Agatha Christie’s Marple

31 August 2009

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I am a huge, massive Agatha Christie fan. I used to be faintly embarrassed about this but have wholeheartedly embraced my love of retro crime fiction in recent years – mainly because I am old enough now not to care about the vagaries of fashion but also because Christie really does seem to be in vogue again, if she ever fell out.

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Opinion is divided about the ITV dramatisations of her Miss Marple series and to some extent, justifiably so as they very rarely stick to the plots of the original books and even, shock horror, use books that didn’t feature Miss Marple at all. They also have a tendency to change or leave out crucial plot points, give characters sexualities that weren’t even implied in the books and swap murderers, as in The Body in the Library.

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I don’t care though and have to admit that I really do love them. Over the top, brash and ridiculous they might well be but I adore their super kitsch fifties styling with nipped in waists, red lipstick and winged sunglasses. The fifties might well have been a miserable time for those who really lived through it but you would never guess it from the Marple series, where it is always sunny (unless Miss Marple needs to get caught in a snow storm) and life looks like it has never been better.

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I think that my favourite episodes are The Moving Finger, which is just wonderful and very true to the original and Sleeping Murder, which took enormous liberties but was still immensely watchable and rather creepy. I also enjoyed At Bertram’s Hotel, which was exceedingly over the top and ultimately nonsensical but sometimes that is a good thing.

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Geraldine McEwan’s portrayal of Miss Marple has come under a lot of fire over the years, mainly from people who compare it to Joan Hickson’s wry, colourless, rather tepid turn in the eighties. I liked it though – the idea of Miss Marple as a whispy, mousey spinster never sat entirely well with me and I infinitely preferred McEwan’s version with her crazy cardigans, twinkling eyes and sprightly wit. I was a smidgeon put out when I heard that she was leaving and being replaced by Julia McKenzie but am prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt and see how it goes.

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A Pocket Full of Rye, the first of the Julia McKenzie Marple episodes is due to be screened on Sunday 6 September and frankly, I can’t wait. It features the usual all star cast, including  several people most usually connected with comedy and also the very lovely Matthew Macfadyen and also Rupert Graves, who is the third most famous person to come from Weston super Mare.

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Murder is Easy follows on Sunday 13 September. Now as any Christie fan will tell you, the original book doesn’t feature Miss Marple at all and is a standalone mystery involving the occult in a quiet village in Middle England. I’m going to reserve judgement until I have actually seen it though – it can’t be much worse than the excerable film version from the early eighties.

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Other upcoming episodes of Marple are: They Do It With Mirrors (which I am really looking forward to as it has Joan Collins and the luminously beautiful Emma Griffiths Malin), Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (with Rik Mayall in the cast) and, most excitingly The Mirror Crack’d, starring Lindsay Duncan as Marina Greig, which will probably be screened next year.

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