Because stars can get packaging and content mixed up, I always use stars for content. The product can be described in the review. In this case many people are disappointed with the quality of the recordings. I am concerned with the availability and for one am glad to get a copy while they are still being published.
The Moving Finger:
Mrs. Cleat has a nose for the nasty.
Naturally, if they kept the subplots and characterization the same as the book, this movie would be a mini series. However they did do a good job of consolidating characters and sticking to the main points of the story. Even if you have read the book you will enjoy watching the movie.
One of the plusses of this movie is the character that plays Edward Symmington (Michael Culver.) He is in several other English films and plays Prior Robert in the Brother Cadfael Series.
One of the minuses of this movie is the Lisa Doolittle scene; it is totally out of character for aunt Jane films.
You have the characteristic mystery and the usual (or unusual) suspects. Aunt Jane is confronted with a problem that may snowball into murder if she does not figure it out in time. But as everyone says, "Ask Miss Marple. She usually has the right answer."
Jason Rafiel's last wish
Millionaire Jason Rafiel of whom we met in the in the movie "A Caribbean Mystery (1989) leaves a last wish before he dies. He wants Miss Marple to look into the accusation that his son murdered a girl. He leaves her a considerable sum and a bus ticket regardless of what she finds.
Naturally we get all the clues but only Aunt Jane can make sense out of them.
Murder at the Vicarage:
Aunt Jane sees it all
"Murder at the Vicarage" starts out with important information scenes and a missing one pound note. As Reverend Leonard Clement (Paul Eddington) passes the hedge hiding Miss Jane Marple (Joan Hickson), he expresses an ill chosen explicative to describe Colonel Lucius Protheroe (Robert Lang).
Yep, there is a murder at the vicarage, which is conveniently located in plane sight of Miss Marple. Everyone has a motive and nobody had opportunity. You and Detective Inspector Slack (David Horovitch) must sort through all the sub plots and confessions to find out what happened.
At Bertram's Hotel:
Muffins vs. tea cakes with raisins
It is not easy comparing movies to books, especially Agatha Christie's novels. However this one has the feel and just the right actors. There is great attention to detail.
If you have the nagging feeling that you saw Chief Inspector Fred Davy (George Baker) before it may be that he has been in at least 100 movies and shows, recently as Detective Chief Inspector Wexford in Ruth Rendell Mysteries.
Bertram's Hotel is just how Jane remembered it as a child. She soon comes to the conclusion that it is to good to be true. The Chief Inspector is of the same mind. This film has several overlying plots. However just being in the hotel will distract you from them.
So get out your muffins, sit up in bed and watch "At Bertram's Hotel."
They Do It with Mirrors:
The answer to the riddle is in the title.
Once again Aunt Jane has to sort things out when a friend Ruth asks her to look in on her sister, Carrie Louise. You anticipate that Carrie has had it. And you meet many unbalanced and seedy characters. While you are watching you can miss the whole thing as they do it with mirrors.
Just side notes that the still pictures from this movie are on the back of the video sheath of "Murder at the Vicarage"
Well paced and the perfect English actors to match each part.
Says Professor Wanstead to Miss Jane Marple (Joan Hickson) after the murderer has been discovered, "So Mr. Rafiel's faith in his son is justified after all." "Oh, no, Professor," Miss Marple replies, "it wasn't like that at all. Mr. Rafiel wanted justice for the dead girl, even if it meant the sacrifice of his son." "Do you think he considered that," the Professor asks. "Oh, yes," Miss Marple says. "He knew I wouldn't flinch, even if it meant sending Michael to the gallows. He called me 'Nemesis,' you know, and he wasn't being entirely humorous."
Nor should any murderer underestimate this slightly frail, inquisitive and observant old woman, long a resident of the English village of St. Mary Mead, who is given to wearing tweeds and sensible shoes, often knitting and frequently gardening. Miss Marple has a mind as logical as a trap. As she says, "It's very dangerous to believe people. I haven't for years." When murder has been done, those aged eyes see things, especially in the behavior and habits of those around her, which lead to retribution. As played by Joan Hickson, Miss Marple is invariably courteous and very much of the old school when it comes to manners. She may occasionally offer advice, but is remarkably realistic. "Good advice is almost certain to be ignored," she says, "but that's no reason for not giving it." She may take part in a bit of gossip, but almost always she is giving a bit of information in order to get even more back. Hickson's Miss Marple is not without empathy or friends, but she essentially is a person quite satisfied to do her gardening. She does not twinkle. And nowhere are Miss Marple's defining qualities of logic, persistence and seriousness of purpose better displayed than in Nemesis (1987), one of the five made-for-television movies in Agatha Christie's Miss Marple - Set Two.
Mr. Rafiel, a wealthy man who knew Jane Marple years before, has died. She was notified at his death that he had a request...would she take a tour-bus excursion, visit the places on the tour and see if anything seems...well, curious? He describes no crime, he gives no clues. Perhaps there was no crime; he leaves it up to Miss Marple. And Jane Marple decides to honor his wish. She is surprised to learn a number of others also have signed for the tour because of Mr. Rafiel's request; some received money to encourage them. Gradually, Miss Marple learns the story of a young girl who disappeared, another young girl who was killed, of Rafiel's son who loved one of them and then vanished, of three sisters living in a decaying mansion...and of an overwhelming atmosphere of love, sadness and regret. Miss Marple, in her quiet and relentless way, learns the truth and then sees to it that justice, after all the years, is done while she gazes steadily at the murderer.
Nemesis is no British cozy.
The other four stories in this set may not quite reach the emotional depth of Nemesis, but they all are fine mysteries. They share complex and twisting plots, excellent acting, and a general seriousness of intention. Above all, they share the incomparable and defining performance of Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. Bear in mind that Hickson was already 78 when she starred in the earliest mystery of this set, The Moving Finger, and 85 in the set's latest, They Do it With Mirrors. Hickson filmed all 12 of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple books; her 12th and last Marple, at age 86, was The Mirror Crack'd (1992). She died after a long career in British theater and movies at age 92 in 1998.
Finishing out Set Two are: The Moving Finger (1985), when vicious poison pen letters disrupt lives and lead to murder; Murder at the Vicarage (1986), when faith and patience are sorely tested, and a murderous plot catches Miss Marple's interest; At Bertram's Hotel (1987), when Miss Marple discovers what never seems to change has, and not for the better; and They Do It With Mirrors (1991), when ambition and certitude overcome even love. Among the many fine actors taking part in these films, keep an eye out for Joan Greenwood, Jean Simmons, Joss Ackland, Margaret Tysack, Michael Culver, Caroline Blakiston, Paul Eddington, George Baker and Cheryl Campbell.
These Miss Marple films run about 1' 40" each. They are not only fine and satisfying mysteries, in a morbid way they are also great fun. Extras include biographies of Agatha Christie and Joan Hickson, plus an index of all of the Miss Marple stories. The quality of the DVD color transfers is that of decent VHS tapes. A couple look just a little faded, but nothing that gets in the way of enjoyment.