Agatha Christie's Marple: Season 4, Episode 4

Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (26 Jul. 2009)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama
6.5
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 632 users  
Reviews: 25 user | 4 critic

The cryptic final words of a dying man lead Miss Marple and two young adventurers to a dysfunctional family harboring dark secrets.

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Title: Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (26 Jul 2009)

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David Buchanan ...
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Florrie
Helen Lederer ...
Marjorie Attfield
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Wilson
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Tom Savage
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Dorothy Savage
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Commander Peters
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Claude Evans
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Storyline

While visiting her friend Marjorie Attfield, Miss Marple learns that her son Bobby had recently found a body, identified as a Mr. Pritchard, on the cliff side. He's received a letter asking him to appear at the enquiry but it seems to be a wild goose chase meant to keep him away from the real enquiry taking place elsewhere. Now accompanied by a friend, Frankie Derwent, they trace the dead man to nearby Castle Savage, home to a dysfunctional family with great deal of money. The family patriarch, Jack Savage, had died not long ago and the dead man had some connection to the Savages. But what is the key to solving the mystery of Pritchard's last words to Bobby as he lay dying: "Why didn't they ask Evans?". Written by garykmcd

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Crime | Drama

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26 July 2009 (USA)  »

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Quotes

[first lines]
John Carstairs: Why didn't they ask...
Bobby Attfield: Sorry?
John Carstairs: Why... didn't they... ask... Evans?
Bobby Attfield: Evans? Ask him what?
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Connections

Version of Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1980) See more »

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When You and I Were Seventeen
(uncredited)
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User Reviews

 
Why didn't they leave "Evans" alone?
13 July 2009 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Agatha Christie's original novel was a light read, and above all, fun. Its plot was great as it was— a light romantic comedy/thriller, with enough plot to make it absolutely perfect for translation onto the screen. Unfortunately, Patrick Barlow, the screenwriter, decided he could out-Christie Christie. He can't.

I'm not a completely conservative Christie fan. If a book won't translate well to the screen, then some changes may be in order. I support that. But here, the plot changes don't work in the least— they subtract from the plot instead of adding. We now have a rather strange assortment of guests, a rather weird family history (which makes the odious move to constantly emphasize mysterious happenings in China), and a convoluted plot that leaves the audience spinning. Either way, it feels out-of-place in the fifties; the story belongs in the thirties. Besides, the climax is unrealistic— I would be amused to attend the trial that resulted.

Agatha Christie's novel was a fun read: not as compelling as, say, "And Then There Were None", but one where the characters rang true and the reader *wanted* to know the solution. The film feels strange— none of the characters feel like characters. They feel like dreadful cardboard caricatures who solely exist to scream or act suspiciously, ringing false. The only worthwhile characters are Bobby and Frankie, as well as Miss Marple.

Where acting is concerned, we have a case of a few strong cast members wading through weak material. Julia Mackenzie is absolutely stellar as Miss Marple: she is shrewd, but conceals this with a "harmless old lady" charm. Watch as she talks to a doctor, trying to get more information about a photograph. She transitions perfectly from the photograph to discussing a flower, then right back to the photograph. She puts on a perfect act that would fool mostly any murderer, and indeed, Mackenzie turns out to be the best actor of the piece. In fact, it is solely due to Mackenzie that the ridiculous climax turns out amusing-to-watch.

Two more actors stand out: Sean Biggerstaff (Bobby—Attfield? Would it have killed the producers to use "Jones"?) and Georgia Moffett (Frankie Derwent). The two have some veritable chemistry between them, and play their roles perfectly.

And now, I must mention the film's weakest actors. The first is Samantha Bond as Sylvia Savage. She exists solely to stare blankly, exclaim "Shut up!" every once in a while, and be a pathetic nuisance to all those around. Freddie Fox as Tom Savage is a particularly poor actor. His idea of acting suspiciously/mysteriously involves perpetually crouching in shadows while caressing a snake. Then, we have Commander Peters, played by Warren Clarke, who either has a serious anger management problem or has gone quite deaf—his role involves screaming, shouting, and a touch of yelling. And last, but not least, we have "Dottie", played by Hannah Murray. She remains a gawky, two-dimensional caricature wearing glasses, whose sole purpose is to loudly disclose embarrassing secrets at the dinner table. (Personally, I much prefer Aunt Cora from "After the Funeral".) By the end, I was hoping she "knew too much", and the killer would make her the next victim.

One last word: this barely felt like a TV movie. The direction was wonderful! And while we're at it, let's mention the music: although these films range in quality from "poor" to "excellent", Dominik Scherrer's music is consistently brilliant. If a CD of his compositions for this series is ever released, I'll be at the front of the line.

So, let's review, shall we? "Why Didn't They Ask Evans" has been altered beyond recognition for its TV adaptation. The acting is often poor, although the leads are phenomenal. The direction is top-notch, as is the music. But overall, "Evans" fails, due to the plot changes that only detract from it.

So the question I want answered is this: why didn't they leave "Evans" alone?


21 of 45 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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