Adaptation Review: Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime (1983-84)

Agatha Christie created many memorable characters along the course of her record-breaking legacy as the most popular writer of all time. But the most stylish, and perhaps the most charmingly witty, were the romantic detective duo of Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Appearing in five novels and a collection of short stories, the Beresford’s résumé is less extensive than that of Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple, but their adventures in stylish sleuthing retain a favorite space in the hearts of Christie’s readers, and likewise in the world of film. The novel in which they make their first appearance, The Secret Adversary, was the first film adaptation of Christie’s work in the 1920s; more recently, and quite memorably, Tommy and Tuppence returned to the screen in 1983 and 1984, first in a wonderful full-length adaptation of The Secret Adversary and later in the ITV series Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime. Starring Francesca Annis as Tuppence and James Warwick as Tommy, the series adapted ten of the short stories from Christie’s collection, Partners in Crime, into a lavish and enchanting set of mysteries full of wit, style, and Christie’s iconic knack for storytelling. The Tommy and Tuppence mysteries capture brilliantly what it is that has made Agatha Christie’s stories stand the test of time. The author’s exciting combination of smart humor and even smarter mystery are brought to beautiful life in these adaptations, directed with panache by John A. Davis and Tony Wharmby, and brightened all the more by the sparkling cast. The period style of the 1920s is recreated with great attention to detail, most notably through the show’s costuming. Francesca Annis is scene-stealing as the impulsive and endlessly curious Tuppence, and James Warwick is charming as polished and dependable Tommy. Reece Dinsdale also appears through much of the series as Albert, the young and comedic butler-turned-assistant.

Partners in Crime evokes a feeling of returning to the familiar, even when viewing the episodes for the first time. Tuppence and Tommy are both instantly likable characters, and their endeavors - from Young Adventurers, Ltd. (“Willing to do anything, go anywhere, no unreasonable offer refused”) to overtaking The International Detective Agency - bring about plenty of exciting escapades for viewers to enjoy. James Warwick and Francesca Annis were brilliantly cast, with superb chemistry together and great depth of character apart. Tuppence, with her vivid imagination and wildly original collection of hats (there are costume changes galore), is one of the most exciting elements of the show, and dapper Tommy compliments her flawlessly. Their antics, from their brilliant detective work to the simplistic entertainment of their playful banter, make the show an endlessly diverting experience to revisit again and again.

The short stories adapted for Partners in Crime include The Affair of the Pink Pearl, The House of Lurking Death, The Sunningdale Mystery, The Clergyman's Daughter, Finessing the King, The Ambassador's Boots, The Man in the Mist, The Unbreakable Alibi, The Case of the Missing Lady, and The Crackler. In Acorn Online's newly released edition of the Tommy and Tuppence mysteries they’ve brought Partners in Crime together with The Secret Adversary, the 1983 feature-length television film that first introduced Francesca Annis and James Warwick as the sleuthing couple. Thirty years since they first premiered, the Tommy and Tuppence mysteries are as delightful as ever, and compiled into a collection that will appeal to all fans of classic mystery, the lavish era of the 1920s, and the indisputable art of Agatha Christie.

Title: Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime: The Tommy and Tuppence Mysteries Based on: The Secret Adversary (1922) and Partners in Crime (1929) by Agatha Christie Genre: mystery, period drama, comedy Distributor: Acorn Online Format: DVD Release date: January 29, 2013 Provided by: Acorn Media (C/O) Buy the DVD: Acorn Online | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this adaptation from the distributor for the purpose of review.