Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Pretty good, but a couple of quibbles
The episode is based on a story from The Old Man in the Corner series by Baroness Orczy, who also wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel. If you like period mysteries, it's worth a watch, so I give it a moderate recommendation. However, I do have two quibbles. The first is that in taking the story to television, the writers/director saw fit to eliminate the Old Man character, and replace him with Polly's old uncle, barrister Sir Somethingorother. This allows them to present a trial drama, but subtracts the charm of the Old Man character. It's not so different from doing a Sherlock Holmes story without Holmes. I appreciate that when literature is turned into drama, it may need to be modified, but I don't understand how it is that random television writers and directors think they can tell a story better than authors whose work has stood the test of time.
Second, I'll flirt with a spoiler here. The ending of the story is of the shake-your-head variety. It involves the scene in which the killer is 'caught,' and just makes no sense. I really don't like spoiler reviews, so I won't give details, but the set-up and the outcome are both beyond implausible. And after sitting through the entire episode, which was reasonably well done, considering, such endings are a real disappointment.
For anyone interested in the Old Man in the Corner stories, I highly recommend the BBC radio versions, which can be heard on BBC4 Extra online on a rotating basis. I actually found them better than the stories themselves, which I put down after reading just two or three. Check this link to see if they are available at the current time: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4extra/programmes/genres/drama/current
The Ninth Guest (1934)
Pretty good in its genre
This movie just became available on YouTube. This is an adaptation of the book The Invisible Guest, and follows a similar plot to Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, while predating it by almost ten years. The plot is simple - people have been invited to a party by an unknown host, and are being killed off for their 'crimes.' In an interesting twist on the genre, this story is set in a modern penthouse apartment rather than a dark old house. And while the 'second butler' is introduced for laughs, he is on the screen for a mercifully short time.
Don't expect a lot here - I gave it a '6', thinking it's just above neutral. I did watch it to the end, but I wasn't always engaged, and the clunky romance element didn't help it much. Also in its favor, in a negative sense, there was no bumbling police to spoil what there is of drama. Worth a watch for those who like the genre, but not something you'll watch a second time.
The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935)
Couldn't get past 27 minutes
I gave this movie a try on YouTube, which is a real test. After all, I can always hit Pause and surf the web for something else. I finally gave up on this one at about 27 minutes, when the shouting, buffoonish detective drove me away.
Let's have a look at it. The lead character, Ellery Queen, is on vacation and doesn't want to get involved. Now there's a cliché that was old when the movie was made. Unfortunately, I never find any reason to like Queen. He's just not played in an engaging manner. The fact that he - a young man - has gone on vacation for weeks with a guy who looks older than his father, just made me scratch my head. Was there really no other way to get him to the scene of the crime? Then comes the police detective, who needs to shout every line the script has given him. At half an hour in, I just wasn't hooked on the story, and I'm perfectly willing to write that time off to save myself from wasting even more.
Follow the money
In Christie's stories, the detectives frequently ask after a murder "Who benefits?" Here, we have The Case of the Mutilated Christie Story, and I ask myself, who benefits from this terrible mess? Obviously not the viewers. It's all about the money, folks. The producers paid for the rights to the Christie/Marple name, and they're going to milk it to death.
I wouldn't particularly care if they produced a Christie/Marple pastiche that worked. I watched all the Hickson Marples and Suchet Poirots before reading any of the stories, and I never considered whether the television version accurately tracked the books. In this case, I have read the Sitteford Mystery, so I know that the damage that's been done is double.
First, it's just not a particularly engrossing story. In fact, I didn't bother finishing watching the entire episode - I found it that bad. On top of that, of course, I now know that the television dramatization had nothing to do with the book. Nothing.
I could understand the effort to shoehorn Miss Marple into this story - because I understand greed. They have a popular franchise, and they want to squeeze every possible drop of blood from that rock. What I don't understand is doing it so incompetently. Not only does the story have nothing to do with the book, but the woman playing Miss Marple has nothing to do with Miss Marple.
I was totally puzzled by the 6.5 rating on this episode - particularly because the fist two pages of reviews I looked at were all 1s or 2s. So I checked back to the earliest review and found 9s and 10s. Can I be the only one who finds this suspicious?
