Director: Guy Hamilton
Stars: Angela Lansbury, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Edward Fox, Kim Novak, Wendy Morgan, Maureen Bennett, Geraldine Chaplin
A lavish Hollywood production comes to a small village in England, home of the sharp Miss Marple (Lansbury). When a murder occurs her nephew, Inspector Craddock (Fox), investigates but finds that the people working on the film are more interested in getting the picture made than wasting their time on a local murder.
Despite being an English institution and a staple of afternoon television when I was younger (if I recall correctly) I’ve never actually seen or read a Miss Marple story, nor anything at all by Agatha Christie, even though she’s one of my mother’s favourites. The Mirror Crack’d caught my attention because of the stars involved and I do love a good murder mystery. Yet, even with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and Tony Curtis the film somehow still felt like a made-for-tv movie that should be left in the junkyard of weekday afternoons. It has A-List talent but a dated and cheap feeling, and it drags the whole film down.
The other big problem is that Miss Marple is hardly in the film. Obviously since I haven’t seen any Miss Marple stories before this could simply be how all her stories go, but I was surprised that she spent the majority of the film sitting in her cottage while her nephew did the rounds. I don’t know about you but I like to see my protagonists be active, and while Lansbury was good while she was on the screen she simply wasn’t involved in the story enough. It was as though her only function was to be the one to solve the crime.
Elizabeth Taylor I actually enjoyed watching. I’m sure some will say that she was campy and over the top, but she sold it well and maybe she had just perfected the art of acting over the top, but at least you can say she commanding the screen and the viewer’s attention. Rock Hudson was okay and does a decent job of the beleaguered husband/director. Tony Curtis was good when he was on the screen but at a certain point he basically disappeared from the film. Kim Novak….oh boy. You want to talk about campy this is the perfect example. She was so melodramatic and played more of a caricature than a character, dragging the film down in every scene she was in.
The mystery itself was okay I suppose, although I didn’t like the director’s trick of filming something suspicious (usually a pair of hands), then revealing it to be something harmless in the next shot. It felt like a cheap way to increase tension. The red herrings proved to be a decent distraction but the suspense wasn’t held and once I figured out who the murderer was I grew annoyed at the other characters who didn’t see it. The best part of the movie actually comes at the beginning, where the community are watching an old movie in the Church hall. The projector fails just as the detective is about to accuse the murderer, so it’s left to Miss Marple to explain who committed the crime.
Overall I was disappointed in this one, and even the star quality it boasts is not enough to save it from mediocrity.