Masterpiece Mystery

Hercule Poirot: Appointment with Death on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review

Image from Poirot: Appointment with Death: David Suchet in Hercule Poirot © 2010 MASTERPIECEThree quarters into the new to Masterpiece Mystery presentation of Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death tonight, her detective Hercule Poirot proclaimed to the roundup of suspects “This case mon ami, is full of the red fish.” I couldn’t agree more. In this 2008 ITV/PBS liberal adaptation by screenwriter Guy Andrews there are red herrings leaping out of the plot like a politian’s rebuttal, but not of Christie’s making. In fact, very little of what you experience onscreen is from her 1937 novel. To disarm reproof there is after all, the discreetly placed caveat of “based on” Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death in the opening credits. Does this absolve all sins before they are committed?

(Queue blazing sun and Lawrence of Arabia music.) Eccentric English archaeologist Lord Greville Boynton (Tim Curry) has been trolling through the Middle East for years in search of the head of John the Baptist reputed to have been buried where the river meets the mountains 2,000 years ago. His domineering American wife (Cheryl Campbell) is graciously funding his expeditions from her lucrative stock market dealings, but that is where the joy ends. With her Continue reading “Hercule Poirot: Appointment with Death on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review”

Masterpiece Mystery

Hercule Poirot: Third Girl on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review

Image from Poirot: Third Girl: David Suchet and Zoë Wanamaker © 2008 MASTERPIECEIf Masterpiece Mystery fans were unsettled by last week’s uncharacteristically dark and moralistic production of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, then absolution is in order with Third Girl, a total turn-around back to the sophisticated Art Deco 1930’s London and country manor house crime dramas that we have come to cherish and expect. In this new 2008 ITV/PBS co-production, David Suchet continues as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot joined by Zoë Wanamaker in her re-occurring role as crime novelist Ariadne Oliver. Faced with one of their most challenging cases they must discover if a tormented heiress is a murderer or another criminal is amongst a group of suspects who may have set her up.

Norma Restarick (Jemima Rooper – Lost in Austen) arrives at Poirot’s London flat distressed and distraught, hoping that he can save her. She believes she has committed murder, but before he can assist her she abruptly leaves oddly claiming the distinguished detective is too old. Baffled, Poirot later visits his friend celebrated crime novelist Ariadne Oliver and learns she had sent Norma to him Continue reading “Hercule Poirot: Third Girl on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review”

Masterpiece Mystery

Hercule Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review

Image from Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express: David Suchet as Hercule Poirot © 2010 MASTERPIECEMystery fans were treated to the opening of season X of Poirot on Masterpiece Mystery last Sunday with a new episode of Murder on the Orient Express, one of Agatha Christie’s most famous novels. Amazingly, this new production is only the second time it has been adapted for television and follows the famous and glitzy 1974 Hollywood movie directed by Sidney Lumet with an all-star cast including Albert Finney as Detective Hercule Poirot, Lauren Becall as the outrageously brash American Mrs. Hubbard and Ingrid Bergman in her Oscar winning role as Swedish missionary Greta Ohlsson. Having seen this version some 36 years ago (yikes), I watched it again in preparation for this new David Suchet production. With the passing years, it is even more of an opulent showpiece of bravada by the then fading Hollywood studio system than I remembered, packed with so many stars and stunning costumes that my eye could not settle upon the seriousness of the story nor my head erase the earworm that the musical score created. It was glamorous. It was exciting. It was a dog and pony show that Agatha Christie’s novel never was. It still made me smile in appreciation of the great acting and direction from an era that we may look back upon in wonder. Continue reading “Hercule Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review”

Masterpiece Mystery

Miss Marple: The Blue Geranium on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review

Image from Miss Marple: The Blue Geranium: Julia McKenzie in Miss Marple © 2010 MASTERPIECEMiss Marple concluded last Sunday on Masterpiece Mystery with the final episode, The Blue Geranium, a twisted tale infused with the seven deadly sins, those tempting vices that have plagued man since the beginning of time. I can think of no better foundation for an intriguing murder mystery than, wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony. They are the stock and trade of the genre. And like the super-sleuth that she is, Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie) is the only one who can unravel the complicated mystery surrounding three deaths in the quaint village of Little Ambrose.

Based on a short story by Agatha Christie published in 1932, the mystery begins almost immediately with the death of heiress Mary Pritchard (Sharon Small) whose life up until her demise involved hypochondria and histrionics. Her husband George (Toby Stephens) does not take her concerns over medical ailments or the flowers in her bedroom wallpaper turning blue very seriously. She on the other hand is convinced that it symbolizes her impending death. Proving him wrong is not what Continue reading “Miss Marple: The Blue Geranium on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review”

Masterpiece Mystery

Miss Marple: The Secret of Chimneys on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review

