'Agatha Christie's Marple: The Pale Horse'
(Julia McKenzie, Bill Paterson, Nigel Planer, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2011 / Acorn Media)
Overview: Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie, Fresh Fields) receives a mysterious list of names from her friend Father Gorman, who sent it moments before he was brutally murdered on a London street. She soon discovers that people on the list are dying and begins to investigate soon thereafter!
DVD Verdict: This latest set-in-time 'Agatha Christie's Marple: The Pale Horse' is, well, two for the price of one, to be frank! For this wonderful box set contains not only the brand new (2010) adaptation of the book, but also the 1997 UK version also!
And, for those wondering what the difference is, well, the quintessential Agatha Christie murder mystery is afoot in the new version, whereas the lovely lady herself, Ms. Marple is not even cast in the latter!
But, taing them one at a time, this new story features a star-studded cast including Oscar® nominee Pauline Collins (Shirley Valentine), Sarah Alexander (Coupling), Nicholas Parsons (Midsomer Murders - and albeit for a hot minute!), Bill Paterson (Traffik), Nigel Planer (The Young Ones), and even Australian pop singer Holly Valance!
And so, Miss Marple receives this mysterious list of names in the mail the night after Father Gorman (who sent it) is brutally murdered (my God, that's some fast UK mail they have there!) and together with the aid of a neighbor that thinks he saw the killer of a following suspicious death, they sleuthingly step foot in The Pale Horse B&B.
The receptionist at the B&B looks, and acts like Amy Winehouse, and there's a lot of Witchy stuff happening around and about - let alone a huge bonfire out side on the grounds - named The Burning! Come the end of her methodical jigsaw puzzle-arranging of suspects, they all meet in the dining room - where, after some red herrings, the real killer is revealed!
The second disc houses the 1997 version of the film. A completely different adaptation of the 2010 film, it features no Ms. Marple, but has leads Colin Buchanan (Dalziel & Pascoe) and Jayne Ashbourne (Young Indiana Jones) setting out to prove that sculptor Mark Easterbrook (Buchanan) is not guilty of killing the priest in the alley.
And so with the help of art restorer Kate Mercer (Ashbourne) and the always-tough, and yet always-sexy Hermione Norris (MI:5) as Hermia Redcliffe (the upper crust bit on the side for Buchanan, the game is afoot to prove his innocence - using a list of names handed to the dying priest; who in turn handed it to Buchanan that fateful night.
Where it differs is there's no Ms. Marple, the list of names is different (weirdly, and there are two cops - the one played by Andy Serkis (LOTR) as Sergeant Corrigan the only one that believes something is fishy and wants to help Buchanan ... who, as the film moves forward looks more and more like a young Ewan McGregor!
Indeed, there is even a different plot for the guilty party as a years-gone-by bank robbery comes into play, a man in a wheelchair CAN actually walk, and the real killer here is a character that doesn't even feature in the 2010 version! Mind you, it also carries with it a great line at the very end when one of the 'witches' curses Sergeant Corrigan: "You are damned. I am a candle." To which he calmly replies, "Right then, throw the candle in the back of the van then, boys!"
In closing, I think all true Agatha Christie film fans will be delighted with both of these adaptations. Sure there will be some book lovers who choose to go obsessing over the changes, but I'd like this think those that buy the 2010 version and get the 1997 version without knowing (included in this 2-disc release) will think Christmas has come. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.