As seen on the PBS Mystery! series Four all-new, full-length mysteries bring you a Miss Marple like no other. Geraldine McEwan (Vanity Fair, The Magdalene Sisters) returns as the spinster sleuth, as shrewd and sagacious as... more » ever. Breathing new life into Agatha Christie?s novels, these intricately plotted and thoroughly engaging whodunits feature the richly detailed settings, lush cinematography, and imaginative screenplays that won Series 1 overwhelming critical acclaim and an Emmy® nomination. McEwan imbues Miss Marple with a kindly sparkle and sly wit that prove "irresistible," raves TV Guide. "Not your mother?s Miss Marple," says the Associated Press. Sterling supporting casts that include Anthony Andrews, Michael Brandon, James D?Arcy, Geraldine Chaplin, Timothy Dalton, Frances de la Tour, Sophia Myles, Ken Russell, and Greta Scacchi further enrich this 21st century celebration of Agatha Christie?s most beloved heroine.« less
Price Grisham | Essex, MA United States | 06/27/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Sleeping Murder seems to refer mostly to what was done to the original book. Obviously considering Christie's mysteries too mannerly, the scriptwriters invented a troupe of actors who sleep around with each other, then changed the step-sister in the plot to a real sister so some incest could be added; by the time the heroine breaks off her engagement to her fiance, it is a mild denoument, but at least consistent.
In By the Pricking of My Thumbs, Miss Marple is injected into a plot where she is totally unncessary; and rather than the happy, intelligent couple we know from Christie's books, we are presented with Tommy as a bumbling, insensitive beaurocrat and Tuppence as a depressed boozer (with some unexpected company, since the local clergyman is also an alcoholic, of course).
The Moving Finger is much better in plot alignment, even though it opens showing the hero writhing in bed with various women (thankfully, only one at a time). But here the costume production details were messed up pretty badly: the (very) busty governess is about to explode from the low-cut cocktail dress she is wearing early in the morning as she oversees her young charges (in which any sudden movement would certainly have added graphically to their education); and when the hero's sister is shown seated at a formal dinner party eating with her gloves on, I laughed aloud; who made this episode, 21st century Americans?
All of this is a real shame, since a lot of thought and money obviously went into the period detail, and the acting is top-notch; but the representation of 1950's behavior is so unrealistic that it counteracts all the effort put into the visualization of the small towns and their surroundings. I've added an additional star from my earlier review, since the producers really did apparently try to give us 1952 England; but the production was forced to be so post-modern friendly, that they lost the originality and reality that would have made these episodes much better editions.
Had they considered a series focusing Miss Marple's sophisticated nephew, with new story lines, it might have been fascinating; but trying to hang onto some thin thread of the original plots, while taking all the chracters from 2006 and putting them into period settings, was not a convincing combination."
What's so new?
Mary Twain | New York | 10/11/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
""Christie as you have never seen her before" was a claim that made me a little nervous, but I decided to try these "new" mysteries anyway. Sometimes a new approach can be helpful.
Alas, I discovered this "new Christie" is simply a chance for the writers of these stories to stick their 21st Century values on an older generation. Bright young things always claim they are so different from their parents, but they want to paint their grandparents as they are themselves.
The first set of this new series was disturbing enough. There were subtile changes here and there that distracted from the story. What was a small adventure into so-called "new areas" in the first series is an all-out march into the world of today in this second series.
Sleeping Murder is not longer the story of poor Helen who, like the Helen of the old stories, could not find happiness in life because of her beauty. For those who have read Christie, this was a theme she used in more than one plot. The Helen of this movie is not longer a beautiful young woman searching everywhere for love, only to have it snatched for her grasp before she can enjoy her treasure; instead this Helen is a petty thief with a smirk that always leaves the viewer wondering what she is planning. The story is not the tale of young newlyweds coming to England to buy a home in which to start their married life, but instead the tale of a summer acting group that were saved from certain career disaster by the arrival of World War II. The young newlyweds are not newlyweds but only an engaged gal that demands and snaps at people until her discovery that she knows things about this house that she should not only give her another reason to complain. The young husband never appears in the story, in fact he is dispatched from the script in favor of what is supposed to be a flunkie of the company come to help her buy the house and settle in before the wedding. One wonders at the ending as the flunkie will be out of a job when his boss hears the wedding is off and then where will they all be?
The relationships between these characters are what one might expect from a modern day acting group and not from a pre-war one. The disclosure of the murderer seems to be an: "Oh yes, this is a murder tale so we had better make one of these people a murderer." And the murder itself is silly rather than tragic.
These "new" stories center around gay couples and estranged couples and broken-hearted singles. There are few married couples. And the writers simply cannot bear to keep Christie's love stories within the episodes. No, those have to be tossed in favor of some "new" approach to the ending. Christie's stories were so much about the character of humans and why they act the way they do. Each detail of her stories helped to express her view on what motivated humans to love and to kill. The freely changing of some of these details destroys an important part of the story. One could and should expect some changes to keep the story fresh but those changes should express Christie's views and not the popular views of the moment. The twisted end to 4:50 From Paddington in no way expressed the point Christie made by developing the relationship of Bryan and the new cook. When that point was removed for the story, then the family became only a group of greedy people grasping for the old man's money, and not a family whose outlook on life had been so changed by their father's character and actions. With no contrast between Bryan and the others, the point was last and watching the story became pointless as well.
