Thursday, March 6, 2014

Miss Marple in the 60s.

Sometime last year while visiting my grandparents, I caught part of a film on TCM. It was one of the Miss Marple movies of the 60s, starring Margaret Rutherford as the detective. I couldn't help but be drawn in, and then I decided I wanted to watch all four of the films featuring this Miss Marple.

Though I'm familiar with her as a character, I've never actually read any of the Miss Marple books. I've only read a few Agatha Christie mysteries (and seen a few of the Poirot adaptations), but I thoroughly enjoyed those. I absolutely love detective stories of the cozy mystery type (as in, I don't really want a lot of gratuitous blood and gore and such), so I am always, always wanting to read more of Christie's novels. I just haven't gotten around to it yet. :)

So what I'm saying is...these four films are awesome. They are: Murder She Said (1961), Murder at the Gallop (1963), Murder Most Foul (1964), and Murder Ahoy! (1964). You don't have to have read any Miss Marple books to appreciate this film. Actually, you might enjoy them more if you haven't read any of the books because I don't think that the films are very accurate to the books. In fact, I think only one or two of the movies are even based on books?

Don't watch these films for the plot. The mysteries are pretty good (some better than others), but nothing absolutely spectacular. Watch them for Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple. Because she's basically my hero. She's an elderly spinster who:

1. Climbs through windows. And rides a bicycle. Not at the same time, of course. :)

2. Fearlessly lies in wait for murderers to approach her after they realize that she knows they're guilty.

3. Has a crush on a librarian, who helps her solve the crimes. (And the actor who played the librarian was actually Rutherford's real-life husband!)

4. Dances the Twist.

5. Can pull off wearing anything from tweedy English country clothes to horseback riding outfits to velvety evening gowns. (Sometimes all in the course of one film.)

6. Knits! All the time! She knits in every movie, I believe...usually something on small DPNs, like socks. Once she even knits in the courtroom.

7. Swordfights with the murderer (as is the case in the final film). Because, she was of course, the 1931 Ladies' National Fencing Champion. Would you expect any less?

Seriously. Miss Marple is too awesome for her own good.
More reasons to love the films...they have a great sense of humor. Also, they have this wonderfully quirky 60s English theme song that I happen to have stuck in my head right now. And the cinematography is really lovely sometimes! There are a lot of pretty shadows and black and white contrasts, and quite a few cleverly planned scenes where several characters are sneaking around at the same time, barely missing each other as they pass through doors and hallways.

I realize this isn't a real review, but it's been months since I watched the first three of these films, so I feel like I can't write a very comprehensive review of each one. :) Just know that while these aren't the most accurate adaptations, they are so much fun and I really recommend them.

I want to watch more Miss Marple, but looking around on Neflix, I'm not sure where to begin! What do you guys recommend? Should I start with the 80s ones starring Joan Hickson or the newer ITV series (which I've heard is notorious for changing plots and characters)?


  1. Miss Marple sounds like my kind of heroine. :) I'd heard of these films before, but not until reading your description of Miss Marple did I feel an urgent need to watch them. How fun!

    1. She really is amazing. :) These films are just so much fun!

  2. I love Miss Marple! The Margaret Rutherford films are fun -- though if memory serves most of them re-write the source material VERY liberally. ;) I think only one is pretty faithful to an actual Christie plot, but I forget which at the moment.

    I grew up watching the Joan Hickson version, and while it is a classic I never really fell in love with the character until the re-boot with Geraldine McEwan. Yeah, they changed some things -- and added Marple to non-Marple books -- but I never really cared, because she was so great in the role. Julia McKenzie is pretty good too, but McEwan is my favorite.

    I never reviewed any of the McEwan films for my blog, but if you check out the Masterpiece Mysteries page there are links to a couple of the McKenzie ones that I covered. And under the book review page, I reviewed most of the source material for those and tried to add a little book vs. film comparison at the end. *will stop plugging blog now* ;)

    1. I could be wrong, but I think it's the first one that's the most faithful...I guess after that they figured they could just do their own thing. :) I think I'll probably start with the newer Marple series! And I'll definitely have to check out your reviews...thanks for letting me know! :)


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