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I loved Geraldine McEwan's performances over the years. Superb in a
classic such as 'Mapp and Lucia' and even very much above average and
underused in one certain Kenneth B.'s Shakespeare adaptation... Here
she is just wasted. I may be biased. For me Joan Hickson *is* the Miss
Marple for my generation (I'm 20-something). And my parents'. Margaret
Rutherford played Miss Marple with her very own quirky departs from
canon. It was still better than this. Production values are never an
issue. They are excellent. And the script follows the book far more
closely than dozens of others adaptations from Agatha Christie's work.
And Geraldine(Dame Geraldine by now, surely) & Derek (Sir, ditto)
manage to sparkle. Perhaps it's enough for what was basically 20th
century pop-culture. 1930s, actually. But it leaves me longing for Joan
Hickson, June Withfield(on BBC Radio 4) and that seems to render this
new adaptation needless. Or perhaps just premature.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Once again, ITV force upon us another hash and unwanted remake of a
perfectly good predecessor. This episode may possibly be worse than the
previous, The Body in the Library (equally dismal). The plot revolves
around the murder of a hated local Judge, one Colonel Protheroe, in the
vicarage study of St Mary Mead.
Whilst I don't like to keep repeating the comments of others, this is not a good interpretation of the book. Firstly, there is the tragic miscasting of Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple. She performs the character as though she has never read a description of the woman, and fails in so many places where Hickson succeeded. Firstly, she has none of the subtlety that both the Miss Marple in the books and Hickson's portrayal still enduringly have. She is far too blatant and 'cheeky', which, invariably intended to add humour to the programme, does not come off at all well, a real example of over-egging the cake. Miss Marple was a spinsterish old lady, described as "assiduous" in the book upon which this particular programme is based, not some cheeky chappy as McEwan plays her. Also, whilst I don't like to be a pedant, the description Christie gives of Miss Marple does not match McEwan at all. For a start, she is described as a tall, prim, straight lady, because, as Miss Marple herself tells us in one of her books, "I was taught to sit up properly". Perhaps I am the only person who has observed this, but McEwan actually seems to positively slouch, and has not observed any of the mannerisms and fussy gestures that elderly ladies of Miss Marple's type notoriously committed - she is too laid back.
Also, the actually story is far too slow, despite having numerous sub-plots. The 1986 version went at a much faster pace, which gave an exciting and sinister edge to it, and didn't use half of the sub-plots used here, yet still managed to get a good hour and a half slot.
Thirdly, the direction and lighting is just awful. As I have already mentioned, the original version had a quite dark ands sinister edge to it, with low-key lighting and the rather brooding winter setting. In this version, however, the lighting is ridiculously bright, to the point that one feels as if one is watching an amateurish pantomime. It is quite revolting, and when coupled with the dire script, which is so saccharine one would not be berated for thinking it was laced with pixie dust and sugar, it gives a hideous effect of jolly-hockey-sticks village life, so stereotypical and contrived. It is as if the murder is a mere interlude between garden parties and afternoon tea.
Finally, the inclusion of a tedious throwaway plot, which sees Miss Marple in her younger days, embarking on an affair with a married man during WWI, is the final nail in the coffin for this series. It is so out of character that one is led to question if the writers have read a Miss Marple novel. She was simply not the kind of woman to do such a thing: she was a genteel, well brought up middle-class young woman in a strictly Victorian society, not some daring, romantic woman from a Jane Austen novel. She would never have done such a thing with a single man, let alone a married one, and mentions on many occasions that she has never had a romance, bar one young man by the name of Lionel, but "mother nipped it in the bud" before anything as mad as a fully-fledged affair could begin.
As another reviewer has already said, there is nothing wrong with remaking series, but in this instance it wasn't needed so soon after the Joan Hickson performance, generally regarded as the definitive. Maybe I am too purist, and too dedicated to the true canon of Christie, but this just doesn't ring true, and I hope this series is soon forgotten about.
I recently watched "Marple: Murder at the Vicarage" (starring Geraldine
McEwan), and must say I was not overly impressed.
If the police investigations of the day were conducted as they were in this dramatisation of Agatha Christie's novel, it's a wonder that any criminals were ever caught at all, much less convicted, with or without any dotty old ladies poking their noses in. Even in a pretend TV "whodunnit" investigation, a little reality goes a long way.
Not only was the murder scene not secured, but suspects "et al" were allowed to come and go through it at will, and in fact there was never any "boffin" in sight. No incident room was ever set up, but then I didn't see many police around to actually use one. No fingerprints appeared to have been taken or checked for (even though at the denouement it could clearly be seen that "dabs" were left all over said murder scene), and any reference to or collection of written statements were completely overlooked. Awkward for any later trial I would have thought. Albeit modern forensic science has advanced out of sight since the 1950's, initial proceedings were surely much the same then as they are now.
