for peace … for freedom … for Canada

Agatha Christie’s Marple: Series 5

Release Year:   2010
Studio:   Acorn Media
Format:   Colour; NTSC; Blu-ray; Widescreen; Box Set
Rated:   Not Rated
# of Discs:   4
Running Time:   351 m + bonus
DVD Release Date:   08-31-11

Creator:   Based on Agatha Christie’s characters and stories
Actors:   Julia McKenzie, Joanna Lumley, Lindsay Duncan, Hugh Bonneville, Toby Stevens, Caroline Quentin, Caroline Catz, Edward Fox, Nicholas Parsons, Lynda Baron
DVD Features:   Agatha Christie’s Garden: Pam Ferris (Rosemary & Thyme) presents this revealing documentary about Agatha Christie’s personal retreat, her secret garden in Devon; A 1996 adaptation of “The Pale Horse” (101 minutes) starring Colin Buchanan (“Dalziel and Pascoe”), Jean Marsh (“Upstairs, Downstairs”), and Andy Serkis (“The Lord of the Rings”); SDH subtitles
E: Top Picks Rating:   8/10

Acorn Media Write-up:

Starring Julia McKenzie in three new thrilling mysteries, As seen on the PBS Mystery! series.

Eyes sparkling and tweeds impeccable, Julia McKenzie (“Cranford”, “Notes on a Scandal”) returns as Agatha Christie’s spinster sleuth in three new mysteries set in 1950s England. Murder is afoot, and Miss Marple is up to the task of determining whodunit. She may look like a pensioner, but she doesn’t miss a clue on the way to solving heinous crimes, whether the weapon is a gun, a cocktail, or the color blue. Each story unfolds against a rich background of grand English estates, gorgeous scenery, and post-WWII period detail.

Julia McKenzie proves “delightful to watch” (Los Angeles Times), and she’s supported by a stellar cast of veteran British actors including Lindsay Duncan, Joanna Lumley, Hugh Bonneville, Edward Fox, Caroline Quentin, Jonas Armstrong, Sharon Small, Kevin McNally, and Toby Stephens.
The Mysteries: The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side; The Secret of Chimneys; The Blue Geranium; The Pale Horse

Rhiannon Benedict Review: 

As light entertainment goes, Agatha Christie’s works are pretty difficult to screw up. Her mysteries are fun and generally quite solvable by the armchair sleuth, not too taxing but interesting enough to keep the viewer roped in, watching for the next clue. Even a mediocre production of her works is enjoyable. These ITV productions exceed most others in quality. The production values are superb, and the river of talent they draw from runs very deep. Any way you look at it, this is a great way to spend a relaxing evening.

When it comes to Miss Marple, there are generally two different approaches taken by actresses, and both are legitimately based on Agatha Christie. The characterization of Marple evolves somewhat throughout the run of Christie’s books. The earlier Marple is very Victorian – prim, proper, pinched, and sometimes a little grating on the nerves for the audience as well as for the policemen who consistently look silly when she is around. The other is a more modern woman – clever but kind, cunning and plotting but never condescending. She is independent, matronly rather than spinsterly, and a great deal of fun – everybody’s favourite unmarried auntie. Julia McKenzie takes the latter approach, and the result is delightful. I loved her in this role.

The mysteries are great fun – Delightfully deceptive glitz and glamour of Hollywood (with a splash of Gene Tierney) in “The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side”; diamonds and hidden passageways in “The Secret of Chimneys”; deceit and greed in “The Blue Geranium”; and devilish witches and sorcery in “The Pale Horse”.

The bonus program “Agatha Christie’s Garden” peers behind the shrubbery of the infamously secretive scribe’s personal retreat. Pam Ferris (“Rosemary & Thyme”) is a stellar host for this sparky little biography. It’s unfortunate that the sound recording is rather lacking, but you lose track of that due to Ms. Ferris’ talent. (You can see Pam talking as she ambles through Christie’s ample gardens but what you hear is the hollow, muffled sound of sub-standard studio recording. She does an amazing job matching her ADR with the visual, though.)

The inclusion of an alternate, non-Marple version of “The Pale Horse” is a brilliant addition to AGATHA CHRISTIE’S MARPLE COMPLETE SERIES 5 IN BLU-RAY. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the world of literary interpretation, with two such divergent films springing from the same source. Watching the two back-to-back is great fun. Acorn previously release Series 1 – 3 starring Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple, and Series 4 – 5 starring Julia McKenzie in the role on DVD. The first three episodes of Series 5 aired in summer 2010, and were previously released as a separate set comprising these episodes plus a myriad of bonus programming. Since “the Pale Horse” has had its US broadcast, Acorn is now able to re-release Series 5 blu-ray with the addition of this delightful tale (in both its versions).

This is an excellent box set with fun content. Well worth it.