‘Murder, She Said’ (Film)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Miss Marple Sees The Murder – Not Mrs. McGillicuddy

The Margaret Rutherford era of ‘Miss Marple’ is here!

In the early 1960s, a series of four films was produced featuring Agatha Christie’s well-loved amateur sleuth, Miss Marple. These films star Margaret Rutherford as the title character. They became an instant success in the early 1960s. I personally enjoyed seeing these four films as well as my parents.

I purchased the ‘Classic Mystery Agatha Christie Collection’ of Miss Marple films for my Mum one Christmas in 2012. My Mum likes her crime dramas, so I knew she’d like this DVD box set of movies with Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple. They are certainly tamer compared to the moderns ones.

However, original author Agatha Christie wasn’t keen on these adaptations of Miss Marple from her original books. This is understandable as these movies took some artistic licence and liberties in changing the structure of the stories produced for film. Yet somehow, these four films are charming.

The Miss Marple films with Margaret Rutherford have a comedic flavour to them as well as a quirky nature. Margaret Rutherford delivers both a formidable and enjoyable performance in her role as Miss Marple in these four films. I’ll examine more about what goes on in these films in further detail.

The four films in the ‘Miss Marple’ collection with Margaret Rutherford are as follows. They’re ‘Murder, She Said’; ‘Murder at the Gallop’; ‘Murder Ahoy’ and ‘Murder Most Foul’. The DVDs for these films haven’t any special features. A shame, as I’d like to see behind-the-scenes info on them.

The first film of this ‘Miss Marple’ series, ‘Murder, She Said’, is based on the original Agatha Christie novel, ‘4.50 From Paddington’. I have seen another adaptation of the story in the ITV ‘Marple’ series.

The story has Miss Marple on a train from Paddington station. She wakes up from dozing in her train seat; just in time to spot a murder occur on board another train. A man strangles a woman to death.

Miss Marple reports her witness to the police, saying that it was murder. The police say she was dreaming. But Miss Marple is determined to discover who committed this murder, no matter what.

Now to address the differences featured in this film from this book, Miss Marple is the one who spots the murder taking place. In the book, it was her friend Mrs. McGillicuddy who saw the murder.

It’s clear that the film has Miss Marple taking centre stage for most of the story with doing the investigating and going undercover. It also sees her take the job of being a maid at the manor house.

This is different from the book and the ITV version, since it was a friend of Miss Marple’s who went undercover. This I can understand, since Miss Marple should be taking centre stage in her own film.

A criticism is laid on the film for focusing on light-hearted humour as opposed to suspense and underlying darkness. This I can understand, as it takes away from the tone of Agatha Christie’s novels.

But I quite prefer it that way by having a comedic flavour in a murder mystery film. I’ve done something like it in my ‘Doctor Who’ tale, ‘The Space Hotel’, by adding humour in a murder mystery.

The manor house’s name gets changed in the film. Originally it was called Rutherford Hall in the book. This got changed into Ackenthorpe Hall to avoid confusion with Margaret Rutherford’s name.

The family featured in the manor house is also called Ackenthorpe instead of Crackenthorpe as featured in the book. I don’t think it makes much of a difference as the plot sounds similar anyway.

I like Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple in the film. I know it’s not like the passive version Agatha Christie envisaged as it’s more formidable. But I believe Margaret Rutherford was Miss Marple here.

The film also features Arthur Kennedy as Dr. Paul Quimper. He comes to Ackenthorpe Hall to check on Luther Ackenthorpe’s medical condition. He seems very mild-mannered, but is he the murderer?

There’s also Muriel Pavlow as Emma Ackenthorpe, the daughter of Ackenthorpe Hall. She seems a timid soul, who’s easily afraid of her father and is in love with Dr. Quimper. But is she the murderer?

And there’s also James Robertson Justice as Luther Ackenthorpe, the head of his house. He’s an invalid; gets easily grumpy; irritable and does not get on well with Miss Marple. Is he the murderer?

There’s Stringer Davies, Margaret Rutherford’s real-life husband, who plays Jim Stringer, a role made especially for him in the film. Stringer is a librarian who assists Miss Marple during her investigations.

The film also features Joan Hickson as Mrs. Kidder. Joan Hickson would later go on to star as Miss Marple in the popular BBC ‘Miss Marple’ TV show. How ironic that she happens to be in this film? 😀

There’s also Peter Butterworth, who played the Meddling Monk in ‘Doctor Who’, as a ticket collector. There’s also a really young Richard Briers as ‘Mrs. Binster’ (?!) of Mrs. Binster’s Employment Agency.

‘Murder, She Said’ is a good beginning to the Margaret Rutherford movie era of ‘Miss Marple’. I enjoyed this film. I know it’s comedic in places, but it has this charm to it that’s so irresistible to like.

‘Murder, She Said’ rating – 9/10

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