Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS


BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS (2006 telefilm). Director: Peter Medak. Shown on Mystery on PBS.

"It wasn't your poor child?"

Presented as part of the "Miss Marple" series, this is actually based on Agatha Christie's novel of the same name -- in which Miss Marple does not appear. Pricking was actually a mystery in which the protagonists, included in the telefilm along with the old gal, were Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, who had previously appeared in other Christie works. The pair visit a grouchy aunt in a nursing home when another woman asks Tuppence about a "child" and intimates that one was murdered long ago. When this woman disappears, Tuppence becomes concerned about her and asks Miss Marple for her help in tracking her down. From then on the story only bears a passing resemblance to the far superior one in Christie's clever novel, although screenwriter Stewart Harcourt retains some elements and has added some depth to the characterizations [he's also made Tuppence a closet drinker]. The story has been pushed back to war time, making it a period piece, which the novel definitely wasn't. However, this is an entertaining alternate version that is reasonably satisfying as a mystery. Anthony Edwards plays Tommy, but he appears very little. Geraldine McEwan is quite good as Marple, as is Greta Scacchi as a middle-aged Tuppence. Charles Dance nearly walks off with the movie as the minister Septimus Bligh. I didn't even realize that was Claire Bloom playing Aunt Ada until I saw the cast list.

Verdict: Not genuine Christie, but entertaining on its own terms. ***.

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