Agatha Christie's Marple: Geraldine McEwan Collection
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As seen on the PBS Mystery! series
Geraldine McEwan (The Magdalene Sisters, Mapp & Lucia) effortlessly captures the sly wit and keen observations of Agatha Christie’s beloved spinster sleuth in these 12 full-length mysteries. Prim and proper in her smart tweed suits and matching hats, Miss Marple is often overlooked by the police and underestimated by criminals. But she proves her mettle time and again, solving cases that leave even the most experienced professionals flummoxed. These lavish adaptations are filled with rich period detail and feature top guest stars, including Jane Seymour, Joanna Lumley, Derek Jacobi, Zoë Wanamaker, Eileen Atkins, Anthony Andrews, Peter Davison, Timothy Dalton, John Hannah, Keeley Hawes, Greg Wise, Francesca Annis, and Juliet Stevenson. "Irresistible" --TV Guide.
The Murder at the Vicarage
The Body in the Library
A Murder Is Announced
4:50 From Paddington
By the Pricking of My Thumbs
The Moving Finger
The Sittaford Mystery
At Bertram’s Hotel
Ordeal by Innocence
History of Miss Marple adaptations
Agatha Christie biography
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Original review follows...
The good part: The actors, sets, costumes, cars and dialog were well-done. Geraldine McEwan is a delight.
And it is true that books suffer when condensed to the form of a screen play. If you can't read the book in 90 minutes, then you can't put the whole book on the screen in 90 minutes. Things have to be simplified or edited out. This is true.
This series of movies plays fast and loose with Agatha Christie's plots and characters. How loose?
In "Nemesis" the murderer of Verity turns out to be a nun. A nun? And she doesn't drink the poison. That makes the title of the story rather moot.
In "The Body in the Library" the murderers turn out to be a lesbian couple.
"By the Priking of my Thumbs" is a Tommy and Tuppence story, not a Jane Marple story. The writers plucked Tommy from the plot and jammed Miss Marple into the cavity like a transplanted kidney. And they turned Tuppence into a lush.
Somewhere in there they crossed the line from necessity to disrespect. One shudders to think what they would have done to Poirot.
Characters are dropped, others are made up and inserted for little or no reason. Teenage characters (13 and 16 years old, main characters in different stories) are portrayed as being older than the same character in the novels and far more sophisticated (if you equate a certain type of sexuality with "sophistication").
All the older characters drop a full generation, so that middle-aged characters are now twenty-somethings and elderly characters are now merely middle aged. EVERYBODY is far better looking than in real life OR the novels. Culprits are changed and the sexuality of main characters is modified. "Romantic" themes that were not present in the original stories, usually involving main characters that were invented solely for these TV episodes, are inserted for little or no reason, and add not a thing to the main story line.
As for Geraldine McEwan being the ultimate Marple, sorry, but she's not. This "Marple" bears little resemblance to the Jane Marple of the books. There is nowhere near enough of the wry humor of the original, nor of the air of genteel poverty that Miss Marple lives in, as is clear throughout the original Christie tales. She has an "income" but it is not sufficient to keep her in true comfort; hence she trains young girls who want to "go into service" for that little bit of extra income and/or in exchange for their services while they are in training, and in her declining years she is largely supported by her nephew.
In particular, Miss Marple wouldn't have been caught dead dressing like a dowdy charwoman, which is what the wardrobe choices for her in these episodes make her look like.
Main characters are relegated to becoming bit parts, disappear altogether, or are warped into totally unrecognizable caricatures of stereotypical types that bear absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the originals; in one case, the original character of a bumbling country priest is transmogrified into a snarling raving Nazi. The character isn't the only thing about that story that's insane; whoever mangled these stories for the sake of "modernizing" the scripts ought to be stood up against a wall somewhere and summarily shot.
These stories have not been improved by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, they've been mangled into near unrecognizability, with Christie's witty, gentle, loving character studies being replaced by prurient sensationalist "plots" that are about as subtle as the blunt object the murder victim gets clubbed with.
