Agatha Christie’s Family Knows Why Whodunit Murder Mysteries Have Returned

That dry spell came to an end in 2017 with Murder on the Orient Express, in which Branagh directed an all-star cast, which included himself as Poirot and with perhaps the best mustache yet. It was a lavish, old-fashioned, largely faithful adaptation that was a surprise hit despite being a period piece and a classic whodunit, both forms perceived not to be in favor with modern audiences. That was followed by the equally elegant (albeit COVID-delayed) Death on the Nile in 2021, and now A Haunting in Venice.

“I take my hat off to 20th Century [Studios],” Prichard says about the now Disney-owned company that bankrolled Branagh’s first Poirot project. “They took quite a big risk with Murder on the Orient Express and invested a lot of money ahead of that curve. It’s incredibly enjoyable to see the rest of the projects, Knives Out, Only Murders in the Building, Murder Mystery from Netflix, there’s all sorts of things.”

A Spooky Season Murder Mystery

Prichard adds that from where he sits—atop the literary empire of the woman who is still the best-selling fiction author of all time—the genre has always been a viable one. “Book sales would tell you that the audience has always been there,” he explains. “It’s just that now, people have seen the success of all these pieces in the genre, and they’re tapping into it. And to me, the more the merrier, because I think it is a great format for a film or a TV series.”

Prichard is an executive producer on all three of Branagh’s films and sees himself as a “protector of the legacy” of his great-grandmother’s work. He says he’s been most heavily involved in the production of the films during early development, from the selection of the novel up through the stage in which the script is written and any substantial changes to the text are run past him for approval.

But he admits that he was surprised after they adapted two of Christie’s most popular novels in Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile that Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green came to him with one of her final and lesser-known Poirot books, 1969’s Hallowe’en Party, as the basis for what became A Haunting in Venice.

“Michael Green first spoke to me about Hallowe’en Party quite a few years ago and was wondering about it for the third film,” recalls Prichard. “And I, to be honest, didn’t really know what he was going on about. Then two or three years ago, I had a meeting with Michael, Ken Branagh, and [20th Century Studios president] Steve Asbell, and they explained the strategy and explained the thinking.”


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