Miss Marple is a noticing kind of elderly woman who lives in the Village of Saint Mary Mead. Occasionally she travels hither and thither to visit friends or take advantage of a lovely trip planned by a nephew. She always has her knitting needles in hand, working on a baby blanket or a sweater for a nephew. Jane Marple--Godmother and Aunt to several young people--I wish I had known her personally--but this is the next best thing after the books. "There she goes, tail up and head down" on the trail of another murderer--and she will get her man or woman as the case may be.
I agree with the reviewer who said one doesn't buy these DVDs with the expectation of Criterion remastering. Even so, the quality of the films on these DVDs is pretty darn good. I collect Criterion DVDs and expect them to be the fully restored works of art they are. However, some of the films Criterion has restored were so badly damaged they are NOT better than the Miss Marple films even when Criterion has done it's best. Also, many of the Criterion films are Black and White films from the 1930s and 1940s and of interest because of their filmography and/or the innovative techniques their directors employed. Some of these films were shot on a shoestring budget and it shows. Technology has improved dramatically since the 40s. The reason I buy the older Criterion films is to see how clever directors worked around technological constraints.
Call me blind, but I think the quality of the Miss Marple tv films is pretty good. Although some outdoor scenes are faded in spots (the films were shot in color) the director had access to camerawork not available in the 40s. Also, these scripts are excellent and filled with interesting detail. Most Criterion films average 1-2 hours of playing time (not counting the "perks" which you may or may not be interested in) whereas Series 2 of the Miss Marple films offers the viewer 500 wonderful minutes.
I am grateful that I have access to DVD copies of the Miss Marple stories, and I can watch them any time I want to. When I am watching them, I am reminded of life in the days when I was a young girl. Plus, today's tv entertainment is pretty much directed to the younger set whereas the Miss Marple films are probably better appreciated by older folks like me who lived through the forties and fifties--or younger folks who wish they had.
The British actors in the BBC productions are consumate professionals. Joan Hickson was told by Agatha Chistie that she thought Hickson was the BEST Miss Marple ever! Incidentally, I believe Ms. Hickson appears in the Criterion version of THE LADY VANISHES and I know she is in one of the Margaret Rutherford films. If you've read Christie's novels, you know Hickson fits the description of Miss Marple far better than Margaret Rutherford. Christie described Miss Marple as tall and thin with fine white hair and twinkly blue eyes--a gentle person in a cardigan sweater carrying a bag with her knitting needles and latest project--not an agressive broad in a tweed suit. Many other fine British actors are featured in these films--Joss Ackland, Claire Bloom, Rosemary Crutchly all favorites of mine who can out perform the "mega" stars any day of the week.
I love the vintage settings, costumes, clothing, china, knick-knacks and bric-a-brac, jewelry, shoes, hats, handbags, luggage, handkerchiefs--nothing is missing. I still own a handkerchief sachet with hand embroidered handkerchiefs my grandmother made --and one makes a very important appearance in a Miss Marple tale. The BBC maintains a museum in Stratford on Avon where one can view the costumes and other props used in various productions. The Miss Marple films give me a vicarious thrill and a trip down memory lane. Tea anyone??
I buy them because I love the character of Miss Marple and especially the quality performance of Joan Hickson.
Further, comparing Hickson's performance of Miss Marple with Ms. Rutherford's (these were MGM British production in the mid-1960's and were made to be campy and funny--remember at least one of the movies made was originally an Hercule Poirot story) is like comparing Lord Laurence Olivier's portrayal of Henry V to something that John Cleese might do (heaven forbid!).
So, take the quality as they are, relax and enjoy. If you want true digital quality, we must purchase anything that is produced from the original negative rather than a positive copied, and from a true, reputable producer of DVDs ...