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4.5 out of 5 stars
Agatha Christie's Marple Season 2
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93 of 115 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2006
Format: DVD
Sleeping Murder seems to refer mostly to what was done to the original book. Obviously considering Christie's mysteries too mannerly, the scriptwriters invented a troupe of actors who sleep around with each other, then changed the step-sister in the plot to a real sister so some incest could be added; by the time the heroine breaks off her engagement to her fiance, it is a mild denoument, but at least consistent.

In By the Pricking of My Thumbs, Miss Marple is injected into a plot where she is totally unncessary; and rather than the happy, intelligent couple we know from Christie's books, we are presented with Tommy as a bumbling, insensitive beaurocrat and Tuppence as a depressed boozer (with some unexpected company, since the local clergyman is also an alcoholic, of course).

The Moving Finger is much better in plot alignment, even though it opens showing the hero writhing in bed with various women (thankfully, only one at a time). But here the costume production details were messed up pretty badly: the (very) busty governess is about to explode from the low-cut cocktail dress she is wearing early in the morning as she oversees her young charges (in which any sudden movement would certainly have added graphically to their education); and when the hero's sister is shown seated at a formal dinner party eating with her gloves on, I laughed aloud; who made this episode, 21st century Americans?

All of this is a real shame, since a lot of thought and money obviously went into the period detail, and the acting is top-notch; but the representation of 1950's behavior is so unrealistic that it counteracts all the effort put into the visualization of the small towns and their surroundings. I've added an additional star from my earlier review, since the producers really did apparently try to give us 1952 England; but the production was forced to be so post-modern friendly, that they lost the originality and reality that would have made these episodes much better editions.

Had they considered a series focusing Miss Marple's sophisticated nephew, with new story lines, it might have been fascinating; but trying to hang onto some thin thread of the original plots, while taking all the chracters from 2006 and putting them into period settings, was not a convincing combination.
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47 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2006
Format: DVD
The accomplished actress Geraldine McEwan stars as the spinster sleuth Jane Marple, who lives in the picturesque little village of St. Mary Mead. Pleasant and full of life, Ms. Marple often becomes interested if murder or mayhem rears its ugly head in her vicinity. She's come to earn the respect of many in Scotland Yard, and makes friends easier than you can snap your fingers. With these new productions, its a pleasure to watch her solve the crimes.

This new series of Marple stories takes liberties with the original stories penned by Agatha Christie, to varying effect. In "Sleeping Murder," which had its own implausibilities to begin with, the way the story was changed makes it harder to follow and detracts from the overall feel of it. In the case of "By the Pricking of My Thumbs," however, the alterations to the original story weren't so bad. Perhaps that is due to my unfamiliarity with the book, but I thought that this production was very well done, and quite suspenseful.

Credit is given to this new production of Miss Marple for making "The Moving Finger" a smashing good ride. I've never found the previous TV or radio adaptations to be that engaging, but this version was quite good, building the tension as it went along. Alas, "The Sittaford Mystery" has been changed so much from the book that I can not support it. Perhaps this is an example of being too familiar with the original?

The direction and pacing of each Marple story is usually pretty well done. The set and costume designs are exquisite. The casting is typically top-notch, and each episode is like a who's who of familiar British actors. The theme music is lively and memorable, and overall the series is enjoyable. It just needs to become a little more even in its presentation, and it would be that much better.

--- Matthew Gladney
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36 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2006
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I've been a Christie fan since childhood and loved the early movies in spite of Rutherford's handling of the character. I loved Joan Hickson's portrayal of Miss Marple and never thought anyone else could "be" Miss Marple for me. Therefore I expected to be disappointed with these new releases. I AM NOT DISAPPOINTED, I LOVE THIS NEW VERSION! After I cautiously viewed the first episode I came to fully appreciate Geraldine McEwan in the role. She is subtle, confident and highly adroit and I find her refreshing and wonderful. The stories themselves are entertaining and intriquing. Some reviewers complained that the scripts don't stick to the originals, but this is not an issue for me here. Christie's stories stay alive and fun even after having been done so often because they aren't always done the same way. Any tweaks to the storylines keep the material fresh and even improve it at times. I think it's fun to be surprised by my old favorites! Hooray for Geraldine McEwan! I hope to see many more Miss Marple stories with her in the title role!
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73 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2006
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
"Christie as you have never seen her before" was a claim that made me a little nervous, but I decided to try these "new" mysteries anyway. Sometimes a new approach can be helpful.

Alas, I discovered this "new Christie" is simply a chance for the writers of these stories to stick their 21st Century values on an older generation. Bright young things always claim they are so different from their parents, but they want to paint their grandparents as they are themselves.

The first set of this new series was disturbing enough. There were subtile changes here and there that distracted from the story. What was a small adventure into so-called "new areas" in the first series is an all-out march into the world of today in this second series.

