The lease on the Dupayne Museum is almost up and under the terms of their father's will, all three of the Dupayne children must agree to continue or the museum is to close. Neville Dupayne ... See full summary »
The lease on the Dupayne Museum is almost up and under the terms of their father's will, all three of the Dupayne children must agree to continue or the museum is to close. Neville Dupayne is dead set against continuing the museum when the money could be used for a much better purpose. One of the museum's key attractions is the Murder Room, displaying information on a series of notorious murders from between the two World Wars. When Neville dies in a way reminiscent of one of the murders on display in the Murder Room, Commander Adam Dalgleish is asked to investigate. There are any number of suspects: his siblings, several museum employees who will lose their job, his secretary with whom he once had an affair and his daughter who felt he was an absentee father. A second murder reveals some of the activities of the upper classes and the solution lies in a long-ago wrong that someone is seeking to right. Written by
Famed mystery writer P.D. James spins an intricate tale of deception and murder in this classic style whodunit story, converted to TV movie, set at a spooky old museum in England. Three wealthy siblings in charge of the Dupayne Museum are at odds over its future. One wants to close it down for financial reasons; the other two want to keep it open, presumably for posterity. One of its rooms is dedicated to infamous murders that occurred between WWI and WWII. When a murder occurs at the museum, the MO closely resembles a murder described in the murder room.
The plot contains ample red herrings, and just the right number of suspects. There's some good spine-tingling suspense, especially toward the film's end, when the murderer dressed in black and concealed by darkness prowls around in the building at night. The story reminds me, in some ways, of Agatha Christie's novel "Cat Among The Pigeons"; indeed, in "The Murder Room" an old tomcat figures into the story's conclusion.
As with the best whodunits, the plot leads viewers down the garden path; what seems important is not; what's seemingly irrelevant may be very important. If there's a theme to the story, it's spoken by one of the suspects: "The past isn't so easily shaken off; old sins return".
As engaging as the film is, it's not perfect. I did not care at all for the romantic subplot of the lead detective. With a runtime of three hours, this subplot not only unnecessarily prolongs the movie, but it also intrudes into the whodunit puzzle. In addition, the film's editing at the beginning is too frantic. Viewers must endure a barrage of too many new characters and too many flashbacks. As a result, the first thirty minutes present a chaotic jumble of confusing images. All these images make sense on a repeat viewing; but I almost gave up on the film, at first. Finally, the film's ending, as regards the explanation of the killer's motive, seems rushed. A couple of key questions are never answered.
"The Murder Room" is made to order for viewers who like classic whodunit puzzles. There's plenty of time to sink your teeth into the story and get to know the suspects and their potential for being the killer. Casting and acting are quite good. And for a TV movie, production design and sets are surprisingly detailed and lavish. The only real weaknesses are an unnecessary subplot, and an intimidating thirty-minute intro. Given those constraints, this film offers some terrific whodunit entertainment.
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