In Agatha Christie?s deepest venture into the occult, writer Mark Easterbrook is accused of murdering a priest. As he sets out to prove his innocence, he discovers that a series of deaths, seemingly from natural causes, ma... more »y be connected to witchcraft and a strange trio of sisters!« less
jammer | Laramie, Wyoming United States | 03/26/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"At what point does a screenplay's "artistic license" exceed limits where such can be attributed to an author like Agatha Christie? This 1996 TV movie (screenplay by Alma Cullen) is titled "Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse" and subtitled "Supernatural British Mystery Classic." Contrast these two opening scenes:
FROM CHRISTIE'S 1961 NOVEL: Mark Easterbrook witnesses a hair-pulling cat-fight between one Thomasina Tuckerton and another woman. A week later he comes across a newspaper notice that Tuckerton died of natural causes. Meanwhile Father Gorman visits another dying woman losing her hair. Walking home, he stops at a local café to jot down a list of names before he forgets them. His cassock having pocket holes, he slips the list into his shoe, leaves, and is promptly murdered on the way home. Coroner Jim Corrigan and Detective Inspector Lejeune hypothesize he was killed in attempts to find that overlooked list and/or eliminate confessional and incriminating evidence of some kind. Later Mark encounters old friend Jim Corrigan. Discussing the case and the list, they note the presence of Tuckerton's name. Thus begins Mark's self-involvement and collaboration with Corrigan and other friends in this increasingly baffling series of possibly interconnected deaths.
FROM THIS 1996 TV MOVIE: Mark and girlfriend are attending a showing of Macbeth. Mark leaves early and witnesses someone brutally attacking a priest with his "borrowed" bicycle wrench. He rushes to assist the priest who hands him a bloodied list and dies. Police arrive, later find Mark's bloodied tool nearby, and see Mark holding the list with blood on his hands. A smug, scowling, abrasive Chief Inspector Lejune, with an previously unknown (to Mark) assistant named Corrigan, promptly accuses Mark of the murder, swearing he will convict Mark and plotting his conviction throughout the film. Mark, released on bail, must proceed on an investigative effort to clear himself.
Christie's original novel is tightly-constructed, well-written, fast-paced and interesting, perfect material for a first-class film. What a pity it is still unfilmed! What was done here was to borrow a couple of ideas from one of her novels, change them as desired, change the environment and characters surrounding the ideas (keeping a few names for appearances), changed crime(s) and murderer(s), then marketed the result under Christie's name. Some would call this "bait and switch."
It is certainly the right of TV or movie producers to fabricate material whole-cloth for television productions. The results may even be entertaining and worthwhile. But impostures under the guise of a major author's work should be exposed for what they are. If these producers had wanted to be truthful, they should have given this not altogether bad film another name, say "The 3-Witch Mystery" subtitled "based on an idea from an Agatha Christie novel" and had a 2, maybe 2½-star film.
DVD picture quality and sound are fine. "
A big disappointment
jammer | 01/16/2000
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Why do some filmmakers seem to think they can improve on Agatha Christie by changing her storylines? "The Pale Horse" is one of her best books, but you'd never know it from this inaccurate and boring adaptation."
Are we at war with England?
Brian | New York | 02/16/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If we can rise above the transatlantic sniping, dispense with ad hominem finger-wagging over whose sense of syntax is lacking (on this site I've read as many contortions of the Queen's English from overseas as I have from the heartland), and put aside whether or not this version of 'The Pale Horse' ought to be called a movie, a television mystery-drama or Prince Albert in a can, I believe a crosscultural consensus can be reached.
Anyone who has read the book will agree that this interpretation takes license with the story. Its producers, while keeping the basic mystery intact, have chosen to alter some plot elements and retain others and, presumably as a way of tying in the setting with the period during which Christie's novel was published, tap the 1960s as a campy backdrop, all in an effort to make the whole affair hipper and more fun. The result is not in the same league with the BBC's top stock (the Roy Marsden P.D. James series, for instance, Alec Guinness's Smiley, or the playful adaptations of Christie's 'Seven Dials' or 'Evans'), but it is, if ultimately forgettable, eminently watchable. Some (myself included, granting it only a 2 1/2-star rating) may find TPH dull going-- the action is stilted, the dialog at times dim and the acting uneven-- but that's nothing to get up in arms about. After all, despite its flaws, it still prevails in quality, as do four out of five British productions, over the average American made-for-TV fare, not to mention the garbage coming out of Hollywood today.
Life is short. We're patriots and allies. Let's have a little more respect for each others' opinions, well-articulated or not."
Agatha Christies Pale Horse
Ms. Necia L. Wallace | Milwaukee, WI | 01/11/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of the rare Christie stories that does not contain any of her 3 famous protagonists (Marple, Poirot, Tommy & Tuppence). However it is one of her most interesting tales. Well acted, it keeps you guessing all the way. An excellent translation of the original. A must for Christie fans."
Delightful take on Christie
Adrienne Jones | Toronto, Canada | 12/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Having read all the other reviews, I have to agree with the British reviewers. The ones who are American, give me strength, seem to be illiterate. Nothing wrong with not liking a program, but basic English might be nice. I'm American, and I cringed while reading their attempt at an opinion.
Preposterous as the storyline is, the narrative still manages to intrigue, the characters are enjoyable if a couple are not always believable, and the keen sense of atmosphere make it a totally delightful take on the Christie mystery. I'm an Agatha Christie fan, and an avid reader of mysteries/detective stories, especially the British ones. I read The Pale Horse years ago, but don't recall the plot. So I came to this version, relatively fresh.
I'm also dedicated fan of Dalziel & Pascoe mystery series, so it was also a treat to see the delectable Detective Pascoe (Colin Buchanan) on the other side of the law, with the suitably fluffy hair of the 1960s to boot. The whole 60s-era -- memorabilia, clothes, music and other set decor-- was subtle and cleverly evoked throughout the story. When Mark Easterbrook (Buchanan) is hit on the head for the second (!) time, he staggers to his feet, and leans against a poster advertising Chuck Berry. Likewise, a Lolita movie poster decorates his studio. Hermia's clothes and fake eyelashes are a hoot, and totally in character of the aristocratic Bohemian wannabe.
All the actors were excellent, although the Chief Inspector's obtuseness was too like Inspector Japp of Poirot fame for comfort -- the actor playing the role did what he could with it. Andy Serkis of Lord of the Rings fame was a delight, and the two key female roles well played.
Altogether, a two-hour entertainment well worth the watching.