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The Mirror Cracked (1980) Elizabeth Taylor's last good movie to date.
Though the production values are more in line with a well done
"made-for-TV" production, I enjoyed this film a lot. Co-starring with a
couple of by-gone Hollywood legends, Rock Hudson and Kim Novak (and an
uncredited cameo by a young Pearce Brosnan), The Mirror Cracked tells
the tale of a famous actress temporarily residing in the English
countryside while on location for a film she's starring in.
Early on in the film, a welcome to the countryside party is thrown by the local townsfolk and at the party, one of the guests drops dead. Soon we learn she was poisoned. Then we learn the poison was intended for Miss Taylor. The rest is all suspicion and old rivalries with Taylor at the center of every drama.
Two scenes stand out : one comedic, one dramatic. A bit of fun occurs when Taylor, observing the ravaging of time on her face in a mirror, utters, "Wrinkles, wrinkles, go away, come back on Doris Day!" Too funny.
The other moment comes when audience's focus in on Taylor's great eyes for probably the last time in cinematic history. It happens at a pivotal moment early on in the plot, just before the first victim drops dead of poisoning, and Taylor, at the top of a stairway, dressed in purple to match her eyes, appears startled. She freezes, the guests stop what they're doing and wonder what's happening. Then the director pulls in tight on Miss Taylor's famous eyes and for one short moment in time, we experience once again, all the magnetism and power of that wonderful actress that has captivated viewers for oh these many years.
The Mirror Crack'd is one of the many Agatha Christie stories made into
an all-star film. This one is more campy and less opulent than "Murder
on the Orient Express," for instance, but for what it is, it's pretty
good. Set in the '50s in Miss Marple's village of St. Mary Mead, the
film stars lots of big names from that era: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock
Hudson, Tony Curtis, Kim Novak - a veritable who's who of '50s
megastars. Angela Lansbury plays Miss Marple, and she's perfect in the
role. The film also has an appearance by Pierce Brosnan in a small,
The script has the Taylor and Novak characters camping it up with bitchy insults which I don't quite remember from the book. The story concerns a movie star, her husband, her co-star nemesis, etc., coming to St. Mary Mead to make a movie. During a party, a local resident is murdered, but the intended victim is assumed to be Taylor. It's up to Miss Marple to unravel the mystery as more murders occur.
The scene between Taylor and Edward Fox is especially good, and I've never been sure if Taylor falling on top of Hudson on the bed was supposed to be funny or not - in the movie theater, it got a laugh.
It's great to see all these old stars in the same film. By the way, perhaps this was mentioned by one of the posters - this story is based on a real-life incident that happened to Gene Tierney.
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.
Being a fan of both Agatha Christie, Angela Lansbury, and Rock Hudson I
watched this film with pleasure. The cast here has done a great job,
everybody is convincing, even Liz Taylor, although her acting is at
overdone, as usual. The movie has a good pace, dialogues are witty and
humorous, and the mystery itself engaging. I think the proportions of
character's involvement in the story are true to the original (I was
they'd make Miss Marple into an action figure or something, but was glad
see she stayed in the background to make her grand entrance in the
All in all, it's a very good and convincing adaptation of Christie's
Surprisingly faithful adaption of the excellent Christie book adds some campy insults to the story by having Taylor and Novak square off as jealous rivals, but the outcome still carries a mild punch. Lansbury is excellent as Jane and it's nice to see Liz reunited with Hudson after their stint in the 50's on Giant. One of the better all star casts for an Agatha picture, with a nice recreation of St Mary Mead. Makes you feel like you're really in a small English village.
I have only bought 3 movies in my life, and this is one of them (the
other two were: "Victor/Victoria" and "The Emerald Forest".
In another very memorable movie, "Misery", the Kathy Bates character goes into a tirade about how some of the Saturday serials she saw as a kid "didn't play fair with the audience". In contrast, "The Mirror Crack'd" respects the audience's intelligence. When you find out the reason for the murder in this movie, and who did it, the explanation makes perfect sense. Too many other mystery movies seem to revel in keeping the audience in the dark the whole time, and then "pull a fast one" when it comes time to reveal who did the murder and why. "The Mirror Crack'd" is far too cleverly written to ever be guilty of this.
Elizabeth Taylor plays an American actress desperately attempting a comeback after a personal tragedy not only devastated her career but her life as well. Rock Hudson plays her husband, who will be directing her big comeback movie.
