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The Adventure of the Cheap Flat is the seventh episode of series 2 of the ITV British television drama series Agatha Christie's Poirot featuring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, first broadcast on 18 February 1990 in the UK. The episode is an adaptation of the Agatha Christie short story of the same name and was directed by Richard Spence with dramatisation by Russell Murray.


Poirot and Hastings meet a couple at a party who have just rented a flat in a fashionable district for an implausibly cheap price. The Detective is intrigued and sets out to investigate.

The adaptation is fairly faithful to the original story with the addition of some minor characters for the sake of dramatic interest. Miss Lemon was not in the original but plays a major role here.


Comparison with Original Story[]

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

Some embellishments are put in, mainly for added drama and humour, and character backgrounds are changed and/or embellished significantly.

  • The episode begins with Poirot, Hastings and Japp in the cinema, watching an action movie full of shooting and chasing scenes. While Japp and Hastings are enjoying themselves, Poirot dislikes this and comments on the stupidity of policemen who shoot first and ask questions later.
  • Poirot is present at Parker's party as well as Hastings.
  • Elsa Hardt is now a pseudonym, not the real name of the singer; her real name is Carla Romero.
  • The cheap flat is not Montagu Mansions at Knightsbridge, but Camden Hill Gate. It is nr. 6 instead of nr. 4.
  • The Robinsons are chosen by Carla Romero as suitable tenants only based on their surname, and not on Mrs Robinson's appearance (similar to that of Carla Romero) as well. In the adaptation, Mrs Robinson has red hair while Carla Romero is a brunette; Poirot remarks on the discrepancy in the description of the two women, which proves they are not the same person. In the original story, they both had red hair.
  • Agent Burt is introduced much earlier and comes across as pompous and full of self-importance. His interaction with Poirot, Japp and Scotland Yard is a major source of humour; he pushes Japp out of his office, assumes command over the whole department and flatly refuses that there could be such a thing as Mafia operating in the US. (As Poirot asks Japp, "The liaison transatlantique does not live up to its expectations?" "Basically, to use a technical term, it's a disaster," Japp replies.) Half of Scotland Yard, under the command of agent Burt, enact surveillance at Camden Hill, watching the house for the possible apparition of Elsa Hardt. Burt does not want to hear about Poirot's line of approach, so the Detctive and Hastings endeavour to track down the singer on their own.
  • In the original story, Elsa Hardt/Carla Romero is tracked simply by following her when she moved out of Montagu Mansions. In the adaptation, Poirot has to do more work. He calls various night clubs until he finds "The Black Cat Cabaret" with a Canadian named Elsa Hart (a pseudonym Carla Romero has adopted). As the Bernie Cole, the manager of the club (who did not appear in the original story), refuses to tell Poirot more, Miss Lemon is sent in undercover as Penelope Maitland, a journalist for the Lady's Companion, to interview and verify that Elsa Hart was the woman he is looking for.
  • As in the short story, Poirot rents a flat in the same house as the Robinsons, with the intent of breaking into their flat and disabling the lock on the coal lift. (However, in the episode, this is changed to a door through which trash is collected.) In the original story, he does this when the couple are out for the afternoon; in the adaptation, he sends Hastings to entertain them in the salon while he gets to work in the kitchen. This backfires when the Detective accidentally topples the table with his tool kit and only just manages to escape via the dustbin staircase before the Robinsons come running. He leaves a tool behind, which Hastings swiftly kicks under a chair.
  • Carla Romero's backstory is told in flashbacks, with narration by Poirot. The secret papers Carla stole were not details of harbour defences as in the short story, but the plans of a new design of submarine. Moreover, Carla's prospective buyers were not Japanese but the Italian government. Luigi Valdarno was not a member of an Italian "Brotherhood" – it was Carla herself who was working for the "Brotherhood". Her role was to act as a temptress whose job was to persuade Valdarno to steal the plans and then take them and hand them to the "Brotherhood". However, she decided to doublecross them and flee to London under the cover name of Robinson.
  • Poirot's scheme to catch the would-be assassin of Carla Romero does not go as smoothly as in the short story. Here, the Detective is not able to apprehend the man when he comes to the flat; moreover, their struggle rouses Mr Robinson and again, they manage to escape at the last minute. Poirot at least leaves the assassin his revolver which is not loaded and, once outside, remarks on where they are going, which he correctly assumes the man concealed nearby shall hear and will decide to follow them. In the original story, he switches the revolver and then simply reasons with the assassin and puts him in a taxi to Elsa Hardt's hiding place.
  • The apprehension of Carla and her husband takes place at the Black Cat Cabaret, not at her hiding place as in the short story. Agent Burt thanks Poirot afterwards, stating that the entire US Navy are indebted to him.
  • The cat in which the plans were originally hidden is dropped; in the adaptation, they are in a simple leather bag.
  • In the last scene, Poirot, Hastings and Japp rejoin the Robinsons and explain that what they heard that night was a cleverly planned robbery, but luckily nothing was taken in the end. Poirot mocks Hastings and his power of deduction, while Hastings and Japp pick on Poirot by calling attention to the professional-looking tool he had forgotten in the kitchen when tampering with the lock.

Tropes and Themes[]

  • The Art Deco 1930s – Campden Hill Gate, an Art Deco style apartment block built in the 1920s
  • Lavish scenery
    • Hastings, Japp and Poirot watch an American "G-man" movie.
    • Cabaret scenes with Carla Romero singing in New York and at the Black Cat in London.
  • Hastings the foil – Poirot sends Hastings to occupy the Robinsons in pointless conversation while he works on the door to the service staircase at the back of the flat.
  • Humour
    • Special Agent Burt's briefing, full of American football terms, to a roomful of bewildered British bobbies.

Filming Locations[]

  • O2 Academy Brixton, 211 Stockwell Rd, SW9 9SL - the cinema. Japp, Poirot and Hastings walk down the stairs after a show.
  • Campden Hill Gate, Duchess Of Bedfords Walk, London W8[1]. In the show, the location of the cheap flat was changed from Montagu Mansions to Campden Hill Gate. The building was used under its real name. Flat 6 was used for filming and the Robinsons in the show had flat 6 instead of flat 4 in the original story.
  • St James's Square, London
    • Statue of William III - Poirot and Hastings walk through park
    • East India Club - facade used as Italian Embassy
    • Japp's surveillance van parked around there, -probably opposite the East India Club


Promotional Videos[]

See Also[]