hold my interest. I really liked seeing the Halloween party in the movie, especially the snap dragon dish which I had never heard of before this. I have been reading the novels at break neck spreed also trying to keep up with reading the books before the movies as well as the other reading challenges. Right now I am half way through Pale Horse and Murder at the Vicarage. I hope to view Pale Horse before the end of the week though I am not sure about turning a book that does not have Miss Marple into a movie that does. I liked how Halloween party stuck closely to the book while tightening up on some extraneous details.