"Step back into Britain of the 1950s. WWII is over and this is your opportunity to enjoy a vanished world of vintage buses, cars and trains. Carry your leather suitcase into the vine covered cottage, or visit your old school chum in her palatial mansion. Observe the Vicar and his wife on their bicycles. Visit the Norman Church for Evensong and note original frescos installed during the Middle Ages. If you're free for a holiday, take a motorcoach trip and visit Blenheim and Stourton. Dine at a first class hotel in London where the waiters wear white gloves or have tea and cakes with Miss Jane Marple--she might even offer you a glass of elderberry wine. Miss Marple is a noticing kind of elderly woman who lives in the Village of Saint Mary Mead. Occasionally she travels hither and thither to visit friends or take advantage of a lovely trip planned by a nephew. She always has her knitting needles in hand, working on a baby blanket or a sweater for a nephew. Jane Marple--Godmother and Aunt to several young people--I wish I had known her personally--but this is the next best thing after the books. "There she goes, tail up and head down" on the trail of another murderer--and she will get her man or woman as the case may be.I agree with the reviewer who said one doesn't buy these DVDs with the expectation of Criterion remastering. Even so, the quality of the films on these DVDs is pretty darn good. I collect Criterion DVDs and expect them to be the fully restored works of art they are. However, some of the films Criterion has restored were so badly damaged they are NOT better than the Miss Marple films even when Criterion has done it's best. Also, many of the Criterion films are Black and White films from the 1930s and 1940s and of interest because of their filmography and/or the innovative techniques their directors employed. Some of these films were shot on a shoestring budget and it shows. Technology has improved dramatically since the 40s. The reason I buy the older Criterion films is to see how clever directors worked around technological constraints. Call me blind, but I think the quality of the Miss Marple tv films is pretty good. Although some outdoor scenes are faded in spots (the films were shot in color) the director had access to camerawork not available in the 40s. Also, these scripts are excellent and filled with interesting detail. Most Criterion films average 1-2 hours of playing time (not counting the "perks" which you may or may not be interested in) whereas Series 2 of the Miss Marple films offers the viewer 500 wonderful minutes. I am grateful that I have access to DVD copies of the Miss Marple stories, and I can watch them any time I want to. When I am watching them, I am reminded of life in the days when I was a young girl. Plus, today's tv entertainment is pretty much directed to the younger set whereas the Miss Marple films are probably better appreciated by older folks like me who lived through the forties and fifties--or younger folks who wish they had. The British actors in the BBC productions are consumate professionals. Joan Hickson was told by Agatha Chistie that she thought Hickson was the BEST Miss Marple ever! Incidentally, I believe Ms. Hickson appears in the Criterion version of THE LADY VANISHES and I know she is in one of the Margaret Rutherford films. If you've read Christie's novels, you know Hickson fits the description of Miss Marple far better than Margaret Rutherford. Christie described Miss Marple as tall and thin with fine white hair and twinkly blue eyes--a gentle person in a cardigan sweater carrying a bag with her knitting needles and latest project--not an agressive broad in a tweed suit. Many other fine British actors are featured in these films--Joss Ackland, Claire Bloom, Rosemary Crutchly all favorites of mine who can out perform the "mega" stars any day of the week. I love the vintage settings, costumes, clothing, china, knick-knacks and bric-a-brac, jewelry, shoes, hats, handbags, luggage, handkerchiefs--nothing is missing. I still own a handkerchief sachet with hand embroidered handkerchiefs my grandmother made --and one makes a very important appearance in a Miss Marple tale. The BBC maintains a museum in Stratford on Avon where one can view the costumes and other props used in various productions. The Miss Marple films give me a vicarious thrill and a trip down memory lane. Tea anyone??"
