When troubled war veteran Jerry Burton and his sister Joanna relocate to the quiet little village of Lymstock in order to allow Jerry to recuperate from injuries received in what he claims is a motorcycle accident, they are expecting nothing more than country sleepiness and tedium. Much to their surprise, however, they find themselves embroiled in the middle of scandal and secrets; someone is sending vicious poison-pen letters to the residents. A local dignitary has already taken his own life over the letters, and it's not long before local gossip Mona Symmington also commits suicide after receiving a letter. But when the letter-writer apparently resorts to murder, Jerry finds his curiosity stoked despite himself, and he's not the only one; Miss Jane Marple is also in Lymstock, and she's decided that it's long past time someone got to the bottom of this unpleasant business.Written by
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it. From The Rubiyyat of Omar Kayyam See more »
The episode is set in 1952. Characters are seen smoking filter-tipped cigarettes from hard card cartons. Filter tips were considered a speciality item until 1954, and only became widely popular from the 1960s. The hard carton with flip top was not introduced until 1955. See more »
You know, it's striking me as most extraordinary irony that you managed to survive the war with such flying colors yet seem to find the peace so defeating.
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Hardly one for the Christie traditionalists but gaudy, surprisingly lively and strangely entertaining
Having survived a motorcycle accident/suicide attempt with only two broken legs, Jerry Burton comes to the quiet village of Lymstock to recuperate in peace. However being introduced around the village Jerry and his sister Joanna quickly get to hear everyone's dirty secrets and benefit from the gossiping that comes with any afternoon tea. However this is just the superficial stuff because underneath most of the village is receiving poison pen letters. When Mrs Symmington, one of the village's residents, commits suicide as a result of one such letter, things become more serious and accusations are flying between everyone. Luckily the houseguest at the vicarage is none other than the unassuming Miss Marple (visiting following a suicide of an old acquaintance), who may be able to help cast some light on the situation.
Opening a backdrop that makes no attempt at reality, then flashing up a gaudy title cad followed by a sequence that is washed out apart from blood red colours a la Sin City I knew that this film was not going to have much in common with the old BBC Miss Marple series than I know. This was my first shot at the new ITV version of Miss Marple (or "Marple" as they have called it in a fit of modernism) and I wasn't sure quite what to expect once the first few minutes had thrown me off my stride. The mood did settle down after that but the tone was still very much of a lively modern mystery rather than the drier and more repressed drama from the BBC. I'm not sure this is an entirely welcome thing but it did at least make it more suitable for Sunday night viewing.
The plot follows Jerry as much as it does Miss Marple and it perhaps says more about my feelings towards McEwan than anything else but I felt this was quite a good thing. It also allows us (the audience) to encounter the clues at the same time as Jerry and not have to have them all put together there and then. This device worked reasonably well although I didn't think the mystery was developed that well. The nature of the telling is good though as it is entertaining, bright and lively. The direction and production helps because rather than being dry, everything is colourful and full, meanwhile the visual style is more adventurous than the earlier series would have suggested possible.
The cast continues this "big and bold" theme by basically having loads of famous names in it from main characters right down to lesser roles. Personally I'm not sure about McEwan as Miss Marple; she doesn't suit the role and she doesn't convince me that she is that smart or cunning in the way Hickson did, although she is still good value. D'Arcy is fairly good as the main leading actor, he is quite interesting and doesn't push to steal the film from anyone else. The support cast are heaving at the sides and demonstrates such eclectic casting that I couldn't help but be taken in. The material seems to have been evenly spread which means no one person stands out that much. Allen is fun in a simple "bumbling detective" style role, while Enfield, Brook, Fox, Stubbs, Sessions, Russell, de la Tour and others easily fill out the film with plenty of good turns.
A strangely modern Marple then but quite enjoyable at that. The narrative is solid enough and produces a reasonably good mystery to work with but it is the cast and the generally lively production that sticks in the memory and makes this better than it should have been. I struggled with McEwan because Marple has always been a bit drier in my mind but I must admit that this glossy production was hard to dislike for what it did.
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