The normally friendly village of Lymston is plagued by vile anonymous letters. When a mother of three takes her own life, following such a letter, Ms. Marple is not at all convinced things are as they seem.
A friend of Miss Marple's sees a woman being strangled in a passing train. When police cannot find a body and doubt the story, Miss Marple enlists professional housekeeper, Lucy Eyelesbarrow, to go undercover.
While on vacation at a resort hotel in the West Indies, Miss Marple correctly suspects that the apparently natural death of a retired British major is actually the work of a murderer planning yet another killing.
When a despised magistrate is found shot to death in the library of the local vicarage, his wife and her lover, a portrait painter living on the church grounds, both confess to the crime. Miss Marple's keen powers of observation clear both of them of the crime, but other suspects abound. Included are the murdered man's daughter, who posed for the artist, a neurotic cleric who's embezzled church funds, the local doctor, an ex-convict who poached on the magistrate's land, and a missionary's enigmatic widow who argued with him the day before he was killed. An exasperated Inspector Slack must reluctantly accept help from the analytical Miss Marple.Written by
Gabe Taverney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Robert Lang (Colonel Lucius Protheroe) was omitted from the closing credits even though his name appeared in the opening titles and he played a significant role in the opening scenes before his character was murdered. See more »
The underlying problem with this version of Murder at the Vicarage is that the producers took it out of order. Murder at the Vicarage was Agatha's Christie's first adventure with Miss Marple. This edition was evidently produced later in the series. Here, Miss Marple is used to being involved, and police are used to consulting her, however much they resent having to do so. The script is rather heavy-handed, moving quickly from one incident to another with little or no set-up. And while the original novel does this as well, it doesn't spring things on us totally out of the blue. Joan Hickson is most probably the Miss Marple that Agatha Christie envisioned - more so than Margaret Rutherford or Helen Hayes, for example, but the rest of the production is not. True, a 200+ page novel had to be condensed into one hour and 42 minutes. This is never easy, but it has often been done successfully. Not here. The writers needed to capture the leisurely and still foreboding small village atmosphere early on. They didn't, and it makes the necessarily hurried plot revelations seem even more so. This results in far too many smug reaction shots, far too many exchanges of dialogue dripping with "significance", far too many scenes which could have been cut to a few lines of dialogue, freeing up the pace for more insightful exchanges elsewhere. (For example, the secondary priest subplot is reduced to an obligatory afterthought here. It was more prominent in the novel, but its lack of necessity here is obvious. The bit with the vicar's car is also totally unneeded; he rides his bicycle the rest of the time, anyway.) Overall, Miss Marple is reduced to an almost supporting player, which of course she is in many of the Christie novels, but one whose presence is always felt whether she is on scene or not. That isn't true here, at least until the end, and it should be.
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