Kuroido Goroshi ("The Murder of Kuroido") is a 2018 made-for-TV-movie from Japan.
It is an adaptation of Agatha Christie's novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Except for changing the setting from 1926 England to 1952 Japan, it is a highly faithful one. Karatsu Sanako, a local widow whose husband died a year ago, dies from an overdose of sleeping pills. She was believed to be the lover of Kuroido Mitsuru, the local rich guy. Town gossip Shiba Kana thinks that Karatsu killed herself because she killed her husband a year ago and she was racked by guilt. Kana's brother, Dr. Shiba, tells her that there's no proof that the late Mr. Karatsu was murdered and that Sanako's overdose could have been accidental, and that she, Kana, shouldn't spread rumors.
So Dr. Shiba is caught by surprise when Kuroido asks him to come over for a talk, about Sanako, just a day after her death. When Dr. Shiba stops by, Kuroido delivers some shocking news: Sanako did kill her husband, who was an awful monster of a man. Also, someone, someone who Sanako wouldn't name, was blackmailing her over the murder and had taken her for an enormous sum. Sanako told Kuroido all this just the day before, right before she went home and almost certainly killed herself. As Dr. Shiba and Kuroido are talking, Kuroido's butler hands him a letter—from Sanako. Dr. Shiba and Kuroido both realize that it's her suicide note, and as Kuroido reads it, Sanako's letter-from-the-grave says that now she'll tell him who was blackmailing her.
Kuroido insists on privacy to read the rest of the letter and find out who the blackmailer was, so Dr. Shiba leaves. Within minutes of getting home, he gets a phone call. Kuroido has been murdered!
Who did it? Suspicion falls on Kuroido's adopted son Haruo, a rather shiftless young man who had debts and stood to inherit most of Kuroido's fortune. Or maybe it was Kuroido's niece Hanako, who also inherited a nice chunk of money. Could it have been Rondou, Kuroido's writer friend who was staying at the mansion? Ms. Raisen, the Kuroido housekeeper with a vaguely sinister air? Hakamada, the eavesdropping butler? Asuko, the parlor maid who obviously knows more than she's telling? Or someone else?
One man will find out: Takeru Suguro, a local retiree who happens to be a world-famous private detective. The Japanese version of Hercule Poirot, in fact.
- Adaptational Alternate Ending: One that makes Dr. Shiba more sympathetic and also fixes a plot hole, or at least a puzzling moment, from the novel. In the book Poirot suggests that Dr. Sheppard kill himself to spare Caroline's feelings, but logically she's going to find out anyway when Sheppard's manuscript is handed to the police and Ralph Paton is cleared of blame. This movie gives Dr. Shiba more sympathetic motive, for the blackmail at least, in that his sister Kana is dying of brain cancer and Dr. Shiba needed to raise money for her care. This also explains the whole business of getting Sheppard to kill himself better: Suguro suggests that they'll just push the blame off onto the person who called from the train station (who as in the novel was one of Sheppard/Shiba's patients), and that the truth will be held back until after Kana dies.
- Adaptational Explanation: This film fixes some problems with the novel.
- Why didn't Dr. Shiba simply kill Haruo, make it look like an accident or suicide, and pin everything on him? Dr. Shiba says that he was going to do just that the night that Haruo was seen at the house, but Haruo got away—but he wonders if he'd have had the nerve.
- Why that over-complicated reveal in which Poirot confronts Dr. Sheppard privately, then suggests he kill himself to spare Caroline's feelings, even though Caroline will soon find out when everyone else does? In this version Kana is dying of cancer and Suguro says that he'll hold back the real story until Kana passes away in six months or so.
- Adaptational Heroism: In the original novel, Dr. Sheppard was blackmailing Mrs. Ferrars out of simple greed. He blew through the money, went back and demanded more, whereupon she killed herself and events played out from there. In this film Dr. Shiba's sister Kana is dying of a brain tumor, and Dr. Shiba blackmailed Mrs. Ferrars for all that money because he was trying to save her; the final demand was because Dr. Shiba wanted to send Kana to America for some expensive treatment. (The part about Dr. Shiba killing Ackroyd to protect himself didn't change, however.)
- Adaptational Job Change: In the original story Major Blunt, Ackroyd's old friend and a house guest at the time of the murder, was a Great White Hunter. That wouldn't work in a Japanese story so Rondou, the character who corresponds to Blunt, is an author and apparently a successful one.
