Hercule Poirot attends a dinner party in which one of the guests clutches his throat and suddenly dies. The cause seems to be natural until another party with most of the same guests produces another corpse.
Although the evidence appears to be overwhelming in the strangulation murder of a blackmailer, Miss Marple's sole 'not guilty' vote hangs the jury 11-1. She becomes convinced that the real murderer is a member of a local theatrical troupe, so she joins them in order to gather information. The clues lead back many years to a single disastrously unsuccessful 1951 performance of a dreadful play written by the group's hammy director, H. Driffold Cosgood. Although at that time, several of the current cast members were only children, more murders follow before Miss Marple ultimately exposes the killer. Written by
George Pollock deserves kudos for mixing crime with comedy
George Pollock's name never gets mentioned among major directors. Yet four of his Miss Marple films as best remembered for Ron Goodwin's music and the wonderful Dame Margaret Rutherford and real life husband Stringer Davis.
The four films of Pollock combined mystery with comedy in a way that it entertains even after 40 years after the films were made. The elements that hold up these four films were great casting, good screenplay, crisp editing, and charming music and sound effects. Pollock is not a David Lean or a philosopher-director. He is merely making cinema that is gripping and entertaining and how well he accomplishes this.
This film is the second only to "Murder Ahoy" among the four. And since "Murder Ahoy" followed "Murder Most Foul", it would be only too clear that Pollock was gaining in confidence and elegance with each film. In each of his "Murder" films Pollock cast a major British actor. In this one it is the talented Ron Moody (Fagin of "Oliver!"). In each of the four films the chosen British actor provides a counterpoint and balance to Dame Rutherford's major role. One tends to remember Miss Marple and not the other meaty roles (Lionel Jeffries, Robert Morley, James Robertson Justice)in each of the "Murder" films. All the four were memorable but Moody and Jeffries were truly remarkable. I found this a major work of Moody though not as memorable as his interpretation of Fagin and Uriah Heep in other films.
The juxtaposition of crime and comedy looks natural thanks to Pollock and imaginative casting. Pollock is probably a quiet achiever deserving more attention by critics and historians of British cinema.
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