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Agatha Christie's Marple
cast: Geraldine McEwan, Pam Ferris, Derek Jacobi, Joanna Lumley, and Jack Davenport

creator: Agatha Christie

410 minutes (15) 2004
widescreen ratio 16:9
Granada Ventures DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Emily Webb
All British actors must have cheered at the news of the 21st century adaptation of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple; many of the UK's finest talent is employed in these four feature-length episodes - The Body In The Library, A Murder Is Announced, Murder At The Vicarage and 4.50 From Paddington. The list of actors who were spared from collecting benefits and twiddling their thumbs at home is vast: it is a production on a grand scale. Geraldine McEwan as Miss Jane Marple (no doubt the most hotly contested role for elderly actresses in a while) and a star-studded supporting cast, many whom are staples of ITV like Amanda Holden and Jamie Theakston (I am a fan of neither).

Geraldine McEwan is engaging as Marple: the role is a far cry from that of sadistic Sister Bridget in The Magdalene Sisters and shows her versatility. (Interestingly, McEwan allegedly declined the honour of Dame of the British Empire in 2002.) Christie purists will argue that Margaret Rutherford, who starred as Marple in the 1960s, was made for the role of the indomitable sleuth. Likewise, Joan Hickson played Marple through the 1980s and early 1990s and was more believably no-nonsense that McEwan, whose interpretation is a little too sweet.

The costume and set design of this Miss Marple adaptation are fabulous and the best features of these adaptations. It depicts a much-loved stereotype of England with country houses, vicars, gin drinking, mail delivered on time, quaint village life, service with a smile... I must stop before I get swept away in a Tory-inspired bout of nationalism.

There is nothing like a good British whodunit and these Marple features are an adequate view, if a little on the dull side. The train murder scene in 4.50 From Paddington is arguably the most famous scene from Agatha Christie's writings and this episode is the best in this DVD boxset. Pam Ferris, John Hannah (Sliding Doors), Griff Rhys Jones, Amanda Holden (Cutting It) and David Warner (Ladies In Lavender) head up a solid cast.

I found the remaining features non-inspiring. The acting is competent (Zoë Wanamaker and comedian Catherine Tate in A Murder Is Announced, Derek Jacobi and Janet McTeer in Murder At The Vicarage and Simon Callow in The Body In The Library); the names of quality actors is too long to list but for many of them, being involved in the modern Miss Marple is hardly stretching their dramatic skills, rather a gig that pays the bills.

Extras include cast interviews and behind-the-scenes documentary for each feature.

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