The Mysterious Affair at Styles is the first episode of the third series of Agatha Christie's Poirot. It was broadcast on 16 September 1990. The episode was directed by Ross Devenish, and the screenplay was written by Clive Exton.
Comparison with Original Novel
This episode could perhaps be considered as one of the most similar adaptations to the original story, however there were a number of differences.
- A number of omissions in the adaptation, presumably to cut down the length of the story:
- The character of Mary Cavendish's friend Dr Bauerstein is entirely omitted, along with any mention of Mary's affair with him
- The character of Sir Ernest Heavywether is omitted, along with most of the court scenes
- No mention of the letter written to order the fake beard, or the letter written by the costumiers in response
- No mention is made of Poirot's "experiment" to test whether Hastings could hear the table falling over
- There is no visit to the dispensary where Cynthia works, or mention of Lawrence's fingerprints on the poison bottle there
- There is no mention of the idea that the murder was originally intended to occur earlier, and the arrangements for that day (the bell being cut and Cynthia being out), and the final letter from Alfred to Evie is re-worded to remove this concept
- No mention of the attempts by Emily to write "I am possessed" on blotting paper, or Hastings' (incorrect) theory that this may be something to do with demonic possession
- No mention of the discrepancy in the number of coffee cups, or the search for the missing cup
- The two gardeners (Manning and William) are entirely omitted, along with their scenes. Due to this, no mention is made of the witnessing of Emily's new will.
- The meeting between John and Hastings in London is extended in the adaptation. John comes to find Hastings, who is watching military films at the time.
- In the adaptation, the bromide added to the medicine is itself sleeping powder, explaining the delayed reaction. The novel instead has a storyline where Mary Cavendish puts sleeping powder in the drinks of Emily and Cynthia, to make sure they don't wake up while she's examining the letter in Emily's desk.
- The introduction of Poirot is greatly extended in the adaptation, including scenes of Poirot interrupting a military exercise (in which Dr Wilkins is participating, although in the novel he is not in the military), singing It's a Long Way to Tipperary with the Belgian refugees, advising the post office of a better way to organize their products by country of origin, and lamenting the refugees' tendency to go to the pub, as well as the ordering of bottles in the pub
- There is an entire scene at Mrs Inglethorp's funeral in the adaptation, whereas the novel only has one sentence mentioning the funeral day
- In the adaptation, Mrs Raikes is a widow, but in the novel, her husband is still alive. Mrs Raikes features more heavily in the adaptation. There is a new scene in which Poirot goes to visit her and John has to hastily escape from the house, and another new scene in the court where she gives testimony about the money John gave her, which she claims to be a loan. Furthermore, there is another new scene in which John is on his way to visit Mrs Raikes and meets Mary on horseback who gives him an ultimatum
- After the final revelations of the culprits in the adaptation, Evie professes her love for Alfred and he states that he has no regrets. In the novel, they do not speak any words to each other after the truth is revealed
- In the novel, Poirot gathers everyone together to try to compel Alfred Inglethorp to reveal his whereabouts on the night the poison was bought. In the adaptation, this instead occurs when Japp and Summerhaye arrive to bring Alfred down to the station for questioning, and Summerhaye initially tries to prevent Poirot from questioning Alfred
- When Poirot reads the letter near the end of the adaptation, he initially omits the greeting ("My dearest Evelyn") and only adds this later, thereby delaying the revelation of whom the letter was written to. Evie gets angry with Alfred at this point in the adaptation, calling him a fool.
- There is an extra scene in the adaptation where Poirot is on his way to Styles after realising the ornaments were moved, and is giving tips to his driver on how to drive better. Later, he is seen giving driving tips again while arriving in London to give his final revelations. There is no mention of Poirot giving anyone driving tips in the novel
- In the adaptation, Lawrence and Cynthia work together at the hospital, but in the novel, only Cynthia works there
- In the adaptation, Lawrence and Cynthia confirm at the end that they are engaged to be married; in the novel, Poirot congratulates them but no mention is made of an engagement
- The initial conversations between Hastings, Cynthia, Evie and John are split between an afternoon tea and an evening meal, the latter of which is new in the adaptation. The novel does not have the evening meal and instead all these conversations take place at the afternoon tea
- An extra conversation about Poirot's time in New York in the adaptation, which was not in the novel
- The adaptation provided further elaboration on Hastings' first meeting with Poirot - the pair met during an investigation into a shooting, in which Hastings was a suspect
- David Suchet as Hercule Poirot
- Hugh Fraser as Lieutenant Hastings
- Philip Jackson as Chief Inspector Japp
- Beatie Edney as Mary Cavendish
- David Rintoul as John Cavendish
- Gillian Barge as Mrs Inglethorp
- Michael Cronin as Alfred Inglethorp
- Joanna McCallum as Evie Howard
- Anthony Calf as Lawrence Cavendish
- Allie Byrne as Cynthia Murdoch
- Lala Lloyd as Dorcas
- Michael Godley as Dr Wilkins
- Morris Perry as Mr Wells
- Penelope Beaumont as Mrs Raikes
- David Savile as Summerhaye
- Tim Munro as Edwin Mace
- Tim Preece as Philips K.C.
- Merelina Kendall as Mrs Dainty
- Bryan Coleman as Vicar (as Brian Coleman)
- Eric Stovell as Chemist
- Donald Pelmear as Judge
- Caroline Swift as Nurse
- Ken Robertson as Army Officer
- Michael Roberts as Tindermans
- Gordon Dulieu as Clerk of the Court
- Jeffrey Robert as Foreman of the Jury
- Robert Vowles as Hire Car Driver
- David Michaels as Soldier
- Helen Emmerton as Beth (uncredited)
- Cole Henderson as Driver (uncredited)
Adaptor: Clive Exton
Director: Ross Devenish
Tropes and themes
- Styles: Chavenage House, Gloucestershire.