- Adaptation Name Change: Required with changing the setting to Japan. A few of the characters' names are stylized Japanese versions of the original, like Kuroido for Ackroyd and Shiba for Sheppard, but the rest are mostly random, like Suguro for Poirot.
- Anti-Villain: It is revealed that Dr. Shiba was blackmailing Sadako because he needed the money to try and save his sister. Kana is dying of a brain tumor (even though she doesn't know it) and Dr. Shiba was hoping to send her to the United States for some expensive experimental treatment.
- Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Dr. Shiba being helpful enough to murder Kuroido allows Haruo to inherit the fortune and live happily with Asuko, while also freeing Hanako from an engagement she didn't want and instead allowing her to marry Rondou.
- Badass Boast: Suguro is continually saying that he'll definitely solve the case and that it's pointless to hide any secrets from him.
- Be as Unhelpful as Possible: As with the novel, the case is complicated by characters holding back secrets of their own.
- Blackmail: Dr. Shiba started his life of crime by blackmailing Karatsu Sanako.
- Blackmail Backfire: But not in the usual way. Dr. Shiba blackmailing Karatsu Sanako leads her to kill herself, which gets Dr. Shiba in a whole mess of trouble.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The early scene of Dr. Shiba talking to Sanako is presented without dialogue as a flashback. That's because he was blackmailing her.
- The visit of the Dictaphone salesman. Kuroido did buy a Dictaphone and Sheppard used it for his alibi.
- Kana mentions that Dr. Shiba treated a sailor patient who was leaving on a sea voyage. That's who placed the mysterious phone call at the train station.
- Chekhov's Hobby: Dr. Shiba's workshop and his mechanical tinkering. He was able to rig up the Dictaphone to play on a time delay.
- Continuity Nod: Mr. Reise makes a crack about how officially Suguro didn't solve the "Orient Express case" but probably really knows who did it. This is obviously a nod to Christie novel Murder on the Orient Express (which actually came out several years after The Murder of Roger Ackroyd).
- Contrived Coincidence: On the very night that Dr. Shiba was committing murder, Mrs. Raisen met her wastrel son outside, Haruo and Asuko had a clandestine meeting, Asuko confronted her boss and got fired, and Hanako stole her uncle's petty cash, giving them all reasons to lie about stuff and confusing the investigation.
- Crazy-Prepared: Dr. Shiba, on short notice, manages to steal Haruo's shoes, rig a Dictaphone to play on a time delay, and arrange for a patient of his to place a crucial phone call. All without even knowing for sure what Kuroido wanted to talk about.
- Crime After Crime: Dr. Shiba first got into blackmail and then wound up committing murder to cover up the blackmail.
- The Dog Was the Mastermind: Helpful, friendly Dr. Shiba, who never had any problem with Kuroido, is the killer.
- Driven to Suicide:
- Sadako killed herself at the start of the story, after she was being blackmailed again.
- Then at the end Dr. Shiba kills himself, to prevent exposure as a murderer in the short time his sister has left to live.
- The Ending Changes Everything: Cheerful, friendly Dr. Shiba, Poirot's buddy and faithful Watson, is the killer. This sets up a Once More, with Clarity! sequence where what we've seen before is repeated with more context.
- Fainting: Kuroido's sister-in-law (and Hanako's mother) Mrs. Kuroido does this when she finds out she's getting a relatively small bequest from Kuroido's will. Suguro later figures out that she was faking and she knew about the will in advance.
- Fair Play Whodunit: Just like the book, which dangled the clues—Dr. Sheppard's mechanical frame of mind, Dr. Sheppard getting a phone call, but not telling the reader what he heard—and more. This film adds an original hint of its own, showing Dr. Shiba taking off his shoes (Japanese custom, after all) and dropping them next to Haruo's shoes, which he later stole.
- Flashback Within a Flashback: The first 3/5 of the film is basically a single flashback, within a Framing Device, as Suguro reads Dr. Shiba's manuscript and reviews the whole history of the case. So the flashbacks therein, like when Sanako talked with Dr. Shiba or when Kuroido relates how she told him she was a killer and being blackmailed, are flashbacks within flashbacks.
- Framing Device: The film starts with Dr. Shiba giving Suguro the manuscript history of the case that he's been writing, and Suguro setting down to read. Then the first 3/5 of the movie (90 minutes) is the case as Dr. Shiba has written it down in his manuscript to that point. Once Suguro finishes the story, the framing device ends and the last hour plays out.
