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An American movie actress, best known for playing dumb blondes, is Scotland Yard's prime suspect when her husband, Lord Edgware, is murdered. The great detective, Hercule Poirot, digs deeper into the case.
Based on the novel by Agatha Christie. The year is 1953. The small English village of St. Mary Mead, home to Miss Jane Marple, is delighted when a big American movie company arrives to make a movie telling of the relationship between Jane Grey and Elisabeth I, starring the famous actresses Marina Rudd and Lola Brewster. Marina arrives with her husband, Jason, and when she discovers that Lola is going to be in the movie with her she hits the roof as Lola and Marina loathe each other on sight. Marina has been getting death threats and at a party at the manor house, Heather Babcock, after boring Marina with a long story, drinks a cocktail made for Marina and dies from poisoning. Everybody believes that Marina is the target but the police officer investigating the case, Inspector Craddock isn't sure so he asks Miss Marple, his aunt, to investigate... Written by
Lee Horton <Leeh@tcp.co.uk>
This is the film that launched Angela Lansbury's career as a television sleuth. The character she began playing four years later was much the same as the one she plays here - and it's not Miss Marple. Not that purists have any right to complain. Agatha Christie's Miss Marple isn't really Miss Marple, either. Miss Marple first appeared in "Murder at the Vicarage" (published 1930), and I can't help thinking of the character in that book as the REAL Miss Marple: a transparent, almost pathologically nosy woman who thoroughly enjoyed prying for its own sake, who as capable of solving mysteries because she was unable to rest so long as there was potential gossip she didn't know about. She wasn't a saint, she wasn't an inspired guesser, and she wasn't wise.
Almost immediately, though (in "The Tuesday Club Mysteries", published 1932), Miss Marple transformed into someone who WAS saintly, inspired and, worst of all, wise, and it's this latter, less agreeable Miss Marple that dominates the subsequent novels. What obligation does anyone else have to be authentic, if Agatha Christie herself wasn't? So far as I'm concerned the character is now fair game for any revisionist interpretation whatever; and if so, give me Angela Lansbury's energy over Joan Hickson's "authenticity" any day. ...Strange, then, that the film doesn't really work. The puzzle itself is a real humdinger - one of Christie's very best, in my opinion - and the denouement is handled very well. But there's something bookish and stifled about everything leading up to it. Most Christie adaptations have a similar plodding quality (notable exceptions: Billy Wilder's "Witness for the Prosecution", Sidney Gilliat's "Endless Night", and people who have seen René Clair's "And Then There Were None" think highly of that, too) - there's an AIR of excessive fidelity to the book, even when quite a few details have been changed.
One problem unique to this one is the set of laboured jokes at the expense of 1950s Hollywood - at least, the jokes WANT to be at the expense of 1950s Hollywood, but I think they come from "My Big Book of 1000 One-Liners", or some such.
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