Sleeping Murder is not longer the story of poor Helen who, like the Helen of the old stories, could not find happiness in life because of her beauty. For those who have read Christie, this was a theme she used in more than one plot. The Helen of this movie is not longer a beautiful young woman searching everywhere for love, only to have it snatched for her grasp before she can enjoy her treasure; instead this Helen is a petty thief with a smirk that always leaves the viewer wondering what she is planning. The story is not the tale of young newlyweds coming to England to buy a home in which to start their married life, but instead the tale of a summer acting group that were saved from certain career disaster by the arrival of World War II. The young newlyweds are not newlyweds but only an engaged gal that demands and snaps at people until her discovery that she knows things about this house that she should not only give her another reason to complain. The young husband never appears in the story, in fact he is dispatched from the script in favor of what is supposed to be a flunkie of the company come to help her buy the house and settle in before the wedding. One wonders at the ending as the flunkie will be out of a job when his boss hears the wedding is off and then where will they all be?

The relationships between these characters are what one might expect from a modern day acting group and not from a pre-war one. The disclosure of the murderer seems to be an: "Oh yes, this is a murder tale so we had better make one of these people a murderer." And the murder itself is silly rather than tragic.

These "new" stories center around gay couples and estranged couples and broken-hearted singles. There are few married couples. And the writers simply cannot bear to keep Christie's love stories within the episodes. No, those have to be tossed in favor of some "new" approach to the ending. Christie's stories were so much about the character of humans and why they act the way they do. Each detail of her stories helped to express her view on what motivated humans to love and to kill. The freely changing of some of these details destroys an important part of the story. One could and should expect some changes to keep the story fresh but those changes should express Christie's views and not the popular views of the moment. The twisted end to 4:50 From Paddington in no way expressed the point Christie made by developing the relationship of Bryan and the new cook. When that point was removed for the story, then the family became only a group of greedy people grasping for the old man's money, and not a family whose outlook on life had been so changed by their father's character and actions. With no contrast between Bryan and the others, the point was last and watching the story became pointless as well.

I would say to the writers of these movies: There is a reason that Dame Agatha has out-sold God, and you have completely missed the point of that reason. Why is it that you cannot have a married couple in any of your stories? Of what are you afraid? We expect our elected leaders to have good characters and be upstanding citizens, but the total disregard of some values by the entertainment medium is totally appaling. Christie wrote about life and about people as they are. The fact that you are using her name and her reputation to tell your own tale tells us so much about you. And Christie taught us how to understand you.

Let me see if I can explain the basic concept of the murder tale. Evil people kill and/or are killed. Innocent people suffer because of the murder. If your suffering characters are such that nobody cares about them, then nobody is going to give a darn how much they suffer. And by the time Sleeping Murder was over, I had completely lost interest. Her end was understandable.

And may I ask why she was buried under a dead tree?
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2008
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
There are some negative reviews for this series but I definitely enjoyed it. Geraldine McEwan is adorable, reminding me of Helen Hayes. The stories have been adapted but the production values are excellent. There are name stars such as Timothy Dalton, Anthony Andrews, James D'Arcy and even Ken Russell! I like McEwan's interpretation of Marple and who could resist that tinkle in her eyes.
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24 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2006
Format: DVD
Having been a fan of Agatha Christie from the sixties and a fan of Joan Hickson since her first episode as Miss Marple, I expected to find it hard to switch allegiances to Geraldine McEwan. But, as Anthony Andrews says in one of the many featurettes in this delightful second set, Christie has become a 'canon', open to the interpretation and the creativity of writers, directors and actors. McEwan (Marple) is wonderful. She brings energy and humor to the role, making Marple's all-knowing attitude one of wisdom and kindliness. I love revisiting my favorite British actors in the various roles (ala 'Murder She Wrote'). I am also glad this new production is branching out into new territory. "The Sittaford Mystery" was brilliantly done, lots of nice camera angles, spooky snow storm and Gothic darkness. I'm sure Christie would have loved it, even if they took liberties with the plot. "By the Pricking of My Thumbs" was also good (Tommy and Tuppence all grown up) and a good attempt at suspense here as well. The other two. . . well. "Sleeping Murder" makes the same mistake that often comes out of the fantasies of male writers - a beautiful woman will fall in love with a plain man with no money. That is certainly true in real life - in this production, it's hard to see the attraction and the story falls flat. "The Moving Finger" held no surprises - same as every other production, but the scenery and the houses were beautiful. It's a shame that Christie, who liked Marple so much better than Poirot, wrote fewer stories about her. I would like to see McEwan continue in this role for years and years and years. . .
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
The second set of stories from the new MARPLE, starring Geraldine McEwan as Agatha Christie's immortal sleuth, Jane Marple. Whilst many have been quite vocal in criticising these new versions (mainly for playing around with the original stories and slotting Marple into plots she never originally appeared in), the main strength comes from McEwan's central performance. She's not in the classic Joan Hickson mold (this is to her credit), for while Hickson was often quite starchy and strait-laced, McEwan's Marple is delightfully bohemian in her over-sized cardigans and crumpled hats, and will remind you, perhaps, of the slightly dotty old maiden aunt you loved visiting in your childhood. McEwan's Marple conceals her razor-sharp detection skills and intellect underneath a veil of vagueness. Many a murderer will underestimate her at their peril.