- Gossipy Hens: Kana, who loves nothing more than gossip. She's honest about it, telling her brother straight up that if he wants a secret kept, he'd better not tell her.
- Healthcare Motivation: Why Dr. Shiba became a blackmailer: to get money for his sister Kana, who is dying of a brain tumor and needs specialized care.
- I Always Wanted to Say That: Dr. Shiba, who has rushed back to the Kuroido mansion after the hone call, insists that Hakamada the butler kick the door in. Hakamada hesitates and Dr. Shiba says he'll take responsibility, whereupon Hakamada says "I did want to try it once" and kicks in the door.
- Inheritance Murder: Everyone thinks this is the motive, with suspicion falling mostly on Haruo after he inherits almost the whole fortune. Averted when it turns out that wasn't the motive at all.
- Inspector Lestrade: Inspector Sodetake, who in this version is a pretty understated example. He's delighted to have the famous Suguro on the case and actually insists on a picture.
- Large Ham: The actor playing Suguro is way hammier than the Poirot from the books, who was already written as hammy, and he's hammier than other actors to play the part such as Peter Ustinov or Kenneth Branagh who themselves hammed it up. He even twirls his mustache! This sets up a little punch right at the very end, when the last shot shows Suguro sitting at home alone, his eyes brimming with tears, obviously realizing the full tragedy of events.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: As the members of the household regard Kuroido's dead body in the chair, the cheerful Mr. Reise says "This is the sort of thing you read mostly in detective novels, isn't it?" Later, as everyone's coming into Poirot's house for the Summation Gathering, Reise does this again, snarking that "This always happens at the end of a detective story."
- Narrator: Dr. Shiba, narrating via the Framing Device of him handing Poirot his manuscript of the case.
- Neat Freak: Suguro, in a detail drawn straight from Agatha Christie's books. When Dr. Shiba gets a tiny, tiny speck of dirt on Suguro's coat, Suguro flips out, takes the coat off, and demands that Dr. Shiba have it dry cleaned.
- Once More, with Clarity!: Once Dr. Shiba is revealed as the killer, some of the scenes from earlier are replayed with more context. The flashback of him talking to Sanako was originally shown with the dialogue muted; when the soundtrack plays again we hear Dr. Shiba making another blackmail demand. A comic scene has Dr. Shiba giving Suguro a ride from Shiba's house to the Ackroyd mansion on his bicycle: the second time we see this Suguro is shown timing Dr. Shiba with a stop watch, which is how he proves that there are a few minutes unaccounted for in Shiba's story of that evening.
- Phoney Call: Dr. Shiba gets a patient to call him from the train station. He pretends that this is a call telling him that Kuroido was murdered, as part of his plan to retrieve the Dictaphone.
- Repeat Cut: Used a couple of times when Suguro springs surprises during his Summation Gathering: first, when he reveals that Haruo and Asuko are secretly married, and second when he produces Haruo himself, who has been waiting in the next room.
- Setting Update: This movie takes Christie's novel and transfers it from 1926 England to 1952 Japan, which allows for one character to be a post-war demobilized soldier, but also is long ago enough to make it more or less plausible for someone to be using a Dictaphone.
- Suddenly Shouting: Rondou is not the Terse Talker that his counterpart Major Blunt is in the Christie novel. Here, Dr. Shiba is pestering him with the questions that Suguro told him to ask, when Rondou, his patience exhausted, suddenly shouts "YOU'RE BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE HERE!"
- Summation Gathering: As with the original novel, this is played with. Suguro assembles all the characters and explains his investigation and how the murder went down, revealing some secrets (the shabby drunken soldier was Ms. Reisen's son, Haruo and Asuko were secretly married, Hanako stole the cash missing from Kuroido's bedroom) but does not reveal the killer in classic style. He instead dismisses everybody but holds back Dr. Shiba for a private chat where he drops the bomb.
- Third-Person Person: Suguro slips into this when his ego really gets out of control, like when he's ostentatiously walking everyone through his Summation Gathering.
- The Watson: Dr. Shiba mentions the Trope Namer when Suguro invites him to help investigate the case.
- Writer's Block: Rondou, an old friend of Kuroido's and a well-known writer, complains of this.
- Writing About Your Crime: Dr. Shiba does this. He had hoped to print it as an account of the great Suguro's first failure, but things didn't work out that way.