Posted: 01/23/2008

 

Miss Marple – Season 3

(2008)

by Katie Morris




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Miss Jane Marple is still a knitting, white-haired old lady who disapproves—quite correctly!—of murder. One of Agatha Christie’s most popular characters, this elderly sleuth from the country makes her latest appearance in this four-disc DVD set from Acorn Media. She still blends in with a background of unsophisticated, gossiping older women. Yet, despite appearances, she is a sharp lady who notices everything, and never fails to catch the murderer.

This release consists of four episodes, roughly ninety minutes each, that originally aired on PBS Mystery! in the summer of 2007. The collection consists of “Nemesis,” “Towards Zero,” “At Bertram’s Hotel,” and “Ordeal by Innocence.” Geraldine McEwan stars as the arthritic but unstoppable Jane Marple. McEwan plays Marple perfectly, capturing the full range of Miss Marple’s sharp looks. Set in the 1950s, the scenery and costumes are also wonderful to watch. The episodes follow the novels in a general way, but certain characters, as well as plotlines, are given a bit more splash.

The transition from Agatha Christie’s novels to these television adaptations has further dramatized the already dramatic. Perhaps, to the uninitiated, this seems purely expected entertainment. One remarkable moment comes when a hotel concierge says the line, “Miss Otis regrets she is unable to lunch today,” without missing a beat. There are also nods to more recent popular culture, such as a police inspector named Larry Bird. However, to a regular Christie fan, some of these added touches appear out of place.

For example, “At Bertram’s Hotel” features a maid who assists Miss Marple in tracking clues. The maid then falls in love with a police inspector. She tells Miss Marple that she and the policeman are going away together. Miss Marple asks her, delighted, “To get married?” and the maid responds, “Oh no. We’re just going to live together and see how things work out.” Miss Marple tells her, “Things are changing. And I think for the better.” Perhaps the ’50s were more radical than they are remembered? Another example comes in “Nemesis.” In the book, three older sisters live together in their family home. The television version converts these spinsters into actual nuns, and even places a good part of the action at their convent.

This is charming, if at times overwrought, entertainment. Jane Seymour, Julian Sands, Saffron Burrows, Richard E. Grant, and Dame Eileen Atkins, among others, are featured as supporting cast members. Extra features include cast filmographies and photo galleries for each episode. Overall, these murder mysteries are fun to watch, just more sensationalized than Agatha Christie had envisioned them.

Katie Morris is a writer and film reviewer living in Chicago.



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