Monday, 27 December 2010

Agatha Christie's Marple: The Secret of Chimneys - review


Agatha Christie’s Marple this evening gave us The Secret of Chimneys, from a book which dates back to 1925. Jane Marple does not appear in the book, and frankly the story – a cheerfully ludicrous thriller – would be long forgotten if Christie were not the author. I felt compelled to watch, though, to see what the scriptwriter, Paul Rutman – a capable and experienced TV detective drama writer - would make of a very tough challenge.

His approach was to take a few small plot elements and a number of characters (or, at least, their names) from the original but to create an entirely new story, with the scene being set in 1932 before moving into the 1950s, with Miss Marple, in the shape of Julia Mackenzie, improbably invited to Chimneys along with an exotic foreign aristocrat and a woman from ‘National Heritage’.

The cast was good, including the reliable Edward Fox, the beautiful Charlotte Salt and the talented Dervla Kirwan. But the story-line was risible and Christie probably turned in her grave at the identity and motive of the culprit. I was certainly amazed, but not in a good way.

I was left wondering what was the object of the exercise. I could see the point of the new TV version of Murder on the Orient Express, even though I’ve read some comments by purists who disapprove of the changes made to the original, because the focus on justice was – to me – genuinely interesting. But with The Secret of Chimneys, a silly but mildly amusing book from the 1920s just became a silly TV show of 2010. Disappointing, to say the least.

8 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - I'm so sorry you were disappointed in this movie. It always amazes me what television creators think ought to be filmed. I can think of lots of Christie works that I think would be better filmed than this one, and as you know, I'm an avid Christie fan.

seana said...

I'm with you on the new version of Orient Express, though I can understand why others might feel that the production took liberties. Part of my positive reaction is that David Suchet has come to inhabit the Poirot character to such an astounding degree that I feel his portrayal can't fail to reflect this.

aguja said...

I am sorry that you were disappointed. Martin, but I love the title as I find chimneys really interesting, in themselves.
I enjoyed your review; obviously of much better quality than the drama.

Beryl said...

For me, there is only one Miss Marple - Joan Hickson. Joan Hickson as Miss Marple is rather scary, like a severe headmistress who can spot a forged absence note at a hundred yards. Geraldine McEwan is too benign. I watched "The Secret of Chimneys" last night and thought the plot was pretty dire and unconvincing, but wasn't familiar with the original. Having read the synopsis on Wikipedia, I can't believe how much it was changed for the TV programme.

Beryl said...

Apologies - not Geraldine McEwan, but Julia McKenzie!

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. Aguja, the house in the TV version was impressive, chimneys and all!
Beryl, the original is definitely no masterpiece, but believe me, it is a bit better than the TV version!

bookwitch said...

I wasn't able to watch the film, but after reading about how much they changed, I'm almost glad.

I have always loved the book, being more than fond of ridiculous plots and wit and romance. So how can they go and change it? It'd be far better if they were to have a third Christie brand with no Poirot or Marple, and then there would be no need to mess about.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Bookwitch, I agree. Hope we get to meet up at last this year, by the way!