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67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Struggling with Style, Season 4 Offers a More Conventional Marple.
Series 4 of the controversial "Marple" series from Granada/ITV brings us a new Miss Marple, reconceived from the previous seasons, now played by Julia McKenzie. McKenzie's Marple is not as frilly as the classic Joan Hickson or as bohemian as Geraldine McEwan's portrayal. This is a more intellectual, no-nonsense Marple. She wears 3 suits, unadorned and straightforward. And...
Published on July 30, 2009 by mirasreviews

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105 of 122 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrid film techniques spoil the story
I am not an Agatha Christie purist and have loved almost all previous incarnations of Miss Marple -- from Margaret Rutherford through to Joan Hickson and Geraldine McEwan. I'm sure Julia McKenzie would be an equally acceptable Marple but I could not stand to watch this series because of the film techniques employed.

Rather than tell a straight forward story,...
Published on July 28, 2009 by Barbara B.


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67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Struggling with Style, Season 4 Offers a More Conventional Marple., July 30, 2009
This review is from: AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE, SERIES 4 (DVD)
Series 4 of the controversial "Marple" series from Granada/ITV brings us a new Miss Marple, reconceived from the previous seasons, now played by Julia McKenzie. McKenzie's Marple is not as frilly as the classic Joan Hickson or as bohemian as Geraldine McEwan's portrayal. This is a more intellectual, no-nonsense Marple. She wears 3 suits, unadorned and straightforward. And I only saw her knit once. Miss Marple seems less a little old lady and more someone's all-knowing aunt or governess, always ready with whatever is needed and possessed of a strong sense of justice. These episodes avoid the stylization that some previous seasons embraced. Like the new Miss Marple, Series 4 is forthright and conventional in its scripts and production design.

"Marple" has had no qualms about departing from Agatha Christie's books: rewriting action, characters, even the motives and identity of the culprits, and appropriating other of Christie's novels for the spinster detective. Continuing in that tradition, "Murder is Easy" and "Why Didn't They Ask Evans?", both non-Marple books, have inspired episodes this season. Sometimes rewrites seem only to make the films more salacious, and, although there was never a premium on plausibility or coherence in Christie's novels, the rewrites have tended not to improve matters, often creating solutions that are quite ridiculous. Marple purists will not like that. But I have noticed that the character writing gains more depth the further it gets from its source.

Ultimately, it's difficult to say how Miss Marple should be adapted for a modern audience. Purists may prefer Joan Hickson's more faithful portrayal from the 1980s. Others, like myself, find Hickson's Marple dreadfully dull but lament this series' tendency to careen full throttle into burlesque. And, if the writers are going to rewrite Christie's stories, could they not improve upon the solutions instead of making them more ridiculous? Unlike Poirot, Marple does not have the distinct visual characteristics of the detective or the interwar milieu to latch onto. It has an elderly lady in gloves and a hat. In the past, this led the producers to toss sexuality into the mix at every turn and experiment with heavy stylization, usually with poor results ("The Moving Finger" being an exception).

Christie wrote her Marple novels and stories 1927-1971, but the creators of this television series wisely chose to set it in the 1950s, giving it a distinct look and grounding Miss Marple in a particular time. The filmmakers have seemingly tried every trick they could think of to make "Marple" interesting and relevant to a contemporary audience. Often those efforts have been laid on rather too thick. My own suggestion would be to capitalize on the post-War prosperity, conformity, and hypocrisy of the 1950s. That decade shares much in common with the 1990s and 2000s. Miss Marple is a woman who has seen the Jazz Age, two global depressions, and two world wars. She's not easily fooled by a bright, respectable façade. Create a subtext along those lines that would comment on our own time without being obviously anachronistic or straying far from the original plots.

