Miss Marple is shocked when she receives a note from an old friend,Father Gorman only to read in the newspaper the very same day that he was murdered. He had attended a dying woman, Mrs. Davis, who died the previous evening and it was while he was on his way home that he was apparently attacked. The police have put it down to a mugging but the letter Miss Marple received from him intrigues her: a list of surnames and a quote from the bible. The policeman in charge of the case, Inspector Lejeune is skeptical about it all being a murder but when Miss Marple inspects Mrs. Davis' rooms, she finds an identical list to that sent to her by Father Gorman and also a reference to the Pale Horse Inn in Much Deeping, Hampshire. She soon checks into the inn and pursues her own investigation.Written by
Nicholas Parsons is no stranger to Miss Marple. He had previously appeared in a Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple film Murder Ahoy as Dr.Crump. See more »
Unless I am very much mistaken, the Inspector claimed he was ground-crew for Mr Easterbrook, who flew Lancaster bombers for 317 squadron: if so that is something of a goof, because 317 squadron flew fighters and was crewed by air-crew and ground-crew from Poland. See more »
August, qu'est-ce que tu bois? Shaw, Harmondsworth. God forgive me! Wickedness!
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Surprisingly dull and cluttered that failed to engage me for many reasons
I wasn't going to bother reviewing this film until I came onto IMDb to see what others had thought of it and found only one review. This one review essentially says "how awful is this going to be", which is a sentiment that the same user put on the title message board some months before she actually saw the film. Unsurprisingly she came out with the same opinion she went in with and, while this doesn't mean she is "wrong", it certainly makes me question what the film had to do to make her think otherwise since many of the criticisms she has of the film she had already made when the film was in post-production. Anyway, reviewing a review is a bit more meta than I intended it to be, so on to the film itself.
As any fan of Christie will tell you (well "shout" more than "tell"), ITV's Marple series is a travesty that should be dealt with before we get onto sorting out the many political and natural disasters in our world. The Pale Horse will do nothing to temper this cry since it is another book which doesn't feature Miss Marple and has been rewritten to do so. Not having read the book I cannot comment on this but I can sort of understand why anyone who loves this book would hate such a "butchered" version of it. On the other hand though, as long as it produces an enjoyable mystery drama for a Sunday (or on this occasion, Bank Holiday Monday) evening then I will be happy enough and will leave the "travesty" cries to others.
Sadly the truth is closer to the existing review than I would have liked because generally this isn't up to much. The central plot is a bit of nonsense and could easily have been played up for fun in the way that ITV did with The Moving Finger but surprisingly the colour and supernatural nature of the plot is actually delivered in a rather dull fashion. There doesn't seem to be a spark to it and there is an earnestness to it that nothing here justifies. The effect is to make it hard to care about what is going on – which is a bit of a problem in a film where you do need to pay attention so that, even if you don't totally follow it, at least you have fun being led round the streets during the telling. It is made worse by having quite a lot going on in what is a reasonably simple plot (once you get to the solution) – or if not a lot going on then certainly a lot of people milling around.
McKenzie does alright in the most part but personally I still cannot get over the fact that her Marple looks for all the world like Jim Broadbent doing panto. She is solid enough though and I think her delivery does deserve a strong film around her. Parsons makes a small appearance in a cast cluttered with UK TV "faces" such as Planer, Valance, Collins, Alexander and others. Some (Collins) are quite fun while others (Valance) just seem like unnecessary clutter. Generally though, there are too many faces making too little of an impression in a story that I was struggling to really care about. While some may focus their complaints on the film's merits as a version of the book, I personally find the problem with it to be that the version they did deliver was not particularly good – whether it is the same as the book or not is secondary to me and, had it worked, I wouldn't have cared.
Another thing worth noting is not really the film's fault, but I'll still mention it – adverts. I rarely watch "live" television. I'll record stuff to watch later or (mostly) I watch whole seasons from box-sets at a pace I decide. So watching this as it was broadcast was quite a thing because it was so fragmented by adverts. It is bad enough that 30 minutes of the 2 hours is adverts, but they are so frequent as well that it only served to hurt the film more. I realise that on commercial television these are needed to pay for things, but it did serve to remind me why I generally try and avoid stuff live.
I guess in some ways one should feel sorry for ITV. It has had this Marple series for some time now and, while I presume its Sunday night comfort-viewing slot gets viewers, I cannot think of many that I have really loved – "solid" is generally the best it gets and some of them are awful. This is in my mind because this Marple film came on shortly after the BBC finished its very well received (by critics and viewers) updating of Sherlock Holmes – a show that was engaging, fun, entertaining and accessible. Those worried about the future of ITV must only have more to think about when they contrast Sherlock with this rather dry, dull and cluttered film here.
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