Friday, 15 February 2019

Helen Hayes as Miss Marple in Murder with Mirrors

I have been away and watched some current day television. It was rubbish, by and large, but gave me some ideas for posts here. I watched some Murder She Wrote and remembered how I got myself in trouble some time ago by asking if Angela Lansbury strikes Americans as a convincing American. I was hoping for a yes or no answer and didn't get one! So I thought I'd relive it by writing about an American playing Miss Marple.
...who of course isn't a convincing English person to a native speaker, but this film does a good job overall of portraying a cast of mixed nationality as British, while having a good go at dealing with our ridiculously complicated social stratification, and the film ends up very watchable. I would be interested in how they sound to US viewers.
In general I shouldn't like this film, because it is a festival of big names, in addition to Helen Hayes we have Bette Davis and Leo McKern. They are such good actors that their presence isn't distracting. I see that both Davis and Hayes were over 80 when they made this and Davis had been terribly ill in the preceding year. I hope I can take on new things at their age!
I have seen all four of the adaptations of this book (Murder Ahoy was based on it, but Christie wasn't impressed) and like this one best. IMHO the premise of this Christie is rather dissatisfying - the fact it takes place in a house running with delinquents muddies the water too much, but I feel this adaptation feels more like a conventional country house murder, and Miss Marple rightly spends the majority of the time investigating the relationships of the people who aren't delinquents. This is exactly the sort of investigation Marple excels at.
There is one part where it goes slightly wrong, where Miss Marple talks to the American character, despite being American herself. I like Helen Hayes a lot as Miss Marple. I like the way the little old lady act is portrayed as just that, in fact I think she is the perfect compromise between fluffiness and incisiveness of Marple.
My absolute favourite bit is where the police officer, who had been warned by a colleague, tells Miss Marple to stop pretending to be a doddery little old lady!
I don't really have any criticisms, unusually for me. I just wish Hayes was better known for playing Marple here. Her portrayals of Miss Marple are of course available in region 1 DVDs and in German region 2 releases. I have no idea what language the latter are in so buy at your own risk!

Monday, 11 February 2019

The Avengers: Wish You Were Here

I'm on holiday this week and hence a post about one of my favourite Avengers episodes, which is a jolly romp about a hotel. Except it isn't, since this Avengers draws on the classic fear found in many a dream, where the protagonist finds himself in a situation where nobody believes him. In this case the prison is a luxury hotel and nobody can believe it is a prison.
Out here in the real world this situation is of course what underlies many a situation of abuse, and it is no coincidence that I am writing this post shortly after the Abbot of Ealing Abbey has belatedly resigned from his position in the wake of the inquiry into child sexual abuse showing the paucity of his response to complaints. One of his predecessors is in prison after being on the run from the police, and another monk and several lay teachers are also in prison.
But who would have believed that those holy men would be abusers? Just as who would believe a hotel would be so difficult to escape from? That is the genius of this Avengers, that it places fear and intimidation in a setting of luxury, creating mixed feelings in the viewer. My favourite part is the escalating efforts to stop Tara leaving.
Something I hadn't thought of, which is so obvious when it's pointed out, is that this episode is one long nod to, and parody of, The Prisoner. Mother takes the role of Number 2. Another aspect of the plot, not knowing which of the guests are on which side, is another borrowed plot element.
My other absolute favourite thing about this is that the hotel is a real hotel. You can stay there. I presume they let you out again.
I've also noticed something else this time, normally I don't like familiar actors, and the fact that many of the actors appear in other Avengers episodes is a common criticism of this episode, but I don't mind it here, and don't notice them. It was only when I read other reviews that I noticed them at all!
Crown roast, anyone?
I see I have written about this episode before, here.