After watching "Marple" struggle to find its focus for four seasons, those are my 2 cents on the subject. I really don't know how to rate the series. I give it 4 stars, because Julia McKenzie's Miss Marple is personable, sharp, and fun to watch. Some viewers find that she doesn't have enough character, serving more as a device than a detective. But wasn't Geraldine McEwan's Marple irritating and vaguely sinister? If it's not one thing, it's another. The series lacks a cogent vision. Oddly, the first episode this season is adorned with completely superfluous location subtitles. It's one of those things. These are the episodes in Series 4:

"A Pocket Full of Rye"'s killer takes inspiration from the nursery rhyme. Rex Fortescue, president of Consolidation Investments, dies at his office, apparently of poison. In the pocket of his suit, the police find a handful of rye. Inspector Neele (Matthew Macfadyen) interviews the family at their country home, Yewtree Lodge: the deceased's wayward wife Adele (Anna Madeley), eldest son Percyval (Ben Miles), who believed his father's mental health threatened the business, estranged son Lancelot (Rupert Graves), just back from Africa, neurotic daughter-in-law (Liz White), daughter Elaine (Hattie Morahan), who cannot contain her delight at Rex's passing, and Gladys (Rose Heiney), the simple chambermaid previously employed by Miss Marple. Gladys is having trouble getting on in the world.

"Murder Is Easy" is adapted from a non-Marple novel and heavily rewritten. Miss Marple meets Lavinia Pinkerton (Sylvia Syms) on a London-bound train. Pinkerton is headed for Scotland Yard to report two murders in her home village of Wychwood. "Murder is easy," she says, "so long as no one thinks it's murder." She promptly meets her death in Victoria Station. Miss Marple travels to Wychwood and makes the acquaintance of Luke Fitzwilliam (Benedict Cumberhatch), formerly a police detective in Malaya. Together Miss Marple and Fitzwilliam make the rounds of the town's close-knit population in their investigation, as more of the population meets its end. Perhaps it is the rewrite, but the characters seem more authentic, emotions real, and with more dimension than usual.

Miss Marple's glamorous old friend Ruth (Joan Collins) asks the detective to look in on her sister Carrie Louise after a fire struck her home in "They Do It With Mirrors". Carrie Louise is a committed philanthropist who runs a reform facility for criminals on her Stoneygates estate with her third husband Lewis Serrocold (Brian Cox) and daughters Gina (Emma Griffiths Malin) and Mildred (Sarah Smart) from her first marriage. With a staff that seems a bit daft, two stepsons with questionable intentions, a group of convicts on their doorstep, and an amateur theatrical in rehearsal, there is a lot of misdirection to be overcome when the antics turn to murder. In contrast with previous episodes, the police detective Inspector Curry (Alex Jennings) seems pretty sharp.

"Why Didn't They Ask Evans?", inspired by the non-Marple novel, has Miss Marple helping the young detectives along and keeping them out of trouble. Bobby Attfield (Sean Biggerstaff) finds a dying man on a cliff who says as he expires, "Why didn't' they ask Evans?" When Bobby is called testify at an inquest that doesn't exist, an adventurous friend, Miss Frankie Derwent (Georgia Moffett), proposes that they investigate the murder themselves. But Miss Marple, who is visiting Bobby's mother, has her eye on the young duo. When Frankie proves too gutsy for her own good, Miss Marple follows her to Castle Savage, home of a quarrelling and rather sinister family whom the dead man recently visited. The plot is exotic and implausible. It suffers further from a cast of annoying characters.
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105 of 122 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrid film techniques spoil the story, July 28, 2009
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This review is from: AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE, SERIES 4 (DVD)
I am not an Agatha Christie purist and have loved almost all previous incarnations of Miss Marple -- from Margaret Rutherford through to Joan Hickson and Geraldine McEwan. I'm sure Julia McKenzie would be an equally acceptable Marple but I could not stand to watch this series because of the film techniques employed.

Rather than tell a straight forward story, the scenes are choppily edited into fast-video-flash bits, with weird angles and ultra closeups. The sequence is disjointed and hard to follow. For instance, in one scene in "Murder is Easy", Miss Marple is at a post-funeral gathering with a large group of other people (all suspects at this stage, of course). Two second snippet of conversation .... close up of Marple's eyes looking around ... two seconds of another out-of-context conversation... another close up of Marple's eyes ... etc etc etc. I felt like screaming "Okay, we get it... she's listening!"

In the first ten minutes of that episode, a dozen or so different characters are introduced, but so rapidly and with so little context that I am soon bewildered and confused. In addition, they all seem so unpleasant that I didn't really care who was killed or who did the killing!