I was brought up in an English village during the same period (the Fifties) in which this production was set (although the book was written about 20 years earlier), but I didn't "recognise" any of the characters. They were all like plastic effigies straight out of a Hollywood studio, and the village itself from the top of a chocolate box. Although similarly born of Agatha Christie's pen, both characters and village were much more believable in the previous Joan Hickson series, and in which the direction was much more knowing. To its credit however, the story-line stays reasonably faithful to the novel, except for Professor Dufosse and his daughter. Where on earth did they come from? They're certainly not creations of Agatha Christie, and never appeared in the book. An unnecessary additional red-herring from the producers no doubt, or are they a replacement for Dr Stone (an archaeologist) and his secretary Miss Cram? If so, why? Why change the characters? Also, as another reviewer has reminded us, Miss Marple was the ultimate spinster and only had one small "fling" when young, which was maternally cut short.
Considering the impressive line up of star actors both young and old on display here, there should have been an equally impressive result. It was considerably short of that, and one is left to wonder why this re-make was ever produced, and with all due respect to Geraldine McEwan, magnificent actress though she is, the late Joan Hickson still reigns supreme as Jane Marple.
I hate to be the nay-sayer, but after reading positive comment after positive comment on the most recent Agatha Christie series, I feel I must needs be. There was no reason to remake the Miss Marple series with the remarkable Joan Hickson having so completely captured the character, and the productions in the 1980s being of such high standards. The current series is not only unnecessary, but a punch in the eye to anyone who reads Christie or believes in leaving a person works as unaltered as possible. The current productions supply us with sham characters, impossible events and plot complications that simply are not Chrisie's. In many ways we are getting revisionist claptrap.
One of a series of Agatha Christie "Miss Marple" adaptions well realized in this TV production, with a celebrated British cast. Geraldine McEwan is excellent as Miss Marple, bringing the right balance of sweet old lady and shrewd detective together. The nostalgic English country garden settings, with a nice feel for period, set the right rural atmosphere for the often complicated multi-suspect plot so favoured by Agatha Christie. There are usual red herrings and false leads, complete with the ever bumbling policeman. Full marks to the excellent casting and production values. Just shows that Agatha still rules in the detective/murder department, and it's Forensic Free. (Before DNA)
I really liked this episode. It is beautifully filmed, with lovely costumes. And let me say that I found some of it quite sad, with Miss Marple's flashbacks, and the really sad music. Even my mum was moved by this. The acting is fairly good, especially Derek Jacobi as Colonel Protheroe. His performance is that good, it is very easy to hate him. Others like Robert Powell and Jane Asher do well too, while Janet McTeer is superb as Anne and Gerealdine McEwan gave a certain sadness to her role, that I really appreciated, as after her outing in Body in the Library, I did want a more subdued Miss Marple. Although I haven't read the book, I found the final solution very clever, assuming it was faithful, and I have vague memories of the Joan Hickson ending similarly. I didn't think though that some of the younger people quite convinced as much, and there were some scenes that felt rushed. All in all, not that bad at all, and for those who haven't seen it, watch for the sad music. 8/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The second episode in ITV's amateurish series of Marple whodunits is
based on Agatha Christie's 1930 novel The Murder At The Vicarage. It
has been filmed once before in 1986 as part of the popular BBC series,
which starred Joan Hickson as the inquisitive amateur sleuth who
usually solved the crimes for the police.
The story concerns the murder of a hated magistrate and so-called pillar of the community, Colonel Prothereo (Derek Jacobi), who is found shot at the St Mary Mead vicarage. The fact that someone has been diverting church funds for their own ends seems like a possible motive.
In the 1970's-80's, EMI turned out some big budget and star-studded Agatha Christie thrillers such as Murder On The Orient Express and The Mirror Crack'd. These were loaded with actors who were cast on the basis of their box office appeal rather than their suitability to play Christie's characters and all too often the films seemed deeply flawed as a result of this. However, they are masterpieces compared to this dismal series, which not only wastes good talent, but the overall execution is amateurish and the acting is strictly pantomime standard. Helen McEwan is miscast as Miss Marple, Derek Jacobi is unconvincing as Colonel Prothereo who does little more than shout his big mouth off before he is bumped off and the direction of Charles Palmer fails to capture the 1930's period with any conviction. Only veteran actor Herbert Lom emerges with any credit as the artist Augustin Dufosse.
