A lavish weekend party sees Miss Marple accompany Lady Virginia Revel to her family home of Chimneys - a house which was once prized for its diplomatic gatherings until a rare diamond was stolen from the premises over twenty years ago. The tenacious career politician, George Lomax, has persuaded Virginia's father, Lord Caterham, to host an evening for an important Austrian Count, Ludwig Von Stainach. Virginia, the daughter of Miss Marple's late cousin, must decide by the end of the weekend whether to accept a marriage proposal from George Lomax or to follow her heart and the courtship of another more adventurous suitor, Anthony Cade. Dismayed by the odd array of guests, including socialist spinster Miss Blenkinsopp, Caterham's formidable eldest daughter Bundle and the quietly inscrutable maidservant Treadwell, Lomax castigates his affable assistant Bill Eversleigh, who also has a soft spot for Virginia. It becomes apparent that Count Ludwig has taken a personal interest in Chimneys ... Written by
Well made with a good cast, but jumbled and convoluted
I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie, both her books and most of the adaptations based on her stories. The stories are clever and complex and the characters are interesting. That said, I was disappointed with The Secret of Chimneys. As far as these Marple adaptations go, it is not as awful as At Bertram's Hotel and Sittaford Mystery which were not only poor adaptations but severely lacking on their own terms too, but it is not the best either, Murder is Announced, Moving Finger and Pocket Full of Rye were surprisingly well done.
Starting with the good things, the adaptation is blessed with lovely production values. I loved the scenery and costumes as well as the photography, while the house itself was amazing. The music was very good too, not just the wonderful Vienesse Waltz that repeated itself but the accompanying music too. The script has its moments, there are some juicy red herrings and nice attempts at humour, while the direction was okay. The cast in general are first rate, Julia MacKenzie is a splendid Miss Marple(despite the fact The Secret of Chimneys is not even a Miss Marple story), shrewd, inquisitive yet very charming, while Stephen Dillaine is excellent. Out of the supporting cast, Edward Fox and the lovely Charlotte Salt come off best, and Anthony Higgins(his deep voice and accent reminded me slightly of Gary Oldman's Dracula) and Michelle Collins are decent.
However, despite these good things, the adaptation suffers from a very jumbled and convoluted plot with plot holes galore. I think it started off fine and intriguing, but it was about halfway through where it started getting complicated and hard to follow. The revelation was to say the least baffling, yes I got the culprit and the motive but some other explanations had me reaching for the rewind button. I also think in an attempt to cram a lot in, the adaptation felt rather rushed, so some parts felt skimmed over and underdeveloped. While the cast were fine in general, one or two members suffered from some moments of bad writing and character development. Anthony Cade was the main one, Jonas Armstrong looked dashing but he came across as bland and perhaps too earnest. I think this was the fault of the writer, turning a clever and cunning yet likable character into a very wimpy and uncharismatic shadow of his former self. Plus is it me or did the early attack on Virginia seem rather forced? The other was George Lomax, Adam Godley tried hard, but Lomax was made way too stiff and dull here. Consequently, the relationships between the two men and Virginia were very unconvincing. Just for the record, I don't mind changes to books, as long as the spirit is maintained. Sadly, the adaptation lacked the playful and witty charm of the book.
So overall, not a complete waste of time but disappointing. Hopefully The Blue Geranium will be an improvement. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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