Don't confuse these travesties with the fine productions staring Joan Hickson. She didn't quite capture all of Miss Marple's character - she's just a tad bit too severe - but she at least rang true to the era and the character, even if incompletely. She just didn't have the "birdlike" quality Miss Marple of the novels has, but she hit almost every other Marple note dead on. The wry wit, the gentle but inexorable sharpness of her intellect, her masterful and largely non-judgmental grasp of the vagaries of human existence; Joan Hickson got those all dead on. Of course she was undoubtedly helped no end in her portrayal by being given scripts that are as true to the original novels as possible. Miss Marple fits into that world as created by Christie for her. Change that, and the Miss Marple you get is something wholly different and entirely (in these cases) unsatisfactory.
There's over 19-hours of mysteries to get involved in and I enjoyed McEwan's portrayal.
If you read my other review for the fifth season of Agatha Christie's Marple: Complete Series 5 [Blu-ray] you'll know that I started with that season and so I'm working my way backwards into this show. Anyway, I really enjoyed season 5 and so I decided to get this collection; I'm glad that I did.
Even though there is a cast change after season three and Julia McKenzie takes over the role of "Jane Marple" from Geraldine McEwan, both actresses do a fine job in it. Now I've read some of the other reviews who felt that neither actress did justice to the character, or felt that Joan Hickson (Miss Marple - 3 Feature Length Mysteries (The Body in the Library / A Murder Is Announced / A Pocketful of Rye)) was the definitive Miss Marple, but I enjoyed all three.
Mind you that I've only read one Christie story, "The Blue Geranium," so I'm not at all an aficionado of Christie or her characters, but I found the mysteries on this collection entertaining and I'll be watching them over and over again. The scenery, music, cinematography, clothing and set decoration is absolutely gorgeous and each episode is a finely honed story.
However some die-hard fans of the books have have not been pleased with story tweaks and reworkings, but I think if you enjoy mysteries and British accents, and aren't too much of a Christie purist, you'll really enjoy these shows.
Here's a run down of the special features on the set:
*** SERIES 1 ***
-- Behind-The-Scenes Featurette - 01-hour:54-seconds
Geraldine McEwan ("Jane Marple") talks about the show and stepping into the iconic character and canon and this fabulous featurette shows behind the scenes of the filming and includes interviews with Joanna Lumely ("Dolly Bantry") and Jack Davenport ("Superintendent Harper"), among others.
-- Text - Viewers can read additional information:
"Marple On Film & TV" and "Christie Bio"
*** SERIES 2 ***
* Behind-The-Scenes Featurettes * (Instead of combining the featurettes into one showing the DVD's producer split them up so that each one is on the appropriate episode)
-- "Behind-the-scenes of Sleeping Murder" - 16-minutes:19-seconds
McEwan talks about character and this featurette includes interviews with cast member Sophia Myles and Aiden McArdle, director Edward Hall, and shows rehearsal footage.
Agatha Christie Bio & Select Cast Filmographies
-- "Behind-the-scenes of By The Pricking Of My Thumbs" - 16-minutes:34-seconds
McEwan, Anthony Andrews ("Tommy Beresford"), Charles Dance ("Septimus Bligh"), Jane Whitfield ("Mrs. Lancaster") talk about their respective characters, etc.
-- "Behind-the-scenes of The Moving Finger" - 13-minutes:44-seconds
Interviews with cast members McEwan, James D'arcy, Emilia Fox, Frances De LaTour and others.
-- "Behind-the-scenes of The Sittaford Mystery" - 11-minutes:42-seconds
Interviews with cast members James Murray, Zoe Telford, McEwan and others.
*** SERIES 3 ***
* TEXT * they got cheap on this season with no behind-the-scenes extras, but includes text on Christie Bio and Booklist, Cast Filmographies, and Still photo galleries.
Anyway, this is a great DVD set and it comes housed in three regular sized clam-shell DVD cases, each holding four DVDs, within a box.