Perhaps younger viewers, weaned on fast cut editing, enjoy this type of filming more but for those who prefer more leisurely paced and cohesive story telling, this jagged camera work is distracting at best and intrusive at worst.

I noticed the same problem with the new episodes of Poirot. The director and cinematographer obviously had a grand time showing off their techniques, but the stories suffered.

What I don't understand is why these techniques, more suited to fast paced thrillers or action yarns, are used for classic mysteries which depend on character development and plot. Are film makers so afraid we'll lose interest if the camera stands in place for a full minute?
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Case of the God-Awful Adaptations, May 23, 2010
By 
Red Rivere (Home on the Range) - See all my reviews
This review is from: AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE, SERIES 4 (DVD)
Pixieish Geraldine McKewan is gone and in her place we have bland Julia Mckenzie. I have a feeling Mckenzie was cast as Miss Marple based on her delightful work in "Cranford," but as Miss Marple she is tentative and dull. Sure, McKewan was nothing like the actual Miss Marple created by Christie, but Mckenzie is simply boring. Joan Hickson remains the perfect Miss Marple, though the eighties/nineties films she starred in seem a bit slow and stodgy by today's standards. Yet Hickson is the only one who comes off believably as a genteel lady of the Victorian/Edwardian era. Younger people seem to find Hickson's Marple too forbidding and severe, but that formality is what was once known as being ladylike and having breeding. Underneath Miss Marple's reserve, however, was kindness, humor, and lively curiosity, and Hickson perfectly captures all this.

As for the films themselves, they range from adaptations of books where Miss Marple never appeared, which involves tampering with plots to the point of incomprehensibility (Why Didn't They Ask Evans?), to those where significant, tarted-up alterations are made, false to the creative spirit of the author (Murder Is Easy), to fairly faithful versions, as far as plot is concerned, that are treated in an excruciatingly arch, campy manner, with cartoon-like filming techniques (A Pocket Full of Rye). There is no way that Christie would have approved of any of this nonsense, whatever her grandson may say.

It's all a shame, because the Hickson Marples were not perfect. I would have loved to have seen modern, faithful versions of the books, even if they couldn't find as good a Miss Marple as the late Ms. Hickson. Many of the Suchet Poirots are still excellent, but perhaps Suchet has some of the artistic integrity quite evidently lacking in the people behind the modern Marple series.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why call it Christie?, August 30, 2009
This review is from: AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE, SERIES 4 (DVD)
I was very disappointed in this series because I was expecting Christie's Miss Marple and found something completely different that I didn't like half as much. If the producers of this series want to write their own stories and have a different type of detective, why not just do so? Trading on the Christie name and the Miss Marple character is really a cheap trick. I especially could not understand the complete rewrite of "Why Didn't They Ask Evans", which was implausible and very dark. Please don't call it Christie when it's not.
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54 of 68 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Stop re-writing Christie, July 27, 2009
This review is from: AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE, SERIES 4 (DVD)
I am so very disappointed by this last season. Some episodes are only vague shadows of the original stories. Quite underwhelmed by the portrayal Miss Marple as well. Too aggressive, too detective-ish. I never took that away from any of her stories. Christie's work is so good - why do people feel a need to change it so much in translation to screen? The worst is "Why Didn't They Ask Evans?" Miss Marple is not even IN the original. If you take this as just a mystery series, it is fair entertainment.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unwatchable, October 26, 2009
By 
This review is from: AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE, SERIES 4 (DVD)
This series is unwatchable!!! It appears to have been filmed and directed by a novice...it has
nauseating film angles, muttled plots, an abundence of blurred close ups and just plain bad direction.
I was unable to finish the series. Julia McKenzie is not Miss M at all!! Her expression is one of a cocker spaniel rather then a sharp witted sleuth
I was expecting a Poirot or Sherlock Holms type of
BBC production. Don't waste your money or your time What were they thinking or not!
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't even make it through these, March 11, 2010
By 
A. Reader (Boise, Idaho United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE, SERIES 4 (DVD)
I probably made the mistake of trying to watch "Why Didn't They Ask Evans?" first, which is NOT a Ms. Marple book. I found the story, patched, choppy, and lacking in any coherence or sense. I thought perhaps it was because I knew the actual story and this production is so VERY far from the book, but my husband didn't know the original story and STILL found it an incoherent mess.

