ADAPTATIONS x2, so purists that do not accept changes from an author's novel will be disappointed. There are alterations for new generations, to fit TV feature-length presentations. These changes seem to work. Much fun in watching them both and trying to decide which version, 1996 or 2010, has the better cast, writing, location, music, etc. My review is for entertainment value of an adapted Agatha Christie story, "The Pale Horse", and not concerned with the TV requirement to eliminate characters, or parts to fit a TV need. The book has proven to be a 1961 success for the former author. It was written toward the end of her writing career and as a book has won its own reward.
PALE HORSE 2010 has what the other DVD and book does not have. Miss Jane Marple is not original, but added by screenplay writer Russell Lewis. This British Marple heroine is a TV favorite to A.Christie fans so it is a delight to see Marple (Julia McKenzie-`Cranford') brought to life solving another case, along with CI Lejeune (Neil Pearson-`Bridget Jones'). The Pale Horse is a struggling inn with 2 witch owners and 1 with cleaning lady. The 3 `modern' witches are Thyrza (Pauline Collins "Thomas & Sarah' `Upstairs Downstairs'); Sybil (Susan Lynch-`Amongst Women' `Elizabeth The Golden Age'); & Bella (Jenny Galloway). A very famous 1996 witch is Thyrza (Jean Marsh-`Upstairs Downstairs').
A lady dies; a priest has a list of names (7 in 2010, 6 in 1996) which gets him murdered. Marple gets mailed one list. In 1996, a passerby, Easterbrook (Colin Buchanan-`Dalziel & Pascoe') gets the murderer tag and must use the list to find the real killer. Easterbrook is the godson of one on the list in 2010. Both versions have an Osbourne, (JJ Field-`Northanger Abbey') in the 2010, and (Tim Potter-`Miss Pettigrew' `Finding Neverland') in 1996.
People die because a bookie ('10 Bill Patterson-`Wives & Daughters' `Traffik')('96 Leslie Phillips-`Venus' `Harry Potter') bets on when a person dies, a hit-man skirting the law. He incorporates innocent helpers: market canvasser, The Pale Horse witches, and more to get the job done. So it's quite a complex mix of characters and roles in these deaths that cause such a difficult serial murder case. The names and deaths alter slightly between the versions, but both work well. There's a bit of romance tied into the '96 writing with Jayne Ashbourne (`The Grand' `Young Indiana Jones') taking a lead role. Other notables worth mentioning are `10s Kerrigan (Jason Merrells-`Lark Rise to Candleford'); and `96s Sgt Corrigan (Andy Serkis-'Little Dorrit' `Lord of the Rings').
Bottom line: 2 GREAT casts. 2 GOOD versions.
Sets are stunning, but I liked the newer version best, a place called Much Deeping in Hampshire. It is placed in the year 1955 through a witch's dialogue, while the 1996 version was set in 1964 based on pages in a guest register (Book written in 1961). Both have good music, and picture quality.
I think Agatha would have loved both of these adaptations. She saw many of her books turned into TV, mostly Miss Marple and Poirot mysteries. The Pale Horse would have made her proud to see on TV in both 1996 and 2010.
2010 disc has SUBTITLES while the 1996 disc has none. Bonus is Agatha's text bio and 4 cast filmographies in the '96 version. 2010= 89 min; 1996= 101 min.
Agatha Christie TV film fans will be delighted. Some book lovers, not obsessing over changes, will also enjoy the entertaining mystery adaptations of a great novel. Two versions from the same book is fun, like comparing the different versions of Emma, Brideshead Revisited, A Christmas Carol, etc.