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

Thursday, June 17, 2010


MISS MARPLE: THE MIRROR CRACK'D FROM SIDE TO SIDE (2010/Masterpiece Mystery). Director: Tom Shankland.

"I wouldn't hold my breath for a sequel."

This is the third adaptation of Agatha Christie's 1962 Miss Marple novel that was inspired by an incident in the life of actress Gene Tierney [there have been two television adaptations and one theatrical film]. Film star Marina Gregg (Lindsay Duncan), fresh from a nervous breakdown, is starting a new film in England and has just moved into the former home of Dolly Bantry (Joanna Lumley). At an elegant affair that Gregg gives in her new home, the comparatively dowdy Heather Badcock (Caroline Quentin) tells her that she left a sick bed just to see her years ago, and a few minutes afterward is dead by poison. Who want want to murder the self-absorbed if inoffensive Mrs. Badcock -- or was the real target Marina Gregg as she insists? Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie, who only seems slightly over middle age and not that "elderly") investigates and seems to come up with a solution without hardly ever leaving her home. Despite a clever and entertaining premise, the novel was not necessarily one of Christie's better ones [the writer couldn't resist one last twist that defied credibility and is generally left out of the adaptations, as it is in this one] but this adaptation is much worse, and isn't even especially entertaining. McKenzie makes an acceptable Miss Marple, Duncan is more than acceptable as Marina, and an overblown Lumley acts as if she thinks that she's still appearing in her series Absolutely Fabulous or that she's playing the movie star. [She certainly doesn't come off as Dolly Bantry, who appeared in more than one Christie novel.] Although Marina's husband is described as being ugly and clown-like in the novel, he's played in this by handsome Nigel Harman. Samuel Barnett makes an impression as Sgt. Tiddler, as does Quentin as the unfortunate Heather Badcock. The whole thing seems disjointed and poorly put together.

Verdict: An unfortunate Christie adaptation that won't garner her any more fans. **.

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