A friend of Miss Marple's sees a woman being strangled in a passing train. When police cannot find a body and doubt the story, Miss Marple enlists professional housekeeper, Lucy Eyelesbarrow, to go undercover.
While on vacation at a resort hotel in the West Indies, Miss Marple correctly suspects that the apparently natural death of a retired British major is actually the work of a murderer planning yet another killing.
BBC Adaption of Agatha Christie's novel; in the small village of St. Mary Mead, Colonel and Mrs. Bantry, owners of the local manor Gossington Hall, are shocked when a young lady's body is found in their library. They call in the police who soon run up against a brick wall; only finding out that the body is that of a dancer in London who the Bantrys didn't even know. But how and why was her body left in the library? To find out the truth, the Bantrys call in the help of their good friend Miss Jane Marple. Written by
Lee Horton <Leeh@tcp.co.uk>
The usual BBC Marple weaknesses but generally an engaging mystery in a classy and slow delivery
The Bantry's wake up in their home one morning to find the body of a young woman they have never seen before, lying in their library. They duly call the police and the girl is identified as a dancer from the Majestic hotel (several towns away) and the time of death is established. However, with more of a link to the girl than he realised and no alibi for the time of the murder, Colonel Bantry finds himself a suspect at worst and a point of gossip at best. Mrs Bantry decides to get away for a bit and, hoping to clear her husband's name, asks her friend Miss Marple to accompany her to the seaside and the Majestic Hotel, to carry out their own investigation.
Structuring the delivery of the story a bit differently from some of the other BBC Marple films I had seen, this film jumps right into the mystery and only really gives background in flashback scenes during interviews and the investigation generally. This approach works well early on because it sets out a solid pace and urgency early on. The BBC Marple films generally have a slow pace so, even though it did gradually settle down to what I expected, it gave it a nice boost early on. The story is the usual complex mix of mystery and characters delivered with a good sense of period; it won't win over those used to 45 minute chunks of CSI etc but it does have a certain style and charm of its own. I'm not being snobby when I say that about CSI because I must confess that at times I found it frustratingly slow and occasionally a bit too subtle for my tastes but generally the quality of the material works.
The material is also structured well to, as normal, use the police almost as much as it uses Miss Marple. Looking back it seems risky (can you imagine a Columbo where he is sidelined for big sections?) but it works well and compliments the feel of the film. Hickson is, as many have said, the definitive Marple and only looks better and better the more ITV insist on wheeling out McEwan in their versions. She is classy and thoughtful and she very much fills the idea of the elderly spinster that I have in my head (and it seems Christie had in hers). She benefits from having Watford as a companion for much of the film and she is quite fun as a contrast. Horovitch gives his usual good turn; he is not as good as Marple of course but unlike some other "bumbling cop" performances he is given a good cop and he always plays it as such. Support from the rest of the cast is roundly good without anyone dominating the rest of them.
Overall then this has the usual "faults" of the BBC Marple series in that it is quite complex (and doesn't really help you out along the way) and it can be frustratingly slow at times. However for fans of the series these may not be faults; either way the film is an engaging mystery that is well written and well delivered by the cast. I could have happily had it 30 minutes shorter and tighter/slicker as a result but as it was it still worked well enough and certainly fans will enjoy it.
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