Saturday, 18 January 2014

Miss Marple - Nemesis (1987)- ITV review

Nemesis was one of Agatha Christie's last books, and by common consent it falls some way short of being a masterpiece. Yet, such is the power of the Christie brand that it has twice been adapted for television. I missed both of the original screenings, including the Geraldine McEwan version (and may not have been a great loss , I don't know) but I've now caught up - very, very belatedly - with the 1987 version starring the marvellous Joan Hickson as Jane Marple.

The screenplay was written by T.R. Bowen, a screenwriter very experienced in adapting Christie. Bowen avoids the mistake of making changes just for the sake of them. He tweaks the story a bit, introducing a god-son of Marple who acts as a sort of Dr Watson, but the advantage of adapting a story that is by no means a classic is that it's possible to improve on some of the weaker elements, and this Bowen does.

The premise of the story is rather odd, in that a dead millionaire sends Miss Marple on a coach tour, visiting historic houses and gardens and hoping that along the way she will find out whether or not his son really was a murderer. The son's girlfriend was murdered, and he was the prime suspect, but never tried. The plot involves a rather unlikely mistaken identity and a motive with a suppressed sexual element. Not classic Christie, then, but Bowen turns it into something very watchable.

What struck me, not for the first time with the Hickson series, was the excellence of the cast. John Horsley, a professor here, was the lecherous and inept doctor in The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. Anna Cropper, a charismatic actor who was once married to William Roache (alias Ken Barlow), is among the suspects. And Peter Copley, once a constant presence in British television shows, made the most of a small part as a vague cleric.

Finally, regular readers will have noticed that I've deviated lately from my usual pattern of blogs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and that I've been slightly more active. This is partly due to the number of good TV shows that I've seen lately and on which I wanted to say a few words. In 2014, I'm planning to producee three posts most weeks,but occasionally more. I'm back on Monday -with a review of the new Ann Cleeves novel, Harbour Street.

7 comments:

Elaine said...

This is one of my all time favourite adaptations of a Miss Marple story. I gave up on McEwan and McKenzie pretty quickly, dire, but Joan HIckson is the best as far as I am concerned.

This is full of superb acting and there is one scene in which Liz Frazer, the mother of the missing girl, talks about it. It is her scene and every time I see it I am moved to tears. Another example of superb unremarked upon acting from a British thesp. Unremarked because we accept that this is the norm

Elaine said...

Joan Hickson is THE Miss Marple as far as I am concerned and this is one of hte best adaptations and I agree the book is poor. Acting is superb and there is one scene in particular which always moves me to tears. Liz Frazer, playing the mother of the missing Verity, has it all too herself and it is an example of British acting at its very best. Unremarked upon because we accept it as the norm. Simply wonderful

Lucy R. Fisher said...

Love Alison Skilbeck and Jane Booker in this - and the girl who keeps trying to get "everybody back on the coach"! The historic houses and gardens - especially in the rain - make a moody and romantic backdrop.

Martin Edwards said...

Elaine, Lucy, good to hear from you both and thanks very much for the comments.

HaarFager said...

Joan Hickson was quite understated in her portrayal of Miss Marple, and for me, that's why she was so good in the role. She didn't try to overthink her. I don't think I caught her in Nemesis, but did see her in 4.50 To Paddington tonight.

The Rush Blog said...

For me, there is no "THE" Miss Marple. And there is no "THE" Hercule Poirot. I have enjoyed the performances of Joan Hickson, Angela Landsbury, Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie and Jane Marple. They were all marvelous in their own styles.

Juanita's Journal said...

There is one change that I did not particularly care for - namely the handling of the Michael Rafael character. In Christie's novel, Michael spent nearly a decade in prison. In Bowen's adaptation, he is suspected of murder, but no one has ever been able to prove it. Which led to Bowen having Michael spend most of his time as a street tramp acting as some kind of surrogate to many of London's other derelicts. And I found this rather lame. Bowen should have kept Michael in prison.