I would say to the writers of these movies: There is a reason that Dame Agatha has out-sold God, and you have completely missed the point of that reason. Why is it that you cannot have a married couple in any of your stories? Of what are you afraid? We expect our elected leaders to have good characters and be upstanding citizens, but the total disregard of some values by the entertainment medium is totally appaling. Christie wrote about life and about people as they are. The fact that you are using her name and her reputation to tell your own tale tells us so much about you. And Christie taught us how to understand you.
Let me see if I can explain the basic concept of the murder tale. Evil people kill and/or are killed. Innocent people suffer because of the murder. If your suffering characters are such that nobody cares about them, then nobody is going to give a darn how much they suffer. And by the time Sleeping Murder was over, I had completely lost interest. Her end was understandable.
And may I ask why she was buried under a dead tree?"
A Mixed Bag of Mystery
Matthew Gladney | Champaign-Urbana, IL USA | 07/13/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The accomplished actress Geraldine McEwan stars as the spinster sleuth Jane Marple, who lives in the picturesque little village of St. Mary Mead. Pleasant and full of life, Ms. Marple often becomes interested if murder or mayhem rears its ugly head in her vicinity. She's come to earn the respect of many in Scotland Yard, and makes friends easier than you can snap your fingers. With these new productions, its a pleasure to watch her solve the crimes.
This new series of Marple stories takes liberties with the original stories penned by Agatha Christie, to varying effect. In "Sleeping Murder," which had its own implausibilities to begin with, the way the story was changed makes it harder to follow and detracts from the overall feel of it. In the case of "By the Pricking of My Thumbs," however, the alterations to the original story weren't so bad. Perhaps that is due to my unfamiliarity with the book, but I thought that this production was very well done, and quite suspenseful.
Credit is given to this new production of Miss Marple for making "The Moving Finger" a smashing good ride. I've never found the previous TV or radio adaptations to be that engaging, but this version was quite good, building the tension as it went along. Alas, "The Sittaford Mystery" has been changed so much from the book that I can not support it. Perhaps this is an example of being too familiar with the original?
The direction and pacing of each Marple story is usually pretty well done. The set and costume designs are exquisite. The casting is typically top-notch, and each episode is like a who's who of familiar British actors. The theme music is lively and memorable, and overall the series is enjoyable. It just needs to become a little more even in its presentation, and it would be that much better.
--- Matthew Gladney"
ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL NEW VERSION OF OUR BELOVED MISS MARPLE
Joyce | California | 10/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've been a Christie fan since childhood and loved the early movies in spite of Rutherford's handling of the character. I loved Joan Hickson's portrayal of Miss Marple and never thought anyone else could "be" Miss Marple for me. Therefore I expected to be disappointed with these new releases. I AM NOT DISAPPOINTED, I LOVE THIS NEW VERSION! After I cautiously viewed the first episode I came to fully appreciate Geraldine McEwan in the role. She is subtle, confident and highly adroit and I find her refreshing and wonderful. The stories themselves are entertaining and intriquing. Some reviewers complained that the scripts don't stick to the originals, but this is not an issue for me here. Christie's stories stay alive and fun even after having been done so often because they aren't always done the same way. Any tweaks to the storylines keep the material fresh and even improve it at times. I think it's fun to be surprised by my old favorites! Hooray for Geraldine McEwan! I hope to see many more Miss Marple stories with her in the title role!"
Get the Joan Hickson versions
Film Buff Chris | Doylestown, PA United States | 11/16/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"In my 20s I read all of the Agatha Christie "Miss Marple" books, and found them really fun. However, the Margaret Rutherford series was entertaining because that actress was so much fun, but the character wasn't remotely like Christie's character, and they threw Christie's plots out the window. Plus the jokey musical score (which is true of a lot of British comedies from the 50s through 70s) was enough to make you hide under a chair. (Though I suppose turning the sound off would be more effective.) And though I love Angela Lansbury, her one Miss Marple movie ("The Mirror Cracked") was not so good. And once again Christie's plots were "improved" by the screenwriters... but not in a way that was satisfying.
Then the BBC (and later A & E?) produced all the Miss Marple stories with the great British actress Joan Hickson. Hickson was very close to the written character - she was a charming, polite, occasionally scattered old lady, and yet the look on her face when she observed people showed real intelligence, as well as an acceptance that the world had a lot of dark things in it. Plus the series clearly made a decision to stay with the Christie plots, and thus they were much more satisfying than any of the previous Miss Marple movies.
Having said all that, I can't believe that some producing entity decided to remake all these same stories for no apparent reason that I can see. I have liked Geraldine McEwan twice that I've seen her, and both were in villain roles - as a religioius fanatic mother who is horrible to her lesbian daughter in "Oranges are Not the Only Fruit" and as the punishing main nun in "The Magdalene Sisters." As Miss Marple, I find her quirky and a little cutesy-pie and she doesn't radiate with that quiet intelligence Joan Hickson brought to the part. And though I've only seen a couple of the McEwan episodes, I find them inferior in every regard to the Hickson versions. So please, if you like Agatha Chrisite or Miss Marple, do yourself a favor and check out the Joan Hickson series, not this one."