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.
Feeling poorly, Miss Marple's nephew sends her to Barbados for a bit of a holiday. She finds the holiday a bit of a bore and nowhere near as interesting as life in St. Mary Mead. Things get a bit more interesting when one of the guests, the elderly Major Palgrave, is found dead. The death is put down to natural causes until one of the maids finds medication belonging to another guest in the late major's room. When the maid is also found dead it is clear that the Major's oft-repeated tale of knowing a murderer - he was in the colonial police after leaving the army - convinces Miss Marple that the murderer is someone at the hotel. Written by
Has color and some spark, but not strong enough in the build
The BBC Marple is often considered as the best version but at the same time it is hard not to take as a reaction to the ITV versions so much as it is about the BBC one in particular. Personally I often find that its rather dry and crisp approach is both its strength and its undoing as it provides a really good base but then seems to hamper the build up and development of the mystery. In this case the film appears to be trying to do something a bit different and, reading around, I found that it was originally screened as a Christmas special, with a larger budget allowing it a move away from the UK.
This move allows for a bit more color in the production, and I mean that in several ways as of course the location is livelier but also the cast features characters that befit the exotic location. This location is used reasonably well against the character of Marple, who continues to be a bit dry and "tut tut" in her approach, although in this case it is played for the contrast. This works for a while but then the film settles into the telling and the setup works well, providing a small group that it must have been, an interesting back-story for Marple to uncover and a colorful group of characters. For the most part this base makes the film work but I thought the solution as always came too quickly and without much in the way of help for the viewer, it is something I watched than something I was engaged particularly as it got closer to the end.
The performances and characters are solid though. Hickson plays to what she knows and I quite liked her out of her usual setting. The supporting cast is solid but owe a massive debt to Pleasence, who is fun and sparky in a supporting role. The locations are reasonably good but it does feel rather sanitized in terms of accents, characters and places the action doesn't really leave the resort and, when it does, it doesn't seem to go to anywhere that isn't equally nice and well spoken.
Anyway, despite the usual problems, this is a solid Marple with a decent plot, good characters and a nice line in color and fun through it. Not enough to win over those that aren't fans of the approach (and an unlikely festive "treat") but still solid despite not taking the viewer with it at the end.
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