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Four and Twenty Blackbirds is the fourth episode of series 1 of the ITV British television drama series Agatha Christie's Poirot featuring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, first broadcast on 29 January 1989 in the UK. The episode is an adaptation of the Agatha Christie short story of the same name and was directed by Renny Rye with dramatisation by Russell Murray.

Synopsis[]

Henry Gascoigne, an elderly man and a regular at the Bishop's Chophouse restaurant, deviates from his usual eating habits. When he is later found dead, Poirot is curious and decides to investigate.

The adaptation is largely faithful to the storyline of the original story. Miss Lemon, Hastings and Japp did not appear in the original story but play significant roles here. The storyline is embellished with some additional characters for dramatic reasons but the main premise remains the same.

Comparison with Original Novel[]

  • Poirot and Bonnington dine at the Bishop's Chophouse, not the Gallant Endeavour.
  • Henry Gascoigne's routine was Tuesday and Thusdays at the restaurant. In the film it becomes Wednesday and Saturdays.
  • The show begins later into the sequence of events. Poirot and Bonnington are actually dining at the Bishop's Chophouse on the Saturday of the murder of Henry Gascoigne and actually saw the impostor ordering food uncharacteristic of Henry.
  • There is a strong background thread of the forensic science in the film. Japp gives Poirot a tour of the Scotland Yard forensic lab. Later, forensic analysis, including hair samples from the beret which Lorrimer wore, and the typeface on his typewriter are used to denounce him as the murderer. This is in addition to the absence of teeth colouration eating blackberries which is the key evidence in both the story and the film.
  • In the story, Henry Gascoigne was not a good artist. In the film he was portrayed as quite good. However he had refused to allow his paintings to be sold. This made his works valuable after his death and sets up a possible motive for murder.
  • There are several additional characters for "colour" and dramatic interest, including Dulcie Lang and Peter Makinson as possible suspects. Interviewing these two give opportunities for interesting scenes set in a painting studio and an art gallery.
  • George Lorrimer in the film is a theatre manager and not a doctor. There are several interesting scenes of ongoing music hall performances. The denouement does not take place at his home but at his theatre. Poirot and Japp had gather their forensic scientists on the stage for Poirot to run through all the evidence against him.
  • Other interesting scenes expanded and embellished for dramatic interest include:
    • Poirot and Hastings surmise that Henry Gascoigne's impostor must have abandoned the clothing used somewhere. They confront a lavatory attendant and find it.
    • Anthony's residence is changed from Kingston Hill to Brighton. Poirot interviews Mrs Hill with a band performance in the background.
  • The 1934 Ashes pervades the background. There is cricket commentary on the radio and Hastings is continuously being distracted by the latest cricket news. At the end, Poirot surprises and amuses everyone by expounding in detail on the talents of Hedley Verity.

Cast[]

Other Characters not cast[]

  • Henry Gascoigne - seen only when dead or when being impersonated. Not cast. Not mentioned in credits.
  • Anthony Gascoigne - seen dying in bed, not cast. Not mentioned in credits.
  • Charlotte Gascoigne - mentioned in dialogue, seen only as subject of a painting. Not cast. Not mentioned in credits

Tropes and themes[]

  • Poirot's enjoyment of good food
    • he seems to enjoy Bonnington's recommendation of traditional English cooking but in Yellow Iris he disparages English cuisine.
    • he cooks "rabbit in the style of Liege" for Hastings, a recipe of his mother's. It apparently has juniper berries.
  • Poirot's fear of seeing a dentist - but not as pronounced here as in The Missing Will and One, Two Buckle My Shoe.
  • Scotland Yard's forensic department and the use of forensic methods to yield evidence.

Filming Locations[]

  • 1 Brunswick Terrace, Hove - Anthony Gascoigne's house, today Angel House, an events venue.
  • Peace Statue, Hove - camera pans over a carousel and then the Peace Statue at Hove, to the inside of Anthony Gascoigne's bedroom, which is geographically accurate.
  • 8 Cumberland Gardens, WC1X - Henry Gascoigne's house
  • Scotland Yard
  • Brighton Bandstand
  • Simpson's Tavern, Ball Court, London EC3V 9DR - exterior of Bishop's Chophouse, but perhaps not the interiors.
  • Main Building, University College London - exterior of place where Dulcie Lang was modelling for an art class. The Flaxman Gallery in the same location provided the interior.
  • Hackney Empire Theatre - Carlton Theatre, Bethnal Green
  • Woodvale Cemetery and Crematorium, Brighton - Anthony Gascoigne's funeral
  • Retracing the steps from the Bishops Chophouse:
    • Cumberland Gardens junction with Great Percy Street - Poirot and Hastings walk down Cumberland Gardens, past a distinctive building to their left, formerly the Percy Arms, Great Percy Street.
    • They then turn right, cross the road and proceed down Great Percy Street.
    • The next scene they are at St Pancras, Clarence Passage - Poirot and Hastings walks down this passage. St Pancras is visible behind them. To their right is a brick building, the German Gymanasium. To their left is a building with white stonework which is part of the Stanley buildings which is still there as of 2023. They round the corner and see the gasholders of King's Cross. To the left is the triplet gasholders. This area has been extensively redeveloped and is hard to pinpoint the locations precisely.

Gallery[]

Promotional Videos[]

See Also[]

References[]

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