Kim Novak is her bitter arch rival. Among other great lines of dialogue, one jab at Taylor is particularly scathing. In a rivalry reminiscent of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, Kim Novak tries to publicly humiliate Taylor's character by saying, "Darling, not only have you kept your beautiful figure, but you've added so much to it" (I hope I'm remembering that line correctly)
Ms. Taylor gives a remarkable performance here. Her character is emotionally brittle, and just like watercolor paints blend together in odd and interesting combinations when mixed with water, her emotions seamlessly and fluidly change from one second to the next. Taylor's performance is perfectly in synch with the tone of this movie.
Chicago Tribune movie critic, Roger Ebert, once began a movie review by saying, "I hated this movie. I hated everything about this movie". I would like to end my movie review by saying, "I loved this movie. I loved everything about this movie".
Addendum, February 11, 2007 I am staying at the beautiful Hotel Marrols in Bratislava (Slovakia), and can you believe that The Mirror Crack'd is one of the 61 movies they offer? What am amazing coincidence!
I liked this version of The Mirror Crack'd, and I am fond of the Joan Hickson version too. The Hickson version, it is true, is more faithful to the book, despite its liberties, but on its own merits this film is pretty good. The main merit is the performance of underrated character actress Angela Lansbury; she is terrific as Miss Marple, and Edward Fox does a great job as Inspector Craddock. The supporting cast are fine in their roles, Elizabeth Taylor overdoes Marina Gregg slightly but she plays with gusto, Rock Hudson is suitably subdued as Jason Rudd, and Kim Novak is delightful as Lola. The dialogues between Taylor and Novak are wonderfully witty, and often verging on hysterically funny. The film is beautifully shot, and the locations and costumes are lovely. The music is stunning too. However, the character of Heather Badcock is changed quite considerably here, and why she was changed to a naive village girl I still find perplexing. The film is overlong and has pacing problems, and the final solution was weak compared to how it could have been. On the whole, it is a movie worth seeing, and as I've said, see it for Angela. 7/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A relatively weak who-done-it. Ms. Taylor is an American actress trying
to stage a comeback after a personal tragedy sidelined her career. The
setting is 1953 England. Her husband, Rock Hudson, is the film's
director, and the producer's (Tony Curtis) wife (Kim Novak) her
Although credited as being based on an Agatha Christie novel, the movie was also inspired by the real-life tragedy of the beautiful and talented actress Gene Tierney. During a U.S.O. road show while she was pregnant, Ms. Tierney contracted measles and gave birth to a mentally retarded daughter in 1943.
If you blink you'll miss Pierce Brosnan in one of his first, and uncredited, screen appearances.
This is almost a 10. Highly underrated. Good plot, great atmosphere, wonderful star performances and a mystery that's hard to solve. What's not to like? No, it's not academy award material, and wasn't meant to be. MIRROR CRACK'D rates up there with EVIL UNDER THE SUN. Wish more films of this ilk were made today. Pure escapist entertainment with no special effects or gory scenes. Fine for the whole family. TAYLOR, LANSBURY, CURTIS and especially NOVAK are top notch. An actress named Maureen Bennett is also very good in her small role. Also note a young Pierce Brosnan in a bit role. This is really a well done who and why done it. Try seeing it a second time to spot some of the clues you've obviously missed the first time.
How many of us have fantasies about English country villages and cottages therein? This movie will take you directly into such things and your eyes will be delighted with the settings. How cozy it all is - no wonder they call light-hearted mysteries "cozies." I was struck by Angela Lansbury's height. Either she is a tall woman or the ceilings in these adorable cottages are quite low. Angela is Miss Marple, of course, and she begins the flick by demonstrating, at a public screening of a movie murder mystery, how quickly she can solve a complicated crime. Elizabeth Taylor is queenly and is married to the scrumptious Rock Hudson who, although he dallies with a strenuously self-adoring Kim Novak, appears to love her dearly. Edward Fox, a much-enjoyed actor whom I loved in '95's "A Month by the Lake" with Vanessa Redgrave, is so fresh and youthful here! Tony Curtis as the brash producer strikes not one false note - (or else they are all somewhat false as befits his role as wheeler-dealer!) My girlfriends and I may study and duplicate Miss Marple's cottage decor in our own homes after ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the famous sleuth's movie digs! Note: Angela Lansbury proves in this film that she can chop and dice with the best chefs. And she uses a very long, sharp blade, worthy of a Maven of Murder!
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