"Screen Two" Memento Mori (TV Episode 1992) Poster

(TV Series)


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Anything but deadly
banshee-liam26 April 2005
I have had the pleasure of reading many of Muriel Spark's novels and stories, the first being "The Abbess of Crewe," whose deadpan satire of Watergate made me laugh so hard that I thought my face might freeze into a mask of idiot's delight. "Nasty Habits," its unfortunate film version, was a disappointment. I therefore feared an even sadder fate would befall any screen treatment of "Memento Mori," which has long since become my favorite of Ms. Spark's works, having, I think, the most impressive balance of satire and warmth in her entire oeuvre.

I was delighted, then, when I saw the film broadcast on PBS. To this day I can't decide whether the lion's share of the credit for its brilliance belongs to Maggie Smith and her fellow actors or to the director or the screenwriters. It doesn't matter; it's not my place to judge.

However, I have always been at a loss to understand why this effectively lost masterpiece has not been available to the public after all this time. Surely PBS or BBC America could at least air it again, so that we happy few who were blessed to have caught it might at least record it off the TV.

In the meantime, we will have to subsist on our fond memories.

Heavy, heavy sigh.
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A Little Gem
taita23 August 2000
Remember You Must Die.....Hardly the sort of thing you expect to hear when you answer the telephone, but this is just what an elderly and somewhat eccentric circle of friends do hear from their mysterious caller. Only one of the circle is seriously upset by the constant calls, the rest deal with it in their own inimitable ways.

A retired inspector takes on the task of finding the source of the calls with extremely interesting results.

The cast of this little gem reads like a who's who of English theatre. Each actor plays their role to perfection, engendering delight and ire accordingly. There is much to entertain in this story, a little harmless sexual titillation from one old gent, tales of long past infidelities, blackmail, a dissolute son, a secret marriage and of course death itself.

This took no effort at all to watch.
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An absolute treasure...
fraserpatty27 June 2003
I wish I thought there were the slightest chance this little movie would come to DVD. Unfortunately, as one of the minor players on Masterpiece Theatre it never even got to vhs. Truly a pity. A study of the lives of a handful of upperclass, middle-aged/elderly folks made vunerable and fearful by the persistant calling of an anonymous caller reminding them to "remember, you must die," this movie has some of the most eccentric, loveable British actors/actresses--mostly, with the exception of Maggie Smith, unknown to Americans. Nevertheless, the Georges de la Rue music is wonderful, the acting is superb, and the story is at once quirky and poigant--anyone with elderly parents will be especially affected, I think. Get hold of it, if you are fortunate enough to find someone who had the common sense to tape it when it aired.
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Review of "Memento Mori"
mj-ek23 November 2006
I recently viewed a video of the BBC/Masterpiece Theatre version of Muriel Spark's marvellous novel. If anyone knows where I can get a copy of this excellent production, please let me know.

The plot concerns mysterious telephone calls which are received by a number of elderly persons. The caller simply states "Remember, you must die" and then hangs up. Naturally this frightens the old people, but it is important to note that this is not a depressing novel (or film). On the contrary, Muriel Spark uses her considerable skills to write a delightful satire about the fears and idiosyncrasies of old people.

The film starred many excellent British actors and adhered closely to the novel. Among the cast were Michael Hordern, Maggie Smith, Zoe Wannamaker, Thora Hird and John Wood. This film was the last work of the famed British director, Jack Clayton. I have been told that Maggie Smith won a British award for her performance and the music score has been highly praised.
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Suspicious telephone terror among dirty old men and old ladies of questionable gaga
clanciai23 August 2019
I read this book in the 70s and was puzzled by it and a little disturbed by the shocking intrusion of the murderer, who seemed a little out of place. Muriel Spark wrote it in her 40s and apparently meant it to be a kind of black comedy and had some fun writing it, visualizing the prospects of living circumstances around the 80s. However, the story and the plot is rather quirky, it doesn't make much sense, and when finally everything is explained, it becomes more weird than ever. There is though a bunch of all the best old English actors in here showing off at a very advanced age and all doing extremely well, although the prize goes to Renée Asherson as Charmian Colston, who is almost whisked away as a hopeless gaga case, which proves not to be the case. Maggie Smith, always excellent, is here for a change in a most abominable role, while Michael Hordern always is to his advantage as slightly gaga, and he ultimately becomes the winner. All the others are good also, and you will enjoy their party summoned by the police inspector on which occasion there is an unknown uninvited guest. This is a film to enjoy in all its unoffensive play with the always imminent presence of death.
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