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the body in the library

I enjoyed the new Miss Marple (or MARPLE, as ITV are calling her) last night, but I remain unconvinced by Geraldine McEwan as the woman herself. What I always loved about Miss Marple, in both book and BBC adaptation form, was that she looked like a very fluffy little old lady but really she had a mind like a steel trap. McEwan, on the other hand, has a sort of scary beady-eyed shrewdness that would work well with another character but doesn't, to me, work for Miss Marple. I loved Joan Hickson's Miss Marple because she looked so innocent and wide-eyed and vague, but behind it she was a detecting mastermind and not fluffy at all. When she interviewed suspects, they never took her seriously because she seemed so sweet and vague, whereas McEwan's Marple has a sort of horrid impishness (a quality I loathe - I had a byline photo in my old newspaper in which I wore an expression that could only be described as impish - or possibly puckish - and I hated it so much that I actually cried the first time I saw it. It wasn't just me being paranoid about its hideousness, either - I met someone at a press launch round that time who actually said "God, I didn't recognise you- you look so much nicer than that hideous photo in the paper!"). Anyway! McEwan was almost sinister when she was interrogating people, and was obviously in control all the time, which was much less satisfying than watching a seemingly nice little old lady flummoxing people who made the mistake of underestimating her powers. But I did like the rest of the all-star cast, who were camping it up and seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.

I'm not sure how I feel about the changing of the ending to make one of the rich old man's children-in-law the female lover of the murderous Josie; in the book (I checked in my copy, because I had a feeling this wasn't the original story) it was the man's son in law who was Josie's lover. While I'm glad to see more lesbian characters on TV, it would (a) better if they weren't murderers and (b) it just seemed rather pointless and tacked on, like a clumsy attempt to "modernise" the story - it didn't add anything to the mystery. Patrick and I were talking about this yesterday before the programme, and he pointed out that when TV or film adaptations offer a "modern take", it usually just means clumsily making subtext text. Which seems to have been the case here.

Although at least they showed the murderers languishing forlornly in the cells afterwards, which Lord knows the books usually don't. I love Dorothy L Sayers not only because she's a genuinely graceful writer (unlike Christie, whose genius was in creating plots, not people or dialogue), but she also takes the consequences of outing murderers seriously. Lord Peter never forgets that when he unearths the criminal, he's sending people to be hanged, and he suffers as a result. He even meets Harriet when she's awaiting trial for murder and fully expects to be hung for it. In Christie's world, the murderer vanishes from the detective's mind as soon as their guilt is proven and they've been captured by the police. In Sayers's, the detective has to come to terms with the results of his work.

And also, Lord Peter is much hotter than Poirot. I'm just saying.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 13th, 2004 04:05 am (UTC)
Ah, but Poirot has the little gray cells.

Dec. 13th, 2004 04:20 am (UTC)
Unfortunately last night really didn't do too much for me. It really was a case of Marple and not Miss Marple. I don't every recall reading about such a canny & cunning old lady. If I did I'm sure it wasn't an Agatha Christie.
It scares me that I feel compelled to subject myself to the other three stories :(
Dec. 13th, 2004 04:25 am (UTC)
She was a lot more directly bossy than Joan Hickson's Miss Marple ever was. I did enjoy it though.

