At some point in junior high or high school I spent a year reading Agatha Christie novels. Hercule Poirot, Tommy and Tuppence, Miss Marple, even the other ones. After I’d plowed through the Bryan Public Library’s Christie collection, I moved on to Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, and other classic British detective writers, but Christie was always my favorite.
I was especially fond of Miss Marple. I had seen a few movie and t.v. adaptations of Miss Marple novels as a kid. My parents like older movies, so we watched a lot of pre-1970s movies. I remembered the Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple:
She always struck me as too energetic. There was also Angela Lansbury:
She always seemed too Angela Lansbury (though I’ve always liked her and thought she should have won several Oscars). And there was Helen Hayes (generally forgettable, unfortunately).
But there has always really been just one Miss Marple, Joan Hickson:
She is incomparable in this role. Completely unparalleled. So, why in the world have “they” decided to remake the Miss Marple television series?
The new series stars the wonderful actress Geraldine MacEwan:
MacEwan is a fine actress but … and here comes the rant … these remakes are just complete travesties. The writers have decided to make them all about England and the World Wars, creating new characters, giving Miss Marple a new history, and generally jazzing them up in every way possible.
Take, for example, my favorite Miss Marple novel, A Murder Is Announced. This novel is interesting, in part, because of the female relationships it depicts. These relationships, and indeed all of the relationships depicted in the novel, have been affected by the war, and the novel is, at least on one level, about the war’s effects on the English people. But the novel is also about a lot of other things. But all of these things are handled with care and some subtlety. One of the female couples, for example, is clearly more than just a friendship (regardless of whether it is actually sexual). The novel and the Hickson version more or less leave the exact nature of this relationship to the reader’s imagination. Not so the new series. In it, the couple is very much a lesbian couple and they were also younger. (As a gay man, I’m all for making the recognition of their sexuality more visible, but this was just clumsy and stupid.) It’s just terrible. (Though I was pleased to see Zoe Wanamaker and Elaine Paige in the remake!)
Tonight I watched as much of the remake of At Bertram’s Hotel as I could stand — a little less than a half hour. They’ve completely changed the plot. Last week I tried watching a little of Nemesis, another great novel and adaptation with Hickson. That too they had changed beyond all recognition.
I wonder why they bothered remaking the series if they didn’t think the original books were up to snuff. My suspicion is that they wanted to update the works for a twenty-first century audience. If so, all they’ve managed to do is create a complete and utter mess. No subtlety. No flavor of the England of Christie’s day. No respect for the original texts.
In my drama-as-literature classes, I often joke about productions that commit “crimes against theater.” This production has definitely committed crimes against Agatha Christie. It’s just appalling what they’ve done. Maybe I’ve become an old fart in my mid-thirties and maybe I’m irrationally attached to the productions of my youth, but I can’t imagine anyone with any interest in Christie at all watching these remakes with anything other than scorn. I guess I need to start scouring the internet to see if I can find anyone who thinks they’re great productions!
End of rant.