Main      Site Guide    
At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Body In the Library (2004)

(aka: Marple: The Body In the Library)



Reviews and Comments

Margaret Rutherford played Miss Marple in four films made in the 1960s. She was a force of nature, independent almost to defiance, a commanding presence even in the face of physical adversity. She was, in short, nothing at all like Agatha Christie's literary detective, but Rutherford's reinvention of the character was a delight.

I say this so that my profound disappointment with Geraldine McEwan's Miss Marple will not be misunderstood. McEwan's Marple is also nothing like the Miss Marple of the novels, but the problem isn't the inaccuracy but that diverging from the original character bears no fruit of its own. Here, Marple has only one surface element to her character: she's delighted to be embroiled in a murder mystery and delighted to be solving it. That's it. There is nothing more to her. She's not the embodiment of British propriety, imbued with a decorous compassion for humanity and a precise insight into human nature. She's merely some spunk that solves crimes. McEwan does have a wonderful gleam in her eyes, and it is no doubt that gleam that landed her the role, because it is the entirety of what we see of Miss Marple in The Body In the Library, first in yet another series of Agatha Christie adaptations. When a young girl, for example, broken up at the death of a friend, tearfully confides an important secret, Miss Marple reacts only with gleeful smugness at the discovery of a clue.

Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with a story's protagonist lacking in sympathy for others, but this does not actually seem to be the movie's intention. Marple's disregard translates not to a moment of characterization but a discordant note in the flow of the film as a whole. The performance and the editing play to a very different emotional resonance from what the scene achieves.

Moments like these pepper the entire production. A policeman, jumping up and down in frustration, is a note in some kind of undignified American vaudeville comedy act, not a British drawing room mystery. Worst of all, simply because no part of the running time escapes it, is the relentless musical score, which seems to have been composed at random, for it never properly compliments or contrasts with the context of each scene. It's like you're watching a movie in your living room without being able to mask out the noise of the street party outside.

With so many adaptations of Agatha Christie's work out there already, there is no reason to seek out this overblown and criminally simplistic series. Joan Hickson's films remain the gold standard for capturing the delicate impact of the novels and Miss Marple's indelible character. For cinematic treats and interesting reinventions of the character, the films of Margaret Rutherford and Helen Hayes work very nicely.

Other Versions

Series Entries

Related Films