Sunday 21 February 2010

The Secret Adversary

Very belatedly indeed, I have just watched the television adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary, first screened as long ago as 1983. The book itself was Christie’s second, a light-hearted thriller, and it’s safe to say that it would now be pretty obscure had its author not proceeded to write some of the finest of all whodunits. The plot has its ludicrous moments, but it’s a very lively story with likeable protagonists, and the adaptation by Pat Sandys played to these strengths, as well as treating us to some sumptuous photography.

This was the story which introduced Tommy Beresford and Tuppence Cowley, who went on to marry, and cropped up occasionally in Christie stories for the rest of her career. Here, just after the First World War, they are at a loose end and in search of adventure. Tommy overheard a conversation about someone called Jane Finn (overheard conversations were to become a Christie trademark) and events move rapidly from there, as they become unofficial secret service agents and set off on the track of a missing treaty that, if it falls into the wrong hands, may lead to a general strike and the overthrow of the government.

The producers cast two very good-looking actors as Tommy and Tuppence – James Warwick and Francesca Annis. Francesca Annis in particular performs her role with gusto: she really is one of my favourite tv stars. This pair later starred in a series based on the linked short stories featuring Tommy and Tuppence, Partners in Crime, which again I did not see at the time. My question to any of you who did watch it is: was it any good?

The supporting cast was excellent, including Peter Barkworth doing his usual reliable Englishman as the secret service supreme, Mr Carter, Toria Fuller (who seems to have ended her screen career prematurely, according to a quick search I made on the internet), and Alec McCowen. Oh, and George Baker plays a bad guy – yes, our own Inspector Wexford, who earlier in his career quite often took villainous roles that would be almost unthinkable today! All in all, this show was pleasant entertainment, and the twists in the story-line do give at least a hint of the skills that Christie went on to develop with such extraordinary single-mindedness.


Anonymous said...

Martin - As always, thanks for your review. I've sometimes been disappoipnted in television adaptations of Christie's work, but this one didn't disappoint, and I'm glad that you liked it, too. I'm afraid I didn't watch the series, but this film was enjoyable.

Ann Elle Altman said...

I've recently watched the short hour (I think) episodes of The Partner in Crime series. I really liked the duo.


Deb said...

I like the Tommy & Tuppence adaptations, but--as with the later Poirot adaptations--there's a lot of padding to stretch a brief short story into an hour-long televsion show. Still, they're certainly worth watching.

Strangely, I never notice any padding in the television adaptations of the Miss Marple mysteries (either the ones with Joan Hickson or the more recent ones).

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I haven't seen the series. Maybe it'll play here again on the Mystery channel or something.

I'm a Tommy and Tuppence fan...thought they were a fun couple.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Dorte H said...

I have not watched this one (Tommy and Tuppence are not really favourites of mine), but I have seen George Baker as the bad guy recently. He was very convincing, as always. I wonder whether it can have been in Midsomer Murders? (But my memory is very unreliable, especially when it comes to films).

Juxtabook said...

I have yet to see this but I recently read the book for the first time and was rather charmed by Tommy and Tuppence and the young lad they have helpin them who I gatehr groes up to be their butler! Only in the upper-middle class whodunnit!

You're right the plot is truly daft however. That never stopped Margery Allingham though either. One my favourites Tiger in the Smoke has a ludicrous plot but is nonetheless compelling.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for the comments and feedback. I am encouraged to check out the Partners in Crime series, one of these fine days.