I love Agatha Christie. I really do. I know that a lot of Christie fans think the Marple series on ITV are utter dross and an insult to her memory, but I am not one of them, I’m afraid but then I am no purist as evidenced by my love of Plunkett and Macleane and Marie Antoinette.
I wouldn’t go so far as to ever claim that Agatha Christie herself wouldn’t have hated the new adaptations of her books (I am pretty sure that she would have loathed them) but I think that they should be taken at face value and have their own quaint charm. We all know that the fifties weren’t really all about red lipstick, high heels and a certain Mitfordesque spry archness of manner, but who cares when it looks as good as Marple?
I don’t even mind the changes to the books, most significantly the more recent adaptations which have shoehorned Miss Marple into stories that she did not originally appear in. This is a bold move, of course but I’ve always regretted that Miss Marple didn’t have more stories so am resolutely unconcerned by this.
Moving on to The Pale Horse, which was shown last night on ITV. I have to admit that I haven’t really enjoyed the last couple of Marple episodes, but this one, I thought, was really quite exceptionally entertaining.
It helped of course that it featured the lovely JJ Feild, who is a charmingly unbalding Jude Law lookalike who really should be in more things so that we can have more opportunities to look at him. What I would really like, actually is for someone to make something that stars both JJ Feild and Rupert Penry-Jones at the same time. That would be great.
Anyway, moving on, with the greatest difficulty. The Pale Horse is one of Christie’s more supernatural themed books, a bit like Murder Is Easy, which was written almost thirty years earlier. This does make the plot more than a bit ridiculous at times but that’s not a bad thing by any means so long as you don’t take it all too seriously.
The Marple version of The Pale Horse was really a lot of fun, with the usual parade of familiar faces (Holly Valance! Remember her?) teetering around improbably charming English villages and getting into all sorts of ridiculous scrapes. If you didn’t know the story then I would imagine it would be pretty easy to guess the identity of the culprit, but that in no way detracted from the entertainment value of what was on offer.
In summary, if you’ve been avoiding Marple thanks to the last few rather under par episodes then do give The Pale Horse a try as you may well be pleasantly surprised. It’s not as good as the early episodes with Geraldine McEwan, many of which were really fabulous, but it’s the best Julia McKenzie one that I’ve seen.
In more Agatha Christie news, my lovely husband (said with no irony) is taking me to Greenway, Christie’s beautiful estate near Torquay for my birthday this October! I am so very, very excited about this. I may have to get a bit dressed up for the occasion!