4 out of 5
reviewer: Rissi C.
Unfortunately, Miss Marple is not a character I’ve
acquainted myself with. Oh, she was a familiar name, but as
far as her savvy crime solving, well, that was unknown. When
I learned that the new series wasn’t afraid to put a host of
popular British actors in one episode but gave a more
“worldly” view of things, it cautioned me as to whether or
not they should be viewed. Having seen these advertise on
various different A&E programs, I thought they looked
entertaining enough to deserve a look, but hadn’t attempted
to see them. When my mom found them at the video store, we
decided to give them a try.
A Caribbean Mystery
Jane Marple (Joan Hickson) is a pleasant proper lady who has
quietly lived in her small cottage for ages, which is one
reason why her detective nephew sends her to a Caribbean
resort for a vacation.
Poor Miss Marple is beside herself with boredom; she
spends her afternoons just quietly sitting and clinking away
with her knitting needles. She does befriend the young
couple who owns the resort particularly the man’s (Adrian
Lukis) new bride, Molly (Sophie Ward). With an array of
guests staying at the new resort, Miss Marple becomes
acquainted with many of them, one being Major Palgrave
(Frank Middlemass). Retired, the Major could just sit all
day long and talk of small things of no great importance,
which is why it’s such a shock when he’s found dead in his
room the next morning.
Soon Miss Marple is involved in a new case and she scarcely
has time for knitting. Slowly she pieces things together as
more mysterious happenings occur. When another body is
discovered, Molly begins to feel as if she’s going mad; she
forgets things and
for some reason thinks she committed a murder…but is she
really losing it or is something sinister happening at the
The Mirror Cracked from side to side
The small English countryside of Merry Mead is all aflutter
with anticipation. A movie star has moved to their small
town and a popular one at that.
Her name is, Marina Gregg (Claire Bloom) and she’s
just started filming a new prduction, but has been bemoaning
the fact that she’s aging and the producer doesn’t really
want her to play the part. Something that has caused a
strained few days with her fourth director husband, Jason
Rudd (Barry Newman), who has been trying to ease Marina’s
fears. In the bustle of the village, Miss Jane Marple must
wait at a neighbor’s while having a repair done to her shoe.
The friendly folks are Heather and Arthur Badcock (Judy
Cromwell, Christopher Hancock).
Heather is a chatter-box and during Miss Marple’s visit, she
can do nothing but discuss the one time when she met Miss
Gregg. After settling into her new home, Miss Gregg holds a
delightful party, everyone turns out hoping to meet the
famous lady. But no one is more thrilled with the prospect
than Heather Badcock herself, saying she knows that Miss
Gregg won’t remember her; she can’t help but anticipate that
maybe she might. Before the end of the party though Heather
takes ill and by the time the doctor arrives, she has died.
Miss Marple is called in yet again as the mysteries start to
unfold; we have a mystifying photographer, a jilted
secretary (Elizabeth Garvie), a seemingly attentive doctor
as well as other mysterious characters.
Just recently married and very much in love Giles and Gwenda
Reed (John Moulder-Brown, Geraldine Alexander) are looking
for a home. Having lived in New Zealand since she was a
little girl, Gwenda remembers nothing of England. Once
they’ve purchased the house that Gwenda feels the most at
home with, she begins to make improvements to it and can’t
help but feeling a bit of déjà vu. Feeling as if there
should have been a door somewhere only to learn that there
once was, wanting steps off the veranda and learning that
they are there but were covered all add to Gwenda’s growing
sense of apprehension. When Giles leaves to see his friend
in London, Gwenda decides to follow a few days later, not
feeling comfortable alone.
During the Reed’s stay in London they meet Miss Marple.
Later that evening, the Reed’s, their hosts and Miss Marple
attend the theatre and after a line in the play is read,
Gwenda has an unexplainable reaction and leaves quite
shaken. Thinking she must be going mad, Miss Marple tries to
put her fears to rest, saying that there is likely some
reason for all this. The most liable cause would be that
these so called episodes are really a childhood memory.
Something Gwenda intends to discover…even if it may stir up
4:50 from Paddington
As a woman travels to visit a friend by train, she
mistakenly sees a murder being committed. The woman just
happens to be a very dear friend of Miss Jane Marple’s, Miss
Marple believes her old friend, but the police detectives
aren’t as convinced; they feel that the rumors about the
woman’s mental health may be playing a role in her story.
So, Miss Marple does the only thing she can, she finds
someone who is willing to do a little snooping around. She
recruits a young friend Lucy (Jill Meager) to play her niece
while obtaining a job at a rich family’s manor.
The family is from old money and needless to say is a bit
eccentric. There is the head patriarch who is supposedly ill
and needs constant care through doctor’s and a companion.
The rest of the family consists of his devoted kind-hearted
daughter (Joanna David), his greedy sons and a widowed
son-in-law (David Beames), whom no one likes, but tolerates
due to his son; their nephew and grandson. Added to the mix
is a doctor who seems a little too attentive…or is he really
just concerned with his patients’ welfare? As Lucy begins to
earn most of this families trust and eventually begins to
befriend them, she finds it increasingly difficult to
suspect them…even when she discovers a body.
Of all the films in this four part set, the best crafted,
best screenplay and acting come from Sleeping Murder with 4:50 from
Paddington coming in a close second. It has an altogether pleasant and most intriguing tale.
Aside from these being quite dated, the biggest
fault of this 1980 series comes from the fact that they are
slow-moving. The second two do pick up a bit, but it takes
forever for us to even get into the first two and when we do
the film is basically over. These Miss Marple episodes may not have the great performances as the
newer films do,
but there are some bright spots, such as seeing actors from
later A&E productions particularly George Wickham from
Pride & Prejudice.
It was surprising to see Elizabeth Garvie in one.
While her performance as Lizzie in the 1980’s
Pride & Prejudice wasn’t near as inspiring as Jennifer
Ehle, it was still interesting to see her again in
These have little to be concerned with in the content
department. There is the occasional innuendo and we get
vibes that a secretary wants a personal relationship with
her married employer (The
Mirror Cracked from Side to Side). Generally we see the
body; the victims all die in numerous different ways. I
can’t recall any language that would be offensive or strong.
There is some tense scenes; one is particular in the third
episode comes to mind about ten minutes before the end.
There is very little romance, so the sexual content is
basically non-existent; although in the concluding episode
we do have an underlying sweet romance. These aren’t superb
and I’m certain that if there wasn’t some disturbing content
in the newer series, I’d find them to be much better
productions. This series has nice plots and decent acting,
but I don’t agree with most people that Hickson is the best
Miss Marple; I’ve no one to compare her to though.
I’m pleased to report that none of the “likable” characters turn out to be the “bad guy”—well at least in my opinion. There were a few times that some character would seem a little strange and I’d wonder whether or not they would turn out bad, but generally the bad character is unlikable and we are glad to be rid of them through police custody. If you enjoy Murder, She Wrote then you may find these endearing, my preference tends more to the aforementioned. If you do intend to see some classic mysteries, I’d be more apt to recommend Columbo or the previous, but if you have your heart set on seeing some classic Miss Marple’s than I’d say skip at least episode one if not two and go right to the best mysteries, you’re really not missing out on anything by skipping them over.