Strangers of the Evening (1932)
I lost interest
I'm a fan of Zasu Pitts, so then this came up on YouTube, I jumped. Zasu doesn't show up until the second half of the film - I call that false advertising. Today's audience should not expect comedy. There are scenes that hint at mild amusement, but don't expect more. It seems as if the writers came up with scenes with comic potential, but didn't know how to pay it off. 1932 was early in the talkie era, and they just hadn't worked out timing yet. There's a lot of the talk-pause acting that made the earliest talkies stiff to later audiences. I just didn't find this movie worth finishing - even when Zasu finally made her entrance.
Murder at Midnight (1931)
I'm a fan of this genre, and even I had trouble watching this film through to the end. After quite a bit of pausing on YouTube to do other things, eventually I did. This is an early talkie, and it shows. The plot drags, and much of the dialog is stilted. Some scenes come right off the stage, with that 'stand around and talk' feeling you get from plays of the era. There are multiple murders, but I found it difficult to care as each suspect was killed. I think the biggest problem was the lack of charismatic characters, either detectives or villains. Imagine an early Charlie Chan film without Charlie. There wasn't even the Dark Old House element to keep this one interesting. I think if it had been made three years later, it would have been significantly better.
As I said, I did watch this one, and if you're a fan of the 1930s murder mystery genre, it's worth a look. Some other reviewers clearly think more of it than I do, so you may find it more appealing than me. I just find it a big step down from The Kennel Murder Case and The Dark Hour.
The Body Vanished (1939)
Fun little murder mystery
While this film clocks in at a brief 46 minutes, that fact shouldn't be held against it. There's certainly no padding here - it moves along quite well. A Scotland Yard inspector and a newspaper reporter are traveling on vacation, and come upon a murder without a corpse. A bumbling local bobby provides comic relief that's not too overdone, and a lovely young woman floats in and out of the plot. Don't expect Christie quality in the story line, but by 1939, they had learned to keep the plot moving, and avoid the talkie-ness of the early 1930s movies. You won't find a lot or red herrings to keep you wondering, but if you let the story come to you, you may find it quite enjoying. I watched it on Youtube, and consider it a well spent hour.
Death at Broadcasting House (1934)
Not great, but not bad
I always give early-1930s movies the benefit of the doubt, and I'm doing so here. An actor working alone in a radio studio room is murdered while reading his lines (in which his character is murdered). Someone in the studio building at the time killed him, but whom? There are only a few possible culprits, and most aren't very well defined characters. A few years later, this probably could have been a very good movie, but it's barely passable here. I suspect much of the appeal of this film when it was released came from the behind-the-scenes look at a working radio studio, with actors in multiple rooms, and orchestra in another, and crew in still others. You even get a song and a dance number, although the appeal of a dance number on radio, including dancers in full costume, escapes me.
If you enjoy 1930s crime/mysteries, then this is worth a watch. The detective doesn't define himself particularly well, but the genre plays out reasonably true to form. I gave it a 6 for slightly better than average.
Foyle's War: Fifty Ships (2003)
I've given this episode a seven out of ten, which I consider a well-spent night's entertainment, if not great drama. Foyle's son doesn't show up here, but the stolid Foyle does meet an old flame, with predictable results. The first reviewer complained about the American accent attempted by one of the actors. This seems a minor criticism to me, considering that American actors must surely mangle British accents in the same way. It's a British production, made with British actors for a British audience, and I see no need for perfection in foreign accents. I'm far more concerned when I see, whether in books or television, Americans portrayed as characters I don't recognize. One would wonder, based on such portrayals, how Americans manage to tie their shoes in the morning, much less run a modern industrial nation. In this case, the character is a perfectly reasonable one.
Of particular note to me was the pairing as husband and wife of Clive Merrison and Janine Duvitski, both familiar to me in single roles - Merrison in BBC4's series as Sherlock Holmes, and Duvitski as the always-abused assistant to the manager of an old age home in Waiting for God. Now there's an interesting combination.
Why the negativity?
I'm surprised by the generally negative reviews for this production. Some reviewers seem to want the writers to re-write history to replicate an Agatha Christie story. The fact is, this story was based on reality, not on Christie's tropes and formulas. The fact is, sometimes crimes work out as this one did, with an unsatisfying ending. The detective doesn't call all the suspects to a meeting where he reveals his genius at deduction, or cause the suspect to reveal him/herself in dramatic fashion.
I found this well acted and well written. Not great, but quite good, and well worth the watching. Maybe if Captain Hastings' grandfather had showed up for comic relief, more people would have liked it. Personally, I found the straight drama well done and satisfying.