Fairly good adaptations, lousy picture quality
Tom Anderson | Piney Flats, Tennessee United States | 01/02/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I love the Miss Marple stories. They are cozy, ingenious, and startling at the same time. Joan Hickson is marvelous as Miss Marples. The problems with these productions are two-fold: adaptation and picture quality. If more time had been alloted to each episode, then I'm sure these programs would have been better. As it is, things are rushed (as compared with the novels). In a mystery this is not a good thing. BUT this is a minor complaint compared to the horrendous picture quality of all but "They Do It With Mirrors." How any company could have the nerve to put this out and have the gall to charge for it is beyond me. You would think A&E would care more, but then just check out these same episodes when they are broadcast: the same lousy quality. The picture looks like it is several generations removed from the original and whatever source material was used for the transfer was faded, worn out, dirty, dull-looking (almost no contrast), and extremely grainy--in fact you could play connect the dots with the grain. In some scenes the picture has a wavering quality, especially near the top of the scene. Miss Marple and Agatha Christie deserve far better than this--not to mention us, the consumer. A&E should be thoroughly ashamed!"
Miss Marple, Set 1
PhoneConnoisseur | Austin, TX United States | 03/02/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am writing more in response to the reviews that refer to the quality of these DVD's or, rather, the lack thereof. I have to agree that these DVD's do not live up to anything Criterion puts out (no company does it better) but, on the other hand, I don't expect it to be that quality for the price paid. Also, these originally were filmed in that late 1980's and I would doubt that the original negatives were retained for recording purposes some 16 years later.I buy them because I love the character of Miss Marple and especially the quality performance of Joan Hickson. Further, comparing Hickson's performance of Miss Marple with Ms. Rutherford's (these were MGM British production in the mid-1960's and were made to be campy and funny--remember at least one of the movies made was originally an Hercule Poirot story) is like comparing Lord Laurence Olivier's portrayal of Henry V to something that John Cleese might do (heaven forbid!).So, take the quality as they are, relax and enjoy. If you want true digital quality, we must purchase anything that is produced from the original negative rather than a positive copied, and from a true, reputable producer of DVDs ..."
Solving a Mystery that has No Clues!!
Stephen Pletko | London, Ontario, Canada | 01/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
(Note: this review is exclusively for the Miss Marple mystery "Nemesis" on VHS)
I watched this movie without reading the 1971 Dame Agatha Christie novel that it was based on. (Christie wrote twelve full-length Miss Marple murder mysteries.) I'm glad I did this! Why? Because it forced me to really watch this movie in order to try and deduce who the murderer was.
The movie begins with millionaire Jason Rafiel (Frank Gatliff) dying of natural causes. Soon after his death, Miss Marple (the late Joan Hickson) receives a letter written by the now dead Rafiel (who was her friend) asking her to do some investigation. Miss Marple questions and comments after reading this letter:
"What kind of crime, if it was a crime, was it? When [was it] committed - where - anything? I'm most bewildered. It's like being asked to do a crossword puzzle without any clues!"
Miss Marple eventually, with the aid of her godson Lionel (Peter Tilbury) begins slowly collecting information, the most interesting being the mysterious death of two young girls named Verity Hunt and Nora Brent. However, Miss Marple is not sure of herself in her investigation and admits the following:
"Mr. Rafiel is a ghostly puppet master...laughing at [me] from beyond the grave."
Eventually a murder and suicide occur.
Who are the people associated with this intriguing mystery? They are as follows:
(1) Michael Rafiel, Jason's son (Bruce Payne) (2) Mr. Broadribb, Jason's lawyer (Roger Hammond) (3) Mr. Shuster, another of Jason's lawyers (Pat Godfrey) (4) Miss Temple, retired school head mistress (Helen Cherry) (5) Professor (of criminal psychology) Waustead (John Horsley) (6) Miss Cooke, bodyguard (Jane Booker) (7) Miss Barrow, bodyguard (Alison Skilbeck) (8) Clothilde Bradbury-Scott, the past guardian of Verity Hunt (Margaret Tyzack) (9) Anthea, Clothilde's sister and another guardian of Verity (Anna Chopper) (10) Lavina, a married sister of Clothilde (Valerie Lush) (11) Mrs. Brent, mother of Nora (Liz Fraser) (12) Archdeacon Brabazon (Peter Copley)
Joan Hickson (whom Agatha Christie herself wanted to play Miss Marple) captures the essence of the heroine super sleuth in her performance. (Hickson was 81 years old in this movie!). Other fine performances to look for are Bruce Payne as Rafiel's son and Margaret Tyzack as Clothilde.
The character Jason Rafiel also appears in the Miss Marple murder mystery "A Caribbean Mystery" (1965).
Finally, the cinematography of this movie is well done. All costumes and props are authentic looking. The background music adds to each scene.
