Agatha Christie's Marple, Series 4
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Julia MacKenzie's Jane Marple is refreshingly self-assured in her nosiness, and as always, opportunistically capitalizes on how "people love talking to old ladies." While the viewer does catch Marple, on occasion, knitting or enjoying tea, for the most part she's hard at work afield, in her proper tweed suits. Because of this, each episode moves quickly. The plots are so thick that one can hardly keep track of what Marple is learning as she makes discoveries. In episode one, "A Pocket full of Rye," Rex Fortescue, a president of an investment firm, dies with a strange "cereal" in his pocket. Inspector Neele (Matthew MacFadyen) sets out to Yewtree Lodge, the family estate, where he suspects the poisonous Yew seeds came from. Marple gets in on the action, unearthing family secrets about Fortescue's troubled children, Percyval (Ben Miles), Elaine (Hattie Morahan), and Lancelot (Rupert Graves), who has been living in Africa. Which kid did it, one often asks in this series? In most episodes, clues given by housekeepers and chambermaids--in this case, Gladys (Rose Heiney)--help solve the case.
Similarly complicated episodes follow, each involving their own family or village. In "Murder Is Easy," Marple meets by train a kind-hearted Samaritan, Lavinia Pinkerton (Sylvia Syms), on her way to Scotland Yard to reveal crimes that have been occurring in her town. When Marple takes the next train to Lavinia's village to pay respects at her funeral, she teams up with detective Luke Fitzwilliam (Benedict Cumberhatch), to discover that practically everyone in town has a motive for the multiple killings taking place. "They Do It with Mirrors," set at Stoneygates estate, concerns the philanthropic Carrie Louise (Penelope Wilton), who is being slowly poisoned in her own home. We have no idea whether it is her husband, Lewis Serrocold (Brian Cox), daughters Gina (Emma Griffiths Malin) and Mildred (Sarah Smart), or sister Ruth (Joan Collins), who is attempting her murder until the very end. "Why Didn't They Ask Evans?" starring Bobby Attfield (Sean Biggerstaff) and his girlfriend, Frankie Derwent (Georgia Moffett), who take interest in a dying man they find on a cliff, is so incredibly plot-thick that one hangs onto each clue, swayed multiple times before making a real discovery. Indeed, not until the last five minutes of each episode does one grasp what has just happened. While this could be frustrating for those trying to beat Marple's sleuthing, it does establish an almost mystical respect for her ability to figure out what's going on. --Trinie Dalton
Top Customer Reviews
"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.Read more ›
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?
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love it. Love the production quality. I'm a bit of a nerd but if you like BBC type productions I think you'll like it. Read morePublished 13 days ago by Pink Molly
Not a fan of the new Miss Marple. The first 3 seasons were way better.Published 2 months ago by Rebekah Wagenbach
I love all of the, Julia Mckenzie, performances of Miss Marple. She does a great job of portraying the character.Published 5 months ago by David Gilbert
I have always liked and enjoyed Agatha Christie books and movies. This series is my favorite one.Published 6 months ago by Aloalo
|Topic||From this Discussion|
|Is This The New Marple after McEwan?||
I think it's funny that people were used to Geraldine McEwen when those of us who remember the Joan Hickson series had a hard time with that new one! She was not "dotty" enough, in my view, but since the production values were so good I enjoyed them as mysteries, even if she wasn't... Read More
Jun 25, 2009 by Elizabeth L. Hay | See all 12 posts
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