Since two big-budget, star-studded movies featuring Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot — Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and Death on the Nile (1978) — had been successful (the second somewhat less so), it was inevitable that something similar would be tried with her Miss Marple. The big difference is that the stars weren’t quite as bright and the setting considerably more economical. This was probably just as well because The Mirror Crack’d (1980) was not the hit the Poirot offerings had been, not even the second one. It also isn’t as good as either of them. No further attempts at a big screen Miss Marple would be forthcoming. The truth is, however, that The Mirror Crack’d isn’t a bad movie, it’s just too indifferently made to ever live up to its promise. And, it might as well be noted, that Angela Lansubry’s interpretation of Miss Marple is mannered, eccentric — and sometimes just plain peculiar. While the film probably disappointed people by sidelining Miss Marple for much of the action, that may actually have been for the best. The film is at its strongest in dealing with the bitchy infighting of movie stars, directors and producers. These scenes feel authentic in a way that the olde quaint English village stuff never quite does. Plus, they hired co-screenwriter Barry Sandler to craft the kind of fast-paced bitchy banter he does so well (“I could eat a can of Kodak and puke a better movie”). Watching Kim Novak and Liz Taylor lay into each other verbally is a treat. Whether or not that should be what you come away with from a Miss Marple movie remembering is another consideration. Still, given Lansbury’s approach to the character and the fact that director Guy Hamilton was incapable of generating the slightest atmosphere (the movie looks and feels like a TV special), one should perhaps take one’s pleasures where they are found.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Mirror Crack’d Sunday, Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.