Sunday, 29 December 2013

Agatha Christie's Marple - Endless Night - ITV review

Endless Night, screened this evening on ITV, made an appealing Christie for Christmas. Agatha Christie's Marple is not an entirely consistent series, but here, the Queen of Crime's last really good novel was capably adapted by Kevin Elyot, who is a seasoned writer of Christie stories for stage and screen. Introducing Jane Marple into a story in which she did not originally appear was risky, for sure. Yet on the whole Elyot did a highly professional job - even though this did entail Julia McKenzie popping up so often and so unexpectedly that she became a spookier presence than the gypsy whose curse sets the story going.

The brilliance of the original novel, lay in the fact that Christie, writing in the Sixties, repeated one of her most famous tricks, despite its being supposedly unrepeatably. I borrowed the book from the local library shortly after it first came out, and was much impressed. As a student, I also enjoyed the film version starring Hywel Bennett as Michael Rogers, the poor lad who marries a lovely heiress. The film's cast was superb - it also included the likes of Hayley Mills, Britt Ekland, George Sanders and Peter Bowles. I'd rate it as the most under-rated movie ever made of a Christie novel.

Back to tonight's show, which also had an impressive cast. Tom Hughes played Michael, while his architect pal was played by Aneurin Barnard (the young hero of Moonfleet - he's had as impressive a festive season as Jenna Coleman.) Tamzin Outhwaite was almost unrecognisable as Michael's miserable mum, while there were cameo roles for Wendy Craig and Hugh Dennis.

The unusual structure of the plot means that Endless Night is far from orthodox Christie fare. This has caused some commentators to under-estimate it. In fact, it's a good story, and although this version did not strike me as being quite as compelling as the film (though in saying that, I have to admit I've not seen the film for a very long time) nevertheless it made excellent Sunday evening entertainment.


10 comments:

Janet Okane said...

Endless Night passed the time easily enough but I have to admit to being infuriated by the presence of Miss Marple in a story where she patently didn't belong. This seemed lazy and lacking in imagination. Once again the programme makers underestimated the audience, assuming we couldn't cope with a standalone without the familiar face of Poirot or Marple.

Anonymous said...

a little too much of miss marple turning up, but on the whole immensely watchable, especially for gorgeous fenella.

Anonymous said...

As an avid fan of Agatha Christie, and of the 1970's film starring Hywel Bennett, Brit Eckland and Hayley Mills, I found last night's television rendering of Endless Night dreadful. They shoe-horned in Miss Marple at every opportunity (she was clearly unnecessary and out of place) and they sublimated the part of Mike's mother in order to to do so. They also made the characters of Mike and Greta look shifty, which is ridiculous. I feel Agatha Christie would have turned in her grave if she had seen this.

Mike is meant to be a nice, loveable guy and I didn't find him nice or loveable at all. In fact he looked shifty throughout, and I'm sure Ellie would have found him so too.

Why do modern-day writers think they can write better than Christie (and others) and somehow make their work better? They never do. When they try, they ruin the original work. One wonders if Agatha Christie's grandson, who must have given permission for the alterations, gives a hoot about what they do to his grandmother's work, or is he just after the money? Endless Night is one of Christie's really great crime plots, and to alter it to the extent they did last night is a crime in itself. Anyone who hasn't read the book should do so immediately. They will then see exactly what I mean.

John said...

THE TUESDAY CLUB MURDERS, which would make a great series in itself, has not once been adapted, not even back in the Joan Hickson days. With all the other Miss Marple short stories *still* not adapted for film or TV I cannot understand why non-Marple books are constantly being "adapted" for Jane Marple. There's a mystery I'd like solved.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I enjoyed this one too but Elyot couldn't quite disguise the fact that the Marple character was in fact completely redundant. It must be easier to adapt a novel than a slight short story for a 2-hour slot I suppose ...

elychari said...

I hated it. The plot was so obvious from the very start and Marple stuck out like a sore thumb.

Deb said...

All I can say is "Oh nooooo!" I love Endless Night (novel and the quite-faithful 1973 movie) and I love Miss Marple, but putting them together? I think I'll pass.

Deb said...

Quick follow-up: When discussing this with my husband, he noted that "The Case of the Caretaker," a Miss Marple short story published in the 1940s, has a somewhat similar plot line to Endless Night, so perhaps that is why the writers of the new adaptation thought they could shoehorn Miss Marple into it. However, if you read the original story, Miss Marple is only commenting on a situation presented to her by her doctor and is not part of the action at all.

Martin Edwards said...

A very mixed bag of reactions to this show - thanks, everyone, for sharing your thoughts.
One or two quick points:
Yes, I'd agree that the Mike of the book (and film) are more appealing characters than the TV Mike.
John - very good suggestion. Don't know why this hasn't been done.
Deb - very interesting. I've forgotten that story but I have a copy, so will look it up.

The Passing Tramp said...

Travesty.