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The best and worst of Marple
on 17 March 2011
Christie purists may not be amused by what has gone on here.
'The Pale Horse' is a travesty of the original story, and not a patch on the adaptation with Colin Buchanan, Hermione Norris and Ruth Madoc. People who want a genuine thrill with suspense, pathos and atmosphere should try to track down that earlier version. Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse [DVD]
'The Secret of Chimneys' was even worse, possibly the worst Marple adaptation I've ever seen. It is a shame that the writer appeared not to realise that this story has a sequel of sorts, with several characters returning in 'The Seven Dials Mystery'. Novel: The Seven Dials Mystery (Agatha Christie Signature Edition) DVD: Agatha Christie's The Seven Dials Mystery [DVD] But the new plot made a nonsense of this. Stock Christie cliches are lazily shoe-horned into a nonsensical plot that has none of the wit and humour of the original 1920s-set story: The Secret of Chimneys (Agatha Christie Signature Edition) Worst of all, the killer's identity is changed. Surely heresy, by anyone's standard.
As a result I was hardly looking forward to 'The Mirror Crack'd' but it was an unexpected delight. Lindsay Duncan was perfectly cast as Marina. The story was faithful to the novel without being slavish. There was just the right mix of camp fun and tragedy.
The omens then were mixed for 'The Blue Geranium', based on a short story in the collection: 'The Thirteen Problems.' But it was excellent. The story was tightly plotted, and although the scriptwriter invented a swirl of other stories to camouflage the central plot, this was done extremely skilfully. This, to me, seems a much better prospect for the ongoing 'Marple' franchise, than the wearisome practice of inserting Jane Marple into non-Marple novels.
I would give the adaptations a variety of ratings from 1 star to 5. The average is 3. People who don't know the source stories, or are less fussy about sticking to the novels, might enjoy these adaptations a lot more than I've suggested. Julia McKenzie is looking more comfortable in the role, and although the casting of actors better known for sit coms can get a little strange, the acting is not too bad.