Image from Miss Marple: The Secret of Chimneys: Julia McKenzie and Stephen Dillane © 2010 MASTERPIECEThe fifth series of Miss Marple continued on Masterpiece Mystery last Sunday with a new episode, The Secret of Chimneys. I was not familiar with this Miss Marple mystery novel written by Agatha Christie in 1925, so I just sat back and let it take me by surprise. It certainly did. There was distinct difference in this episode. The script, direction and editing were a cut above the normal fare which piqued my curiosity to investigate the original novel and the production team. I do not know whose feet I should throw all the accolades at or who deserves the laurel wreath of distinction, but screenwriter Paul Rutman, director John Strickland and film editor Nick Arthur made a triple play worthy of Eric Bruntlett. This is the best Miss Marple episode I have seen so far in the new Julia McKenzie reign. Fast paced, packed full of red herrings and double takes, I was questioning each character’s motives and analyzing every possible clue to the last, and then was totally surprised by the final reveal. Continue reading “Miss Marple: The Secret of Chimneys on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review”

Masterpiece Mystery

Miss Marple: The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review

Image from Miss Marple: The Mirror Crack'd: Joanna Lumley and Julia McKenzie © 2010 MASTERPIECESpinster sleuth Miss Marple returned to Masterpiece Mystery last Sunday with her sensible shoes and ingenious deductions in one of Agatha Christie’s venerable warhorses, The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side. What true classic mystery aficionado has not seen one of the movie adaptations of this wonderful 1962 book of the same name? It has been trotted out no less than two times prior to this new production showcased by former Miss Marple’s: Angela Lansbury and Joan Hickson. Now Julia McKenzie gets her chance to slip into the Marple mantle and solve a double murder at a grand manor house  in her own village of St Mary Mead.

The locals are all aflutter when an American film actress Marina Gregg (Lindsay Duncan) takes up residence at Gossington Hall with her fifth husband, a dashing young English film director Jason Rudd (Nigel Harman) who has resurrected her waning career and the country estate formerly owned by Miss Marple’s friend Dolly Bantry (Joanna Lumley). A charity Continue reading “Miss Marple: The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review”

Masterpiece Mystery

Miss Marple: They Do It With Mirrors on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – Recap & Review

Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple (2009)The third episode of the Miss Marple Mysteries aired on Sunday, July 19th on Masterpiece Mystery with They Do It With Mirrors, a new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1952 novel on PBS. The new Miss Marple Julia McKenzie adds a sympathetic and knowing mantle to her interpretation of the famous elderly detective of St. Mary Mead, ever-ready to volunteer her sharp eye and deductive reasoning to solve a crime. Who says old ladies are sedentary, dim-witted and forgetful? Not Miss Marple!

Jane Marple’s glamorous friend Ruth Van Rydock (Joan Collins) is concerned about her sister Carrie Louise (Penelope Wilton). Strange goings on at her home seem to be escalating; the most recent a suspicious fire in her office destroying her personal papers. On the premise of a social visit, Miss Marple arrives at Stonygate, Carrie Louise’s large estate that also doubles as a correctional facility for Continue reading “Miss Marple: They Do It With Mirrors on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – Recap & Review”

Masterpiece Mystery

Miss Marple: Murder is Easy on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – Recap & Review

Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple (2009)The second episode of the Miss Marple Mysteries aired on Sunday, July 12th on Masterpiece Mystery with Murder is Easy. The new Miss Marple Julia McKenzie continues to improve in her interpretation of Agatha Christie’s amateur detective who may look like a harmless and kindly elderly lady, but is as sharp as her knitting needles.

Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie) meets a stranger on a train who claims “murder is easy.”  The doddering Miss Pinkerton (Sylvia Syms) is on her way to Scotland Yard to report two suspicious deaths in her village and shares some scattered facts with Miss Marple during their short journey. When Miss Marple reads in the paper of her accidental death in the train station on the same day as their meeting, she may be the only person who knows of Miss Pinkerton’s suspicion that the deaths are indeed murders. She travels to the village of Wychwood-under-Ashe to reveal what she knows and discover the truth. The villagers are Continue reading “Miss Marple: Murder is Easy on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – Recap & Review”

Masterpiece Mystery

Miss Marple: A Pocket Full of Rye on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – Recap & Review

Julia McKenzie is Miss Marple on Masterpiece Mystery (2009)Julia McKenzie debuted on Sunday as the new Miss Marple in A Pocket Full of Rye on Masterpiece Mystery. She’s the actress who played Mrs. Forrester in last season’s Cranford who put flannel pajamas on her cow. We shall see if she can also put a memorable spin on Agatha Christie’s famous elderly spinster who dabbles as an amateur sleuth.

McKenzie has big shoes to fill. Not only is Miss Marple one of Christie’s most famous characters whose analytical skills are as sharp as her knitting needles, the two previous actresses who portrayed her in this series, Joan Hickson (1982-1992) and Geraldine McEwan (2004-2007), were outstanding, leaving an indelible mark on the role. We shall see if she can wear the Marple mantle as successfully.

Based on Christie’s 1953 novel, three murders in two days has Inspector Neele (Matthew Macfadyen) baffled. Wealthy financier Rex Fortescue (Kenneth Cranham ) poisoned at his London office was found with rye in his pocket, his young wife Adele (Anna Madeley) the prime suspect dies after tea in their Continue reading “Miss Marple: A Pocket Full of Rye on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – Recap & Review”