'Miss Marple: Volume Three' (HD)
(Joan Hickson, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2015 / BBC America)
Overview: Gather your wits and join best-selling author Agatha Christie's popular sleuth Miss Jane Marple in four more delightfully baffling mysteries starring Joan Hickson; the actress Christie herself wanted for the title role. Newly remastered for the 30th Anniversary, the first and second volumes of the classic BBC series are also out now!
DVD Verdict: In truth, Joan Hickson is the one I always think of when I think of Miss Marple as she is always good value for acting as the beloved character, Miss Marple. And with the very first episodes of this classic British TV series now having all been remastered in HD, well, there's no better time to catch up with the old dame!
In the first of the mysteries, 'At Bertram's Hotel,' during a stay at one of London's most elegant and venerable hotels Miss Marple uncovers a sinister undercurrent of corruption and murder beneath Bertram's stuffy veneer. In truth, this TV movie is all about dotty characters, and not really about crime. Christie was the master at crafting characters and places. These were the essence of her novels, which placed them apart and well above more routine mystery stories.
There's Miss Marple, the epitome of the spinster lady of good manners and breeding, if a little on the inquisitive side. Always aware of what's going on around her, collecting all gossip and facts which she will use to solve the murder that baffles the police. As always, and as noted above, for my money Joan Hickson played the best Miss Marple; she was Miss Marple - all cardigans and tweed skirts.
There's Col. Luscombe the old bachelor who couldn't be more unsuited to his role as guardian of a comely girl. Clueless as to parenting, and as unfeeling as only old bachelors can be. There's Lady Selina Hazy, a dotty old dear if there ever was one. Ever gossiping, knowing something about just every one, she's the quintessential lady who rattles on and on. See her stick to Miss Marple like gum to a shoe. And Miss Marple is gentlewoman enough to allow her.
Chief Inspector Davy is the dull, if gentlemanly copper. Played by George Baker, who's also Chief Inspector Wexford in the Ruth Rendell mysteries. Hangs about the Betram Hotel eating muffins, while undercover to investigate some robberies. Canon Pennyfather is the old gent gone vague, the absolutely most absent minded fellow there was. Definitely bats in his belfry.
Miss Gorringe is the receptionist at the hotel, ever stuffy and condescending to the guests. Henry is the doorman, or concierge since we are in exclusive Mayfair, London; and Ladislaus is the oily racing car driver and two-timer.
In 'The Sleeping Murder,' a young couple comes back to England and buys a house on a fancy from the wife. And it so happens it is the house where she lived when very young before being sent to New Zealand where she spent her whole life. But it is also the house where her stepmother was assassinated just before she left. She is having strange recollections that are rather disturbing. So she decides to find out about her past in spite of the advice given to her by several people, including Miss Marple that the past should not be meddled with. Of course, dire circumstances transpire soon thereafter for her and others surrounding her.
The film, like the book, gets off to a slow, tedious start. The plot gets better as it plods along. Toward the end, Director John Davies injects some needed suspense. The screenplay is a bit talky. Acting is adequate. Hickson as Jane Marple, is, as always, delightfully meddlesome and, quite naturally, three steps ahead of everyone else in solving the crime!
In the third episode, 'A Caribbean Mystery,' Miss Marple is enjoying a holiday in Barbados recovering from a recent illness. However, an ex colonial police officer called Major Palgrave (Frank Middlemass), boasts to Miss Marple about a murder story and takes a photograph out of his wallet which apparently has a murderer's face on it. However, he suddenly sees that person and quickly puts the photograph back into his wallet. Miss Marple didn't take it very seriously at the time but when Major Palgrave is found dead the next morning, she wishes she had when more murders follow.
Hickson is as wonderful as ever as Miss Marple, and Donald Pleasance makes the most out of his role as Jason Rafiel. Sue Lloyd is suitably nasty as Lucy Dyson, and T.P.McKenna is good as Dr Grahame. Adrian Lukis and Sophie Ward are a little on the dull side as the Kendalls though. I will say the final solution was very effective. Overall, a worthwhile diversion, not so bad as an adaptation either.
In the last of the episodes, 'Nemesis,' Miss Marple is called upon to solve her most perplexing case yet. Upon his death, financier John Rafiel asks her to solve a murder. Only problem is that the murder may or may not have place as yet and the victim is unknown. All that he has given her is two tickets on the Daffodil Tour Company's Mystery Tour. It soon becomes obvious that others on the tour were also "selected" by Mr. Rafiel. Jane Marple, assisted by her nephew Raymond West, concludes that the case must be related to that of Verity Hunt, a young woman who in 1939 was running away from an overattentive landlord and eventually disappeared.
'Nemesis' is the last episode in which Joan Hickson dons the mantle of the elderly yet intrepid needle-clicking sleuth, and it once again takes Dame Agatha's wonderful original tale apart, and reconstitutes it into one that makes little sense, logic, or reason, adds, deletes, and changes characters, presents new plot lines and a new conclusion. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and it comes with the Special Feature, "A Very British Murder" - Part Three: The Golden Age.