Customer Reviews: Agatha Christie's Marple: The Pale Horse
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on June 6, 2011
I know everyone will jump down my throat for this review, but I will still give it. Did I love the old Pale Horse? Yes. Do I love the new Pale Horse? Yes. Both versions are what you expect. The first one is the way that A&E used to do Agatha Christie; a lot of detail to the actual mystery, which I love. The new one is the way that ITV now does Agatha Christie; fun to watch, less attention to the details of the Christie plot. I love both approaches. I loved the Joan Hickson Marple, as well as the new incarnations.

So, what upsets me with this DVD set? It includes only one new movie, for a relatively huge price. The old version has been out for years, and I bought it years ago. Unfortunately, PBS refused to show the Pale Horse last year with the other Marple movies. So, this year, we only have one new Marple movie on Mystery. Because the movie can't be sold on DVD until it is shown on PBS, this set only has one new movie. Not wanting to sell a DVD with only one movie, the DVD set resurrects the old Pale Horse, which I do not need. From my point of view, I am being asked to pay $27 for a bundled package where I only want one movie.... PLEASE.

This isn't new. PBS has often delayed the release of mysteries for a year. For example, all of the mysteries in the upcoming Poirot's Movie Collection 6 were aired last year in the UK. They will air this year on PBS and sold on DVD in America this year. I didn't mind this because the DVD set includes 3 movies. The year before, Poirot's Movie Collection 5 included two movies, Third Girl and Appointment with Death, that aired in the UK the year before. Again, I didn't mind because I was being asked to purchase a DVD set of three movies.

But here, bundling the new movie with the old one, and making it the only way that a consumer can buy the new movie on DVD is a bit much. Of course, what really makes this infuriating is that American viewers only see an abridged version of the mystery on PBS because PBS ALWAYS cuts the British mysteries to fit the Mystery time slot.

To be fair, most people probably: (i) don't already have the old Pale Horse, and (ii) haven't seen the old Pale Horse. So, this package may be attractive to them. I feel obligated to give the low score because of the lack of value to me. It just seems that ACORN doesn't care about the consumer, and it should. I am praying for an eventual sale or big discount.
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on July 25, 2011
British television has made The Pale Horse three times and this version is the most entertaining. The first two (1970s and 1990s)followed close to Agatha Christie's novel with the disadvantage of not being a Miss Marple vehicle. This version, and the entire Agahtha Christies's Marple series, does not let a little thing like that get in the way of a good story. Miss Marple is easily written into Agatha Christie's plot and, as long as the writers made such a huge change, why not make a few more smaller ones. The result is an Agatha Christie story line improved by writers who lovingly respect Christie and her Miss Marple character. The lead,Julia McKenzie, plays Miss Marple close to the style of the incomprable Joan Hickson of the 1980s series as opposed to Geraldine McEwan's more worldly and experienced Marple of the earlier movies in this latest series.
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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.
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If Agatha Christie defines mysteries for you as she does for me, any film that brings her mysteries to life are appealing. I love to see her work transposed to film.

This is the first Miss Marple mystery I have seen with Julia McKenzie playing the divine Miss M. and I loved her as Miss Marple. A mystery writer once said--it could have been Agatha--that she purposely didn't go into much physical description of her detective as she wanted the reader to imagine them the way they came across to the reader. So, as long as Miss Marple has gray hair, sensible clothes, and a discerning visage, I'm happy.

Although I think I read THE PALE HORSE as a teenager, I didn't remember the plot so didn't mind any divergence from the book. Loved the Pale Horse Inn--the architecture and quintessential English decor--and the plot was quite original. The village of Deepling was charming as well.

