‘The Body In The Library’ (1984) (TV)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

A Library Murder with Joan Hickson’s Marple

Welcome to the Joan Hickson era of ‘Miss Marple’!

Out of all the ‘Miss Marple’s that my Mum has seen on TV and film, her favourite is Joan Hickson’s. Joan Hickson played the title character of Miss Marple in the BBC TV series that was produced from 1984 to 1992. I can see why. I feel the 1980s-90s BBC TV series is more faithful to the original books.

I purchased ‘The Miss Marple Collection’ for Mum for Christmas in December 2015. She really liked the DVD box set and enjoyed watching all the TV adaptations of 12 ‘Miss Marple’ books by Agatha Christie. I did not get to see all of them back in 2015, but I have been able to do it for these reviews.

This wasn’t Joan Hickson’s first association with Miss Marple mind. Oh no! Before the BBC TV series, she had played a small character role in the film ‘Murder, She Said’, starring Margaret Rutherford. It was interesting how far she’d come to play Miss Marple from appearing in that black-and-white film.

I’ve enjoyed Joan Hickson’s portrayal of Miss Marple in these BBC TV adaptations of the books. She comes across as gentle and a quiet observer. She doesn’t seem scatter-brained as other versions I’ve come across and the tone of her performance is very appropriate for the tone of these adaptations.

Like I said, there are twelve TV adaptations of the ‘Miss Marple’ books by Agatha Christie in ‘The Miss Marple Collection’ on DVD. I hope to share what I’ve enjoyed in each adaptation and perhaps compare to what I’ve seen in other TV adaptations e.g. the ITV versions starring Geraldine McEwan.

The first story in the ‘Miss Marple’ series starring Joan Hickson is ‘The Body in the Library’. This is presented as a 3 x 50 minute episode story and based on the original 1942 novel by Agatha Christie.

‘The Body In The Library’ was shown on the 26th, the 27th and the 28th of December in 1984. I wish I saw this TV adaptation for three days back then compared to ‘And Then There Were None’ in 2015.

Anyway, the story has Miss Marple assist her neighbours, the Bantrys, when they find a lovely young girl dead in their library. Miss Marple accompanies Mrs. Bantry to this seaside resort to find answers.

As they discover, a desperate family of a wealthy old man is involved. It maybe that the placement of the dead young girl in the Bantry’s library was a practical joke and the murderer is not he/she seems.

It’s interesting to watch this TV adaptation after having seen the ITV version of ‘The Body In The Library’ starring Geraldine McEwan. I find this version to be faithful to the book than the ITV version.

In the ITV version, there was a lesbian aspect in terms of the reveal to the murderers. But here in the BBC version, there is no lesbian aspect. I believe the BBC version to be more faithful because of that.

The guest cast includes Andrew Cruickshank as Conway Jefferson, the wealthy old man who wanted the young girl Ruby Keene to be his ward. Andrew Cruickshank has starred in ‘Dr. Finlay’s Casebook’.

Andrew Cruickshank was also in the film ‘Murder Most Foul’ with Margaret Rutherford, though he had a small part in that. It’s interesting how he plays Conway Jefferson compared to the ITV version.

There’s also Gwen Watford as Mrs. Bantry, who is a close friend and neighbour to Miss Marple. I like how she seems convinced Miss Marple has solved the murder mystery case already before starting.

Alongside Mrs. Bantry is her husband, Moray Watson as Colonel Bantry. For me, Moray Watson played Sir Robert Muir in the ‘Doctor Who’ story, ‘Black Orchid’. It was a delight to see him in this. 😀

There’s Raymond Francis as Sir Henry Clithering, who seems to be a retired crime investigator and an old friend of Miss Marple’s in the story. I liked how he is so supportive of Miss Marple along the way.

There’s Jess Conrad as Raymond Starr, who is a tennis player and instructor at the holiday resort where Miss Marple and Mrs. Bantry. He does arouse jealously and suspicion from those around him.

Frederick Jaeger stars as Colonel Melchett. It’s interesting how Colonel Melchett in this story seems to be very welcoming Miss Marple’s contribution compared to other police investigators rejecting it.

Incidentally, I’ve seen and heard Frederick Jaeger in three ‘Doctor Who’ stories. These are ‘The Savages’ with William Hartnell as well as ‘Planet of Evil’ and ‘The Invisible Enemy’ with Tom Baker. 😀

And there’s David Horovitch as Detective Inspector Slack. Slack is a contrast to Melchett in this TV adaptation. He’s very thorough; no-nonsense and does not take Miss Marple seriously like Melchett.

Other faces I recognised in this TV adaptation include Valentine Dyall who plays the butler Lorrimer at Gossington Hall. Valentine Dyall has played the Black Guardian in a number of ‘Doctor Who’ tales.

There’s also Keith Drinkel who plays Mark Gaskell in the adaptation. I’ve seen Keith Drinkel both in the ITV drama series ‘A Family At War’ and the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘Time-Flight’ with Peter Davison.

This 1984 TV adaptation of ‘The Body In The Library’ has been pretty enjoyable throughout. There’s a lot going on with so many plot threads nicely tied together and a splendid cast led by Joan Hickson.

‘The Body In The Library’ (1984) rating – 8/10

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