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18 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Found - the perfect Jane Marple

Author: jandesimpson from United Kingdom
19 June 2004

I recall a British TV series some years back entitled "J'Accuse" the purpose of which was to demolish certain popular sacred cows. They were programmes designed to delight of infuriate according to the predilections of the viewer. From my point of view I was in agreement with the treatment given to "Citizen Kane" but when it came to Laurence Olivier and Agatha Christie, definitely "Non!". As a youngster I devoured practically everything Dame Agatha produced and she remains to this day for my money the absolute mistress of the surprise "Who dun it" particularly when many of the more recent exponents of the genre are running to works of near Dickensian length. Christie needed little more than 200 pages for each of her superb plots, ideal when all you are looking for is a half-day divertissement rather than a complex literary work. For many years her novels seemed to defy good cinematic adaptation. The Rene Clair version of "Ten Little Niggers" worked reasonably well as it had a good cast, bags of atmosphere and stayed fairly true to the book. But then it was remade a couple of times in more exotic locations with disastrous results, the essential ingredient of claustrophobia missing. That was the trouble, Agatha was quintessentially English and cosy with little pretensions to humour. Attempt to make her funny and you have those dire Margaret Rutherford - Miss Marple films that have dated to the extent of becoming excruciatingly embarrassing. Several actors have tackled Poirot with varying results but perhaps it is the very unreality and quirkiness of the character that make the part so difficult to play. Certainly David Suchet is more watchable than Ustinov, Finney and Molina. Miss Marple is a different matter. It just needed to find that someone who could convey the frailty of an elderly spinster with a razor sharp mind that could detect evil in the most unlikely. No wonder that the hammy humour of the well-built Rutherford was so wide of the mark. Angela Lansbury got much closer in the star-studded "The Mirror Cracked from Side to Side", so much so that it seemed that a passable Marple had been discovered. But the film was a one-off and it was only in retrospect after the casting of Joan Hickson in the TV series of the 'eighties and early 'nineties that one realised that Lansbury was not quite right for the part. Hickson however was another matter, casting so inspired that it seemed that she had been waiting all her life of mainly bit-parts as crotchety landladies and barmaids for a role she was just born to play. (See my comments on the 1999 TV adaptation of "David Copperfield" where much the same thing happened for several British stars.) It is the absolute rightness of Hickson in the Marple role that makes this series of twelve easily the best visualisations of Christie's work, that and their faithful recreations of their author's time and place. "A Pocket Full of Rye" is very typical being somewhere between what was easily the best - the brilliantly plotted "A Murder is Announced" with some wonderful supporting roles - and the weakest - "They do it with Mirrors" - where the plot is much less interesting than usual. It enjoys that favourite Christie device of a series of deaths linked with the events of a nursery rhyme, the motivation of money which features in well over half her stories and a plot in which what happens in the present has its roots deeply embedded in the past. It is this latter feature that links her work to that of the great Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. In both practically everything of significance has happened years before the curtain rises. The past therefore has to be explored in order to explain the present. No wonder that it needed a Miss Marple with the attributes of one who seems to be quietly ferreting away in the background to discover past secrets to make the character absolutely credible. It cannot be done through caricature as Joan Hickson so admirably realised.

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

One of the better TV translations of an Agatha Christie novel...

6/10
Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
25 December 2007

JOAN HICKSON was an excellent Jane Marple and this is definitely one of the better TV works of Agatha Christie's A POCKET FULL OF RYE. The clever plotting uses a nursery rhyme (one of Christie's favorite ways of linking a complex set of clues to a murder), and gives a nice assortment of suspicious characters a chance to make the perfect sort of red herrings.

The mystery gets underway as soon as Rex Fortescue is killed. He's a rich, nasty old man who has a fortune tied to some nasty business in his past, and enough enemies to make everyone a likely suspect. Crisply acted and played in elegant British fashion by an assortment of reliable British supporting players, it keeps you interested in solving the crime along with the baffled inspector, who is no match for Miss Marple.

Hickson is perfectly cast as the wise old lady and makes the character seem as though Christie had her in mind for the role.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Another good entry in the Hickson series

9/10
Author: Iain-215 from United Kingdom
5 April 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of my favourites of the Hickson Miss Marple series. Miss Marple is alerted to goings on at Yew Tree Lodge by an ex maid, Gladys but by the time she gets there, there have been three murders already including Gladys herself! The nursery rhyme of the title is largely irrelevant but the story is well plotted and the conclusion satisfying. I don't feel enough is made of the plight of the pathetic Gladys - the book does this so much more effectively and you really end up hating the murderer as a result but apart from that it's pretty good. The cast here is generally excellent. Tom Wilkinson is one of the better accompanying detectives and there are good turns from Stacy Dorning as the airhead second wife, Rachel Bell as the childlike Jennifer and Peter Davison as the charming Lance. Miss Marple finds a kindred spirit in the formidable Miss Henderson of Fabia Drake. My favourite though is Selina Cadell's Mary Dove - exactly as I pictured her in the book! A satisfying mid series entry.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Slightly above-average episode