I always loved Poirot, as well. And I wanted to live in his flat.
Dec. 13th, 2004 04:45 am (UTC)
Hee, I love Poirot too! I think I rather wanted to live in St Mary Mead (despite its terrifiying murder rate) rather than his flat, though.
Dec. 13th, 2004 04:56 am (UTC)
Hee! I just really liked the design of the building that they use in the David Suchet ones. When he's being Poirot, I mean. St Mary Mead really does have a terrifyingly high murder rate, doesn't it. I'd guess that's where they got the inspiration for Midsomer Murders too.
Dec. 13th, 2004 04:59 am (UTC)
A friend of mine had a brilliant idea for a Murder She Wrote film which would work for Miss Marple too - the murderer was, of course, Jessica Fletcher herself, who was killing people to inspire her detective stories, and the hero was a hapless detective who was trying to prove her guilt. I think it would make a fantastic film!
Dec. 13th, 2004 05:00 am (UTC)
In fact, I can't believe that fictional detectives aren't suspected more often, seeing as people get murdered in their vicinity every time they leave the house....
Dec. 13th, 2004 05:17 am (UTC)
Heh. I can't think of many times that I've reada book where the detective has been suspected. And the idea of having a detective doing the murdering to give themselves work to do is fantastic!
Dec. 13th, 2004 04:36 am (UTC)
I saw one of the Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple movies a few weeks ago (I think it was Murder Most Foul) and I loved it, and her (especially her). Haven't seen any other adaptations, though.

I must look for the BBC programs.
Dec. 13th, 2004 04:46 am (UTC)
I think the BBC ones definitely influence anyone of my generation's image of Miss Marple - they ran from the very early '80s to the early '90s, so Joan Hickson will always be Miss Marple to me!
Dec. 13th, 2004 04:57 am (UTC)
I didn't like Margaret Rutherford when I saw one with her as Miss Marple, but then that was after I was well used to Joan Hickson which could explain it.
Dec. 13th, 2004 05:03 am (UTC)
I think it was seeing Rutherford recite "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" — Robert Service being a bit of a Canadian icon. :)
Dec. 13th, 2004 05:41 am (UTC)
Lord Peter may have been hotter than Poirot on paper, but... as played by Edward Petherbridge in the BBC series about 20 years ago, I'm not sure there's much to choose between them. Do you really think Lord Peter, with his long face an monocle, beats Poirot with his egg-shaped head and moustaches? Not that I don't love Lord Peter more, though, he's so much funnier, and mostly it's on purpose.

I do think that the BBC did a pretty good job on Sayers, though. I re-watched 'Strong Poison' a couple of months ago, and was inspired to re-read all of her books. Lord Peter really develops as a character - he starts out a bit of a caricature (and a bit too hyperactive to be bearable), but by the later books, the interest is as much in the characters and relationships as in the 'whodunnit'. In 'Gaudy Night', I didn't care at all who did it, the central relationship is much more interesting.
Dec. 13th, 2004 06:21 am (UTC)
Yes, I only fancy Lord Peter on the page, as opposed to on the screen - although my memories of the '80s version are very dim. I did watch them when they first aired, which is what inspired me to read the books themselves, but then I didn't read them again for over a decade, and so came to them almost fresh.

Gaudy Night is my favourite - I've reread it lots of times, and even though I always remember who did it, it's still really entertaining because she's a good writer and the characters are wonderful.
Dec. 13th, 2004 06:18 am (UTC)
Oooh, I'm so jealous! I want to watch MARPLE, even if it does have a modern, truncated, ALL-CAPS title.

Dec. 13th, 2004 06:45 am (UTC)
I bet they'll show it on North American TV soon! And actually, you may even be able to download it from a site that does British TV torrents...
Dec. 13th, 2004 08:32 am (UTC)
You're making me want to hit the library and get some Agatha Christie.

*eyes you*

Bad. Influence.

Very. Very. Bad.

*checks listings of what we have*
Dec. 13th, 2004 08:48 am (UTC)
It's always a good idea to read Agatha Christie! She rules.

Once, on a family camping holiday in France, my sister Busta J and I had a huge craving for Christie, and we only had two of her books with us. And then, like a miracle, one of my other two sisters (possible leedy!) FOUND AN AGATHA CHRISTIE DOWN THE BOTTOM OF HER SLEEPING BAG! We realised that the bag had been last used by Busta on a Girl Guide camp a few months ago, and somehow the book - which belonged to a guide friend of Busta's - had ended up in Busta's bag.
Dec. 13th, 2004 09:02 pm (UTC)
I love Dorothy Sayers/Lord Peter Wimsey. They're so funny.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )


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