Incredibly, the best story in this set is actually an adventure in which Marple never figured originally - "By the Pricking of My Thumbs" - one of the rollicking Tommy & Tuppence Beresford mysteries, in which Jane has been cleverly inserted (what I wouldn't give to see a full "Tommy & Tuppence" series with Anthony Andrews and Greta Scacchi!). The other main standout is "The Moving Finger", which stars Emilia Fox in a va-va-voom red wig, and features a particularly-plush production & costume design. Things get clunky, however, in "Sleeping Murder", which is hindered by its grating and somewhat overbearing heroine.

Includes:

BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS - Following the sudden death of Tommy's Aunt Ada (Claire Bloom) at her nursing home, Jane joins forces with Tuppence Beresford to untangle the connection between the disappearance of a fellow nursing home resident and a strange picture entitled "The Witches' House", discovered amongst Ada's personal effects. Featuring special guest stars Anthony Andrews and Greta Scacchi as Tommy and Tuppence Beresford.

Guest stars: Miriam Karlin, Steven Berkoff, Bonnie Langford, Josie Lawrence, June Whitfield, Michael Maloney, Brian Conley, Charles Dance, Lia Williams, Patrick Barlow and Clare Holman.

THE MOVING FINGER - After almost being killed in a self-inflicted motorcycle crash, Joanna Burton (Emilia Fox) takes her brother Jerry (James D'Arcy) to the quiet village of Lymstock for some much-needed rest and recuperation; however their peace is short-lived when the pair discover the village to be in the grip of a poison-pen writer.

Guest stars: Frances de la Tour, Ken Russell, Thelma Barlow, Sean Pertwee, Imogen Stubbs, Harry Enfield, Kelly Brook, Rosalind Knight, Jessica Hynes, Talulah Riley and John Sessions.

SLEEPING MURDER - Gwenda Halliday (Sophia Myles) arrives in England to choose the dream house to go with her new fiancé, but the house also awakens bizarre memories which hark back to Gwenda's childhood and a murder she couldn't possibly have born witness to because, up until now, Gwenda has only ever lived in India...

Guest stars: Dawn French, Geraldine Chaplin, Julian Wadham, Paul McGann, Martin Kemp, Una Stubbs, Russ Abbot, Sarah Paris, Anna-Louise Plowman and Harriet Walter.

THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY - At a snow-bound Inn, several guests decide to while away the evening by messing around with a Ouija board, where it's predicted that one of the guests, world adventurer, philanthropist and political heir-apparent to Churchill, Clive Trevelyan (Timothy Dalton), will be killed. Sure enough, the dead body of Trevelyan is discovered the following morning. His personal secretary John Enderby (Mel Smith), assisted by Jane and socialite Emily Trefusis (Zoe Telford), the girlfriend of the chief suspect, takes up the line of enquiry.

Guest stars: Carey Mulligan, Patricia Hodge, James Murray, Laurence Fox, Rita Tushingham, James Wilby, Paul Kaye, Robert Hardy, Jeffery Kissoon and Michael Brandon.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant Video
deliciously portrayed Agatha Christie mysteries. One of the better Miss Marple's I've seen yet. Most enjoyable for all ages I think.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant Video
The series is beautifully photographed and the mysteries you must pay attention to from start to finish or you won't be able to follow. I am enjoying each episode very much. Have to listen closely due to accents, but well worth it. I would suggest this series to any lover of good mysteries.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2012
Format: DVD
With the death of Joan Hickson, the perfect Miss Marple (and veteran of several of the Carry-On films), and with the likes of the redoubtable Helen Hayes having done her bit as well, the producers of the Miss Marple Series, had a very real problem: how do you retain the freshness in stories that have been read by tens of millions and watched by at least the same number of people. i think they made a wise decision, retain the fundamental plots of the Miss Marple books, but work on the externals and time period involved to produce a different atmosphere than the earlier TV and film shows, so as to give the watcher a different "feel" than was previously experienced. Beyond that, they inserted Miss Marple into books which in which she had not appeared. Admittedly, the first time I saw this new Miss Marple, the strength of the Hickson production bedeviled my appreciation of the efforts of the creative staff and the expert performance of Geraldine McEwan, as Miss Marple. This time,though, I could enjoy the new Miss Marple and the work of the expert staff, to a considerably greater degree; similarly, the variation in casting of featured players and reworking of their interaction with a changed Miss Marple were sufficiently different to renew the vitality of the plot for me.
In sum, to those who are unfamiliar with the television rendering by Helen Hayes, the broad comedy of Margaret Rutherford or the verisimilitude of Joan Hickson, I strongly recommend a look-in for some real pleasure. More experienced viewers take a greater risk of expectations being frustrated because of the differences introduced as compared to earlier versions, If obtained at a reasonable price, I think that risk will be minimized for many.
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