The characters seemed a bit of stock characters, but again, don't mind those in Dame Agatha's all in all this is a fun escape to an English Inn in a charming village with an insightful detective and some entertaining and colorful characters. If you like Miss Marple mysteries, you should enjoy this enactment of one.
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on July 14, 2011
Take a story, not involving Miss Marple, about a murder gimmic, about "betting" on someone's death, and profiting when it occurs, and add Miss Marple. What do you get? First reaction - a travesty. HOWEVER, what you actually get is a really enjoyable show! You end up with a compelling story, and one with a punch. I will be buying this dvd, and will enjoy it many times to come. Great job. Fun, and all that stuff.
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on February 18, 2014
I feel totally disloyal with writing that this is better than the book as I am a huge Agatha Christie fan, but it is. That being stated, this is a very good telling of a sometimes tedious read (sorry other Christie fans!) and Julia McKenzie continues to very enjoyably play Miss Marple. A good edition to any mystery movie collection.
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on March 21, 2013
Amazon: You've committed out-and-out FALSE advertisement. I was anxiously waiting to receive The Pale Horse with Julia McKenzie as Ms. Marple. Instead, I received a DVD that shows Julia McKenzie on the cover BUT stars that younger guy who played in the Dalziel & Pascoe series. Ms. Marple was NOT even in this silly story-line. Not only that, but the writers took too much creative license to focus viewers' attention on a contrived romance between the two main characters! UGH. Is there a DVD available of The Pale Horse that actually DOES star Julia McKenzie? A year or so ago, I watched The Pale Horse with Julia McKenzie as Ms. Marple on PBS. Any idea when that same Julia McKenzie version will be out on DVD?? AMAZON - you need to correct your online marketing of this product so that other folks do NOT purchase this flop by mistake!
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on July 9, 2014
I love Agatha Christie's Miss Marple in all of her many presentations! Although I gave this one 3 stars, because it is one of the strangest films I have seen and in this set there are two versions, the one with McKenzie playing Miss Marple and an older version, but I gave up after the McKenzie version. Saying that... I must say that I like McKenzie's version of Miss Marple it is just the story I found lacking.
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on July 13, 2011
Judge Jennifer Malkowski, DVD Verdict -- "I'd rate this an above-average installment of an above-average mystery series, but I wish I had Miss Marple's help in solving the mystery of why it wasn't included with the other three Series Five movies. These three were released separately last year, despite the precedent for releasing full four-film runs of the show in box sets. This arrangement seems costlier to the consumer and just generally odd. Although the supernatural element of The Pale Horse is what stands out most about this Christie mystery, it offers considerably more pleasures than just the witch angle and the evocative atmosphere created by "The Burning." Considering that Miss Marple has been inserted into a pre-existing Christie story that did not originally feature her (instead giving a bit part to another regular, Ariadne Oliver), she fits into The Pale Horse like a glove. In fact, Marple's role in the story has an unusual poignancy in that she knew and cared about the victim, Father Gorman, and is particularly driven to secure justice for him. When she's not charming the locals or being frustratingly indispensable to the actual police investigators, Marple conveys the spirit of a weary but resolute crusader against injustice and, indeed, evil. The payoff comes in an unusually satisfying accusation scene--more characteristic of Christie's Poirot than Marple--in which the sleuth gathers her suspects and explains the who/how of her murder case. The improvement a familiar and feisty character like Marple makes to the story of The Pale Horse is evident when comparing this adaptation to the 1997 British TV movie of the same novel, which is included as an extra (on its own separate disc). Although it's fun to see two different takes on the same source material (both of which deviate from said source material, to some extent), the 1997 version suffers from a slower pace and our lesser investment in its characters. There are no other extras (save for a few text features on the disc of the 1997 adaptation). Picture and sound quality for the Marple installment are perfectly fine: the image looks good and the dialogue is clearly audible. The older '97 version looks a bit less sharp, as one would expect, and sports a less-eye-catching 1.33:1 aspect ratio."
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on July 11, 2011
Ever since the newest series featuring the quick witted Miss Marple (entitled AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE) started, it was beset with 2 basic problems: a tendency of the writers to put an "edge" on the series with various plot twists not in the original works, and the need to shoehorn the elderly sleuth into mysteries that she never was involved with in the first place. Needless to say, the results have been mixed at best. While Geraldine McEwan and, after her, Julia McKenzie are both capable, they had a hard time coming out of the shadow of the definitive performances of Joan Hickson, who played the role in the 80's and 90's. Fortunately, this new series seems to find its footing in this latest outing, THE PALE HORSE. The inclusion of Miss Marple seems less of an intrusion here and the plot is told in a stylish, yet straight forward fashion and captures the attention. The film tells of the murder of a priest, who before his death, mails a strange list of names to his old friend Miss Marple. When she learns about the death, she goes on a search that eventually leads her to the titular inn full of interesting guests and run by three "witches." Julia McKenzie might never completely erase Miss Hickson's hold on the role, but she more than holds her own, making her mark with her own mix of steel and elderly fluffiness. The rest of the cast, led of Neil Pearson's Inspector and Nigel Planer's cranky cripple add to the generally sinister atmosphere. As a special treat, this DVD set also includes the 1997 version of the story, which features Andy Serkis (AKA Gollum of THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy) as an eager police sergeant. For fans of Agatha Christie, and of this mystery in particular, this definitely is worth your time!
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