In conclusion, this is a fun and intriguing movie even if you have read the novel it's based on!!
(1987; 100 min; made for TV; British drama; full screen; color)
While others have done well, Joan Hickson is the defining Mi
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 08/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Says Professor Wanstead to Miss Jane Marple (Joan Hickson) after the murderer has been discovered, "So Mr. Rafiel's faith in his son is justified after all." "Oh, no, Professor," Miss Marple replies, "it wasn't like that at all. Mr. Rafiel wanted justice for the dead girl, even if it meant the sacrifice of his son." "Do you think he considered that," the Professor asks. "Oh, yes," Miss Marple says. "He knew I wouldn't flinch, even if it meant sending Michael to the gallows. He called me 'Nemesis,' you know, and he wasn't being entirely humorous."
Nor should any murderer underestimate this slightly frail, inquisitive and observant old woman, long a resident of the English village of St. Mary Mead, who is given to wearing tweeds and sensible shoes, often knitting and frequently gardening. Miss Marple has a mind as logical as a trap. As she says, "It's very dangerous to believe people. I haven't for years." When murder has been done, those aged eyes see things, especially in the behavior and habits of those around her, which lead to retribution. As played by Joan Hickson, Miss Marple is invariably courteous and very much of the old school when it comes to manners. She may occasionally offer advice, but is remarkably realistic. "Good advice is almost certain to be ignored," she says, "but that's no reason for not giving it." She may take part in a bit of gossip, but almost always she is giving a bit of information in order to get even more back. Hickson's Miss Marple is not without empathy or friends, but she essentially is a person quite satisfied to do her gardening. She does not twinkle. And nowhere are Miss Marple's defining qualities of logic, persistence and seriousness of purpose better displayed than in Nemesis (1987), one of the five made-for-television movies in Agatha Christie's Miss Marple - Set Two.
Mr. Rafiel, a wealthy man who knew Jane Marple years before, has died. She was notified at his death that he had a request...would she take a tour-bus excursion, visit the places on the tour and see if anything seems...well, curious? He describes no crime, he gives no clues. Perhaps there was no crime; he leaves it up to Miss Marple. And Jane Marple decides to honor his wish. She is surprised to learn a number of others also have signed for the tour because of Mr. Rafiel's request; some received money to encourage them. Gradually, Miss Marple learns the story of a young girl who disappeared, another young girl who was killed, of Rafiel's son who loved one of them and then vanished, of three sisters living in a decaying mansion...and of an overwhelming atmosphere of love, sadness and regret. Miss Marple, in her quiet and relentless way, learns the truth and then sees to it that justice, after all the years, is done while she gazes steadily at the murderer.
Nemesis is no British cozy.
The other four stories in this set may not quite reach the emotional depth of Nemesis, but they all are fine mysteries. They share complex and twisting plots, excellent acting, and a general seriousness of intention. Above all, they share the incomparable and defining performance of Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. Bear in mind that Hickson was already 78 when she starred in the earliest mystery of this set, The Moving Finger, and 85 in the set's latest, They Do it With Mirrors. Hickson filmed all 12 of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple books; her 12th and last Marple, at age 86, was The Mirror Crack'd (1992). She died after a long career in British theater and movies at age 92 in 1998.
Finishing out Set Two are: The Moving Finger (1985), when vicious poison pen letters disrupt lives and lead to murder; Murder at the Vicarage (1986), when faith and patience are sorely tested, and a murderous plot catches Miss Marple's interest; At Bertram's Hotel (1987), when Miss Marple discovers what never seems to change has, and not for the better; and They Do It With Mirrors (1991), when ambition and certitude overcome even love. Among the many fine actors taking part in these films, keep an eye out for Joan Greenwood, Jean Simmons, Joss Ackland, Margaret Tysack, Michael Culver, Caroline Blakiston, Paul Eddington, George Baker and Cheryl Campbell.
These Miss Marple films run about 1' 40" each. They are not only fine and satisfying mysteries, in a morbid way they are also great fun. Extras include biographies of Agatha Christie and Joan Hickson, plus an index of all of the Miss Marple stories. The quality of the DVD color transfers is that of decent VHS tapes. A couple look just a little faded, but nothing that gets in the way of enjoyment."