Whoever is behind all the new "adaptations" is working too hard to rewrite stories--which are still incredibly popular and really don't need rewriting. They should just admit they're making up their own stories, start over, and perhaps come out with something decent.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Messing with Marple - not a good thing, September 4, 2010
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This review is from: AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE, SERIES 4 (DVD)
I have the Miss Marple DVD series' with both Joan Hickson and Geraldine McEwan. I love both interpretations of Marple, though they are strikingly different. Julia McKenzie, though a wonderful actress, makes a rather boring Marple after the mischievous McEwan. That wouldn't be so bad if these new productions hadn't taken such liberties with story lines. Some not as bad as others but still: distracting!

THE GOOD
1. A Pocket Full of Rye:
- Matthew Macfadyen as the detective. Fun to see him not as breathtakingly attractive as he was in Pride and Prejudice.
2. Murder in Easy:
- The dreamy Benedict Cumberbatch as Luke Fitzwilliam;
- The hilarious Shirley Henderson (of Harry Potter fame as Moaning Myrtle) as Honoria Waynflete, a rather serious role;
3. They Do it with Mirrors:
- Joan Collins in a small role. Rather irritating but fun to see her again;
4. Why Didn't They Ask Evans?
- The dreamy Sean Biggerstaff (of Harry Potter fame as Oliver Wood) as Bobby;
- Mark Williams (of Harry Potter fame as Arthur Weasley) as a less than sympathetic character;

THE BAD
1. Extras:
- None of the DVD's have enough Castographies. They show maybe 4 per DVD, each of which includes McKensie, so you really only get 3 other cast members per DVD. And often it doesn't even include the main co-stars!
2. Murder is Easy:
- Liberties taken with characters, subplots, and motives;
- Marple was not in the original story. Fitzwilliam was the one who met Miss Pinkerton on the train;
3. They Do it with Mirrors:
- Liberties taken with characters and relationships;
- I've never liked this story much, but perhaps that's just me;
4. Why Didn't They Ask Evans?
- Marple was not in the original story. The main sleuths were Bobby and Frankie;
- MAJOR liberties with the story line. The whole China connection? Never happened.
- Georgia Moffett as Frankie is rather spoiled and unlikeable. It's been a while since I read the original story so I'm not sure if she's written that way or it's an unfortunate interpretation.

I re-watch my Marple DVD's over and over again but I'm not so inclined with these stories. They're okay once but not as addicting as the Hickson or McEwan portrayals.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Christie No Doubt Rolling Over in Her Grave, September 26, 2009
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This review is from: AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE, SERIES 4 (DVD)
Generally thoughtful casting, lovely sets and costumes, and high production values are ruined by poor direction, unnecessary rewriting of Christie's material, over-the-top scoring, and a tendency to melodrama. Although the casting was generally quite good, McKenzie isn't a convincing Marple to me, but I can't put my finger on whether that results from bad casting, bad acting, bad direction, or simply bad taste on my part. If you haven't watched Rutherford, Dickson, or McEwan, do so before wasting time on these four disasters.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars far far from what Christie wrote, September 21, 2009
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This review is from: AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE, SERIES 4 (DVD)
but thats not the worst I can say about this new production. Already the third batch with Geraldine McEwan was quite confusing and did not have much in common with the books, but this takes the cake. I only saw "Why didn't they ask Evans" so far, maybe the rest is better, but I think with longing at the version with Francesca Annis, it was real fun, the atmosphere really Christie. It looks as if the same script writer has been at work, I shudder to remember The Sittaford Mystery, just as wild and not even people who read the book understand what's going on - not unless he has seen it three times at least. I would like to state that the new Miss Marple is my absolute favourite, but even she cannot cover my disappointment over the way this wonderful story has been destroyed.
Pls don't do it again and let the 5th batch be more Christie-like.
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AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE, SERIES 4
AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE, SERIES 4 by Julia McKenzie (DVD - 2009)
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