Followed by a dire remake of 4:50 From Paddington and A Murder Is Announced, which proved to be the best in the series.
There are serious flaws in this particular episode of the Agatha
Christie series starring GERALDINE McEWAN. First of all, the revisions
in an effort to update the story with today's more frank dialog and
boldness, fails utterly to bring new life to the film. The village
itself looks like a bright picture postcard, no suggestion of menace,
just a sugary confection that is further given a dose of sugar by
McEwan herself, who plays Jane Marple as the sweetest, coziest, and
most simpering individual who ever gossiped over a teacup.
She just happens to be situated in a convenient spot from which to view the comings and goings of a series of people who are among the suspects in the murder of a much hated colonel (DEREK JACOBY in a poor performance). All of this makes me yearn for the '80s version with Joan Hickson as a more realistic and more dimensional Miss Marple and in a village that didn't look like the setting for an MGM vintage musical.
The performances of the suspects are rather shallow, perhaps because of the script which really gives nobody a chance to delve into characterizations that might bring the story to life. It's a dull affair, especially the first hour which plods along at an awfully slow pace until the colonel gets his comeuppance.
Another problem is the introduction of characters which were not in the original story as red herrings. A truly uninspired version of a good Christie story that deserves better treatment and in no way compares to the '86 version with Joan Hickson. Very disappointing.
Welcome to the village of St Mary Mead. There's the vicar, Leonard
Clement, his son Dennis and his young wife Griselda; Colonel Protheroe,
his younger wife Anne and his daughter Lettice; the young artist,
Lawrence Redding; Mrs Lester, a woman busybody-like person with a
mysterious agenda...and Miss Jane Marple. Colonel Protheroe is a loud,
bullying, intrusive, obnoxious man and is universally disliked, even by
his family. His wife is having an affair with Mr Redding. One evening
he is murdered while visiting the vicarage. Miss Marple investigates.
Quite engaging - the characters are given depth and we get to see the dynamics of the village before the crime is committed. Intriguing - a few red herrings, and just when you think you know who did it, your theories are debunked.
Reasonably emotional too, as we revisit a relationship from Miss Marple's past and how it relates to the case.
Some big names in the supporting cast: Janet McTeer, Derek Jacobi, Tim McInnerny (of Blackadder fame), Jane Asher, Jason Flemyng and Herbert Lom.
"Murder at the Vicarage" is another of the Geraldine McEwan Miss Marple
mysteries. These films have several things in common: 1) they are
beautifully produced, with great attention paid to photography,
costumes, etc.; 2) they cast very good actors; 3) they don't pay a heck
of a lot of attention to the original novel.
As I've said a million times previously, it's been ages since I've read these books, so the details are lost on me. I do know one thing: Agatha Christie never gave Jane Marple a past with a married soldier. There is a reference to someone named Lionel in the books and apparently Mummy put a stop to it. We can assume, I think, that Jane Marple had suitors, the most serious of which was Lionel, but she never had an affair with a married soldier. It just shows how little the writers know about such a famous character.
Everyone goes on and on about Joan Hickson. Okay, those adaptations were terrific, and she was a wonderful actress. But when I read the Miss Marple books, I pictured her as a sweet old lady. For me Hickson was very dry in the role. I go on record here (again) - I liked Helen Hayes and Julia McKenzie in the role. McEwan, who is a fabulous actress, is not quite right in her interpretation. She's too sophisticated and too much in peoples' faces. Miss Marple was a keen observer of human nature, having watched the citizens of St. Mary Mead. When murder occurred, some of the behavior would remind her of Mr. so and so and Miss so and so - and she'd put the thing together. It's just not that way in these scripts.
Anyway, Murder at the Vicarage is a strong story, about the death of Colonel Lucius Protheroe, a very hated gentleman in St. Mary Mead. His wife, Ann, is having an affair with a local artist, known for his somewhat risqué work. His daughter wasn't happy with his rules concerning her behavior. Pretheroe thought the vicar's assistant was stealing from the church. Jane has a sprained ankle and does a lot of observing from her window. And she very cleverly solves the mystery.
This film is a treat for baby boomers in that it features Jane Asher, Paul McCartney's old girlfriend. And talk about names - Derek Jacobi as Colonel Pretheroe and Janet McTeer as Anne - two huge stars of theater, and of course Jacobi has had quite the film career as well. The producers don't spare any expense, obviously. And Herbert Lom? Fantastic.
Despite some of its adaptation problems - I mean if it's not broke why are you fixing it - I guiltily admit this was a treat to watch. One way to enjoy these is just forget it's supposed to be Miss Marple and based on an Agatha Christie book.
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