A detestable businessman is murdered while at work, and a handful of rye is found in his pockets. Soon after, members of his household fall victim to a killer intent on recreating scenes from a popular nursery rhyme.
When Rex Fortescue dies while sitting at his desk in the City, it's determined that he was in fact poisoned. He was married to a much younger wife, who now stands to inherit. His son Percival, a partner in the family firm, was a disappointment to him and a daughter, Elaine, hasn't amounted to much. Another son, Lance, had a falling out with his father many years before and relocated to East Africa. He suddenly appears soon after his father's death claiming that they had reconciled and been invited by him to return to England with an offer to rejoin the firm. Miss Marple takes a particular interest in the case when her former maid Gladys, now working in the Fortescue household, is also murdered. She soon learns that the elder Fortescue had received veiled threats for some time and that they might have something to do with a long ago business deal that made his initial fortune.Written by
The last TV project for both Ken Campbell and Wendy Richard. Campbell died during post production; Richard passed away nearly a year after filming was completed. See more »
When Miss Marple is going through Gladys' belongings, she finds a postcard from the alleged boyfriend. When the card is first seen, it has two stamps on it; moments later, when Miss Marple, crosses the room toward the window and the card is seen for the second time, there is only one stamp on it. See more »
Solid murder mystery that holds a tone consistently well and is inoffensive without being bland or dull
When successful businessman Rex Fortescue is poisoned at his desk it appears to Inspector Neele that he has plenty of suspects to work with. Rex's much younger wife is in line to inherit his fortune. Of his children, Percival felt trapped below him in the business, Lance had a falling out with him and moved to East Africa while his daughter is clearly relieved that her father is dead. Things become more complex when Gladys the maid is also murdered – bringing in the attention of Miss Marple, former employee of Gladys.
I shall leave it for others much better read than I to debate how "faithful" this film is to the source material because, to be blunt, I don't care. If I want something that is accurate and faithful to the book then I shall read the book – not watch an adapted version of the book, what I am looking for from the film is that it works, that it intrigues, that it entertains, that it thrills – really whatever it is trying to do, I hope it does it and that I like it, simple as. I was not so taken by previous ITV Marple films even if some of them did have light entertainment qualities that I appreciated, so I saw the new casting of Marple as a "reboot" of sorts for the series.
In a way this is the case because A Pocket Full of Rye seems more interesting in the mystery and less interested in being camp and gaudy in the way the other films often did. So although we had some flamboyant touches and some "big" names in supporting roles, it never felt daft and these qualities were never overdone to the detriment of the film. So, in theory what it delivers is a solid piece of Sunday night drama. The mystery is not really open to the viewer to solve but it has enough going on in it so I was happy to follow along with Marple and the Inspector as they went about their business. It never gripped me but I was reasonably interested in it throughout and, as a basic approach to these next few films, it does offer me hope that they will be more reliable and sturdy as films.
I cannot say the same for McKenzie though because although she didn't fill me with dread, she didn't give me much to be hopeful about either. Her take on Marple doesn't appear to be fit in anywhere. We've had versions that go the "batty, flamboyant" route, others that are harsher/sharper and others that are a bit colourful and dithery. Again, not looking for brand loyalty, I'm happy to judge each as they come on their own merits but with McKenzie it wasn't clear who she was trying to make her character as she just came over quite ordinary and bland – certainly all I took away from her role as Marple is the comfort that, should she ever be unavailable to finish a film mid-shoot then we can just get Jim Broadbent in drag (and to anyone who says she doesn't look identical to Broadbent clearly is confusing him with someone else). Maybe she was playing it safe though, looking for somewhere middle where she sacrifices making the role her own in favour of not upsetting everyone but she does benefit from a support cast who also do the "solid but not showy" direction. I liked Macfadyen's turn as the Inspector while Graves delivers a good character without ever being camp or ridiculous. Little, Baxendale, the late Wendy Richards, Madeley, Haddock and others all match this as well and I thought the cast were well directed in terms of the tone that the film was aiming for.
So nothing amazing but then it is not awful either. It is a solid murder mystery that holds a tone consistently well and is inoffensive without being bland or dull. I like this approach and will watch the remaining Marple films to see if they hold and build on this, but it must be said that on the basis of this first film, McKenzie's goal is to avoid upsetting anyone's vision of what Miss Marple should be by simply not doing anything in any specific direction.
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