A horrendous double murder which required knives, and an obe
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 07/18/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The two bodies had been so thoroughly carved and unjointed that the police later said they had a problem trying to match the correct heads with the torsos. The confessed murderer was the daughter of one of the victims and the sister of the other. The British tabloids called her "The Sculptress." Olive Martin (Pauline Quirke) was found by the police next to the family's kitchen. She was smeared with gore. The first cop on the scene, Hal Hawksley (Christopher Fulford), was so shocked at what he saw he momentarily passed out. "There was so much blood," he said. After securing Olive Martin's confession and seeing her sentenced to life imprisonment, Hawksley was still so shaken he retired from the force and used his savings to purchase a small inn and restaurant on a scenic bit of coast, but far from people. Olive Martin has been in prison now for three years. Olive has never said why she killed her mother and sister and in such a horrendous way.
Rosalind Leigh (Caroline Goodall) is an author who hasn't written much lately. She had been married to a drunk, and their eight-year-old daughter had been killed in a car crash while her drunken husband was driving. Now, divorced, she can't do much of anything. Then her editor tells her she wants Roz to write a book about Olive Martin. Get to know her, get her to talk, see who she is, find out "why." Reluctantly, Roz agrees. Olive Martin turns out to be an obese young woman, not too well educated, defensive, sly, vulnerable, manipulative and, quite possibly, a fine liar. To Roz's surprise, she begins to think that Olive Martin just may be innocent. And if Olive Martin didn't murder the two victims, who on earth could have and why so terribly? To find out, Roz starts talking to those who knew Olive and Olive's family and who remember Olive's father, a wealthy man who died shortly before the murders. She meets Hawksley at his inn and discovers someone is trying to put him out of business so he'll sell his property. She meets the lawyer who defended Olive, perhaps not too well, and who also is the trustee of the money Olive's father left to an unknown child somewhere in Australia. She talks with the neighbors, a man who might have been more than just friends with Olive's father, and the man's wife, a nervous woman who needs to clean. There's a rich property developer who is far too smooth by half. And there is Roz' husband, who seems eager for forgiveness and to be taken back into Roz' bed.
Most of all, there is Olive Martin...this huge, soft woman, with a face that can look so cheerful one moment and so resentful the next, whose mother ignored her and whose attractive, boy-hungry sister made merciless fun of her. We learn that Olive Martin had a secret lover, that she became pregnant and that her sister found out. And now Olive Martin sits in prison, sometimes sullen, sometimes angry, sometimes weary. She steals thick candles from the prison chapel and secretly carves them into figures. The chapel priest doesn't know; he's too busy speculating about Olive in ways that make us uneasy and which Olive uses.
This British TV thriller does a fine job of combining quick-paced and sometimes violent investigation, varied psychological motives and gruesome murder. The weakest element is the two sub-stories. Roz' confrontations with her ex-husband and her flash-backs to her daughter serve only to bring the main story to a halt whenever they occur. They don't add to the story and they add very little to our understanding of Roz. Their purpose seems only to periodically throw up overly dramatic moments for Goodall. The sub-story concerning Hal Hawksley's inn has a tangential relationship with the main story, but not enough to keep us guessing about things. Both threads are marginal. What makes The Sculptress work so well is the character of Olive Martin and the performance of Pauline Quirke in the role. From the moment we first see Olive Martin, keening in her tent-like, blood-drenched flowered dress, her face and hands smeared with blood, we know we're in for something unnerving and unusual. We never really identify with Olive. She seems too sly even when she seems to have been taken advantage of by a number of people. When Roz and Hal Hawksley, now in love, finally separate the threads in this story and identify the murderer, we can't help but feel good when Olive is released and greets Roz with a smile of pure, innocent joy. But does that smile change a bit into something a little too knowing? The drama leaves us satisfied...but I'm not sure I'd offer Olive a job in a butcher shop.
The DVD transfer is first-rate. The program, based on the book by Minette Walters and originally shown in America on PBS' Mystery! series, runs nearly three hours. There are no significant extras.
Loved the book -- liked the movie.
Carol M. Pedersen | 04/07/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The character in the movie wasn't quite as scary to me as in the book. Also the writer character in the movie wasn't as compelling as the book but over all the story is good and there is always a new twist just when you think you have it figured out."
It's a toss up
Carol M. Pedersen | 01/30/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this DVD of a novel because I was under the impression, for some unknown reason, that this was based upon a real case. I never did find out whether it was or wasn't, they weren't clear. Not that it wasn't a good production, it was, and the acting was all good although the scenes at times were a little grotesque. But the ending was improbable to my mind because of the way it left you guessing "who really done it," and the person in the end who was accused was a stretch they didn't conslusively prove. The movie did not sit well with me, I didn't consider it good entertainment, so I ended up tossing it out. I would not want to watch it again, too spooky."