7/10
Author: gridoon2014
3 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although I wouldn't classify "A Pocketfull Of Rye" as one of Agatha Christie's best stories, it still keeps your interest; there is a variation on the "ABC Murders" theme (the killer hiding the one and only murder that is important to him / her among a series of seemingly related murders), and a pretty clever solution to the problem of "murder via long distance"! I must admit that my favorite part of this film is by far Selina Cadell as Mary Dove, the efficient housekeeper. Smart, sarcastic, observant - she is the thinking man's ideal wife. I particularly loved the scene where she confesses to some "minor discrepancies in the home accounting"! I just wish she had more to do in the second half. Second favorite is Fabia Drake as Miss Henderson, who has some of the best lines: "I have ALWAYS been very peculiar" and "The journey between Vice and Evil is but a step". And third favorite is Tom Wilkinson as Inspector Neele, a likable, level-headed fellow who is quicker to appreciate the value of Miss Marple's contributions than a certain Inspector Slack! (***)

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

My second favourite Miss Marple adaptation

10/10
Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
28 October 2010

I absolutely love the Joan Hickson Miss Marple mysteries. They are clever and well made, and Joan Hickson is for me the definitive Miss Marple. A Pocket Full of Rye is a wonderful adaptation, and my second favourite of the Miss Marple adaptations after A Murder is Announced. The photography, scenery and costumes are truly lovely, and the music is superb. The script is often thought-provoking and the story is faithful, well paced and clever. My only minor criticism is that they could have developed Gladys a little more, but this is very minor. The acting across the board is of high calibre, Joan Hickson coming of best being absolutely terrific as Miss Marple. Overall, wonderful and one of my favourites. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Good movie lots of suspects.

Author: ctyankee1 from United States
12 December 2009

I liked this "Pocket Full of Rye" with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. I have seen the one with Geraldine McEwen which I think is a great Miss Marple but the movies are put together different and I liked this one better.

One actor who I like is Peter Davison, at first I did not recognize him. Peter plays Lance son of the father that is rich and is murdered. This is a 1985 movie and Peter Davison plays in "The Last Detective" a series on British TV in which he is a detective and also plays in a series called "Campion".

As in most Agatha Christies stories there are a lot of knots to tie to find out who the killer or killer are. This is one of those movies.

I enjoyed it.

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Death by Nursery Rhyme

7/10
Author: BaronBl00d (baronbl00d@aol.com) from NC
23 November 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ah! Agatha Christie always loved using nursery rhymes in her novels, and A Pocket Full of Rye is no exception. There is a lot going on in this mystery when ex Fortescue dies in his office with seeds of rye found in his pocket. soon another death takes place, and then another. Miss Marple arrives as she trained the awkward girl Gladys as a servant - who, it seemed, tried to ring her up. Gladys really is the key to the whole mystery. Again we get glorious Joan Hickson playing the senior sleuth to perfection. e also get some truly good character acting turns from the likes of Tom Wilkinson(yes, the Academy Award Nominated actor who has now turned to major star) as, for a change, a nice police inspector who wants Miss Marple's help. Elderly, and I mean old looking, Fabia Drake with some great dialog as the deceased man's sister-in-law, and how about Selina Cadell(Mrs. Tishel from Doc Martin) as the house-manageress Miss Dove with some splendid dialog as well. This really is a very well-crafted murder mystery and generally well-directed version. I particularly liked the by-play between Miss Marple and Detective Inspector Neele.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Quite successful

9/10
Author: Dr Jacques COULARDEAU from Olliergues, France
28 January 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In this story Agatha Christie is stepping in Conan Doyle's footsteps with a mystery that revolves around some colonial strife, or rivalry and vengeance. But at the same time she keeps her naiveté and her nursery simplicity with a whole murder case based on a nursery rhyme, a common and popular nursery rhyme: the repetitiveness becomes the key to the series of murders. And yet there is something ugly in the fact that the criminal looks for the simplest mind in the lot to use that simple mind to his own ends. And this time it is both poignant and disquieting: he uses an orphan who has found some peace of mind and some stability as a maid in a wealthy home. "Sing a Song of Sixpence, A bag full of Rye, Four and twenty Blackbirds, Bak'd in a Pye." We can't avoid thinking of the ten little n*****s, killed one by one and one after the other. Then Miss Marple is just some kind of inner voice that tells us how true and vicious life can be: from vice to evil there is only one little step.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID

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5 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Stygian gloom

5/10
Author: (nicks40@gmail.com) from United Kingdom
1 December 2005

Now available on a BBC DVD, this episode of Miss Marple is unfortunately plunged in complete darkness from beginning to end, making it at times quite difficult to see who is actually on screen. Maybe this is intended to add to the atmosphere of the house in which the action takes place, and indeed houses in mourning would have had their curtains drawn at the time, but need all the lights have been off as well?

Though a fairly faithful adaptation of the book, one of Agatha Christie's later thrillers, there is not a great deal of detection or thought process in the play and when presented with the killer, my reaction was simply 'oh'.

When you can see them, some nice early '50's details.

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8 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Not much fun

Author: notmicro from Seattle
14 April 2004

Probably the least interesting of the BBC TV adaptions; and one of the few unavailable on DVD for some reason. The only really entertaining parts come from the formidable elderly actress Fabia Drake, who plays "Miss Henderson". She wanders around making stern condemning comments; the best comes when the ditzy young blonde wife makes a comment about going to the Clubhouse (located on a nearby golf-course as I recall). Miss Henderson gives a loud sniff, and mutters "Clubhouse! .... WHOREhouse!" which always leaves me in stitches. Otherwise its not that memorable; I can't recall if the book itself was very interesting to begin with. Its fun to see Tom Wilkinson in a younger role.

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