Agatha Christie's Miss Marple (1984-1985)
Review by Dindrane

Written by Alan Plater and T.R. Bowen, based on the novels of Agatha Christie
Directed by David Giles, Guy Slater, Silvio Narizzano
Starring Joan Hickson, Samantha Bond, Peter Davidson, Joan Sims, Gwen Watford, John Castle, Paola Dionisotti, Elaine Ives-Cameron, Kevin Whately, Timothy West, and Jon Glover


Rating: NR; suitable for 10+

Anamorphic: N/A

My Advice: Own it if you're a Christie fan, rent it if you're not.

In “The Body in the Library,” the first of the three discs, the peace of a fine country home is shaken by the discovery of a body in the gentleman’s library. The family who owns the country home in question denies all knowledge of the woman, much less the killing of her. Lucky for the lady of the house that she has a friend in Miss Marple, who is soon on the scene and unearthing clues as widespread as a freewheeling theatre man, his blond friend, an elderly man in search of a replacement daughter, and a far-flung cast of characters. When a second murder is discovered, Miss Marple knows she must solve this case quickly, or there will soon be a third.

“A Murder is Announced” is a very clever mystery featuring a particularly cheeky murderer. In this one, an ad appears in a newspaper, inviting anyone to come and witness a murder. But instead of the game they expect, three gunshots herald a real murder. Will Miss Marple be able to solve this crime before the killer strikes again?

In “A Pocketful of Rye,” nursery rhymes are the key to this intriguing mystery. A much disliked wealthy man is discovered dead, soon followed by the murder of his lovely young wife. Is it a poisoning? And how do nursery rhymes tie into the murderer’s thoughts?

Hickson does a marvelous job as Miss Marple. She is adept at making the dowager just a wee bit too excited by death and knowledgeable about the evil in men’s souls, without being far too creepy to watch or like. The supporting actors are similarly skilled at presenting the usual cast of characters and bringing them to life without seeming hackneyed or dull.

The only real problem with this DVD set is the video transfer. It doesn’t seem to have been cleaned up at all, so the result is that it looks about like it would have on TV, or perhaps a wee bit worse. Scenes are often a shadowy or murky, and there was some crackling and dirt on the film in places. A few sunnier scenes were rather washed out, also. The transfer wasn’t bad exactly, just not very good.

Another problem I found was that each mystery is arranged into three parts, as they were shown on TV. While providing them this way on the disc is a kind of veracity, it’s also rather irritating to DVD viewers, who can’t watch the entire mystery all the way through without seeing credits, etc. in the middle of the action. There should at least be an option to skip these breaks in the film’s train of thought, but there isn’t.

All in all, mystery fans will want to have this collection for the love of Christie and Miss Marple. Just be aware that the digital quality could have been better and that there’s little in the way of extras (unlike the Poirot discs) or fluff. However, three very long, well-done mysteries in one collection are nice to have. If you’re not already an Agatha Christie fan, check out this collection and learn for yourself the joys of her writing.

Buy it from Amazon!
Buy the novel The Body in the Library from Amazon!
Buy the novel A Murder is Announced from Amazon!
Buy the novel A Pocketful of Rye from Amazon!

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