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There will be spoilers!
"Rich young things running around in grand English gardens."
So it should be. Instead what have we: "Dear old Miss Marple running around in tunnels in grand English country estates, holding a big torch like a true CSI."
But let me start with the beginning, and not so fast. I love Agatha Christie, I do, and have read most of her books. Not all of these have the quality of "Five little Pigs", "Sad Cypress" (Both very well adapted for television with David Suchet), "Towards Zero", "Murder on the Orient Express", "Then there was None" and "Death comes as the End". But they all are unmistakably works of Agatha Christie, and she never put her main characters in the wrong place. Unlike the people responsible for the new "Marple" production. They are busy being much better at this game than Agatha herself, so they edit and rewrite her stories to put things right, don't they?
Alright, first there was this book, "The Secret of Chimneys". Agatha Christie wrote it in 1924/25, and here she is in Wodehouse territory, sort of. You half expect Bertie Wooster to turn up in the garden in the middle of all the muddle. We have Chimneys, the old country manor, known for its noble and famous guests during the centuries. Chimneys is also the home of the lovable Marquis of Caterham, a witty gentleman who detest politics and pompous politicians, and therefore have a close friend named George Lomax who is a pompous politician, a Foreign Office man. And there's the high spirited young Bundle, the eldest daughter of Lord Caterham, her name is actually Lady Eileen Brent. We have Bill Eversleigh, personal assistant of George Lomax, a cricket and party at the Savoy man. Then there's the beautiful young widow and our heroine, the Honorable Mrs Virginia Revel. Every man of course wants to marry her but she prefer to be the happy widow. Then there's the stranger coming home after years in Africa, the mysterious but well behaved Anthony Cade. There's a rich American, a clever French policeman, a notorious criminal called King Victor, there's the odd Mr. Fish who collects first editions but takes no interest in the books he is shown at Chimneys, a French governess, a dead Prince, a live Baron of the make believe country Herzoslovakia. There's a mysterious gang of Herzoslovakian rebellions. Not to mention a stolen diamond hidden somewhere at Chimneys. Into this scene walks Inspector Battle, the stoic man in the right place. He and only he shall restore order and peace.
The book is really fun nonsense, a good read to cheer you up. It's so playful, so silly that it 's meant to be the playground for these hyperactive young people: Bundle, Bill, Anthony and Virginia.
Then, there's the adaptation for television. How could they? John Strickland and Paul Rutman made it into a Miss Marple story! It's not enough for them to ruin the actual Miss Marple stories, they have to write her into stories that even a child knows is the wrong place for this character. Miss Marple probably never moved in circles as Chimneys anyway. Miss Marple is an old English gentlewoman living in a small village, and don't run around manor gardens and parks with Earls and Princes.
And what did Strickland/Rutman do to the characters from the book:
Lord Caterham. Not a charming, witty man anymore, but a bitter man in grief over his dead wife. And it gets much much worse ...
Bundle. Not a joyful, energetic adventuress anymore, but a bitter grown woman, calling herself an old spinster. A bit of a tomboy. Maybe we here have the unavoidable homosexual in these adaptations.
Virginia Revel. In this mess she is the second daughter of Lord Caterham and Bundle's sister. Why? For no reason other than change, change, change anything Mrs Christie once wrote.
Bill is more or less the man from the book, but since the story is completely changed, everything Bill does is also different.
George Lomax. Such potential from the character Christie created, and all the Strickruts could do with him was make him a whimsical, stiff and boring person.
Anthony Cade. Quite wrong. In the book he is cunning, clever, always two steps ahead, and it comes as no surprise in the end of the book, that he actually is a Prince in disguise and heir to the throne of Herzegovina. In the adaptation he is just a young man in love in a desperate situation, who needs Miss Marple to prove his innocence.
Most of the other characters are missing in the adaptation, and all the fun is gone with them. John Strickland and Paul Rutman finally hit the rock bottom they've been aiming for a long time when they decided to make the lovely Lord Caterham the murderer. Why? For no reason other than change, change, change. It can't be much worse than this. Oh, they can decide to make Miss Marple a man in a woman's body. Why not? Everything Agatha Christie created lacked something to make it really clever, so let's make some changes!
Looking for Richard (1996)
A wonderful walk with Richard and Al
A wonderful film in my experience. An American team of players and directors trying to dig into the material of an unpopular play by Shakespeare, telling the story of one of the least popular kings in the chain of kings. Richard III. To follow the search for the soul in this play, and to try to understand the story, is the object of these persons' hunt. Al Pacino is Pacino, walking around in baggy clothes being Pacino Himself. Still, he manage to always be intensely interested in digging into the bones of the story. Maybe he don't success truly in this, still he manage to show the sentral scenes of this play in a dramatic new and powerful way. The scenes of this film switch between artists reading in modern environments, interwievs with British Shakespearian educated players, and scenes with full dramatic costumes. From Richard III in this film, one of the scenes that made me shiver was the one where Richard pretends to be "hexed" by some people close to him, and get people in his own ranks to be arrested and executed, in pure paranoia, or just to get rid of them. From that scene and on he went to his own undergang. Al Pacino is turning into this pathetic, mean man, a hunchback in this play as well (according to history). In the end, Richard stand alone, and cry for "A horse!!!!" ....."My kingdom for a horse ...". And in this scene Pacino manage to show the downfall of Richard. Even if the play failes to tell why the Tudors killed him. This film is about the play by the Bard. Not a history lesson.
I should explain much better why I love this film so much. It's hard for me to explain the feeling this film gave me, and to my old parents. We knew the play, we have The Complete Works. But would never be snobbish about Shakespeare. I can't give a better explanation than this film showed me clever, extremely gifted people doing a very decent and heartfelt, even not brilliant, peace of work. I love it.