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  Murder at the Gallop Marvellous MarpleBuy this film here.
Year: 1963
Director: George Pollock
Stars: Margaret Rutherford, Robert Morley, Flora Robson, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell, Stringer Davis, Gordon Harris, Robert Urquhart, Katya Douglas, James Villiers, Noel Howlett, Finlay Currie, Duncan Lamont, Kevin Stoney
Genre: Comedy, Thriller
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Miss Marple (Margaret Rutherford) is collecting for a reformed criminals charity around the village where she lives with the help of her good friend Mr Stringer (Stringer Davis). Some give generously for a badge, some are not interested, but what of old Mr Enderby (Finlay Currie) who lives alone in the mansion house, will he be interested in the cause? Only one way to find out, thinks Miss Marple, and she ventures forth up the drive, with Mr Stringer nervously following and trying to talk her out of it, but once they reach the door they find it open. They creep inside, calling out, only to see Mr Enderby stagger to the top of the stairs and collapse...

...could it be murder? With Miss Marple about, you're never exactly sure, although the odds are that Enderby has been scared to death by his phobia, a cat loose in his house. Who could have put it there, and was it deliberate? Ever the sleuth, the amateur detective notices a piece of dried mud on the carpet by the body, and picks it up, making a plaster mould of it when she returns home. As in the previous film in this series, Murder She Said, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell appears as the local detective, an official police one that is, to be bemused by the indefatigable old woman and her obsessive quest to get to the heart of what turns out to be a very murky matter.

So murky, in fact, that one of the murders is not entirely cleared up by the end of the film, although they do gloss over that. This second Marple movie was not based on one of Agatha Christie's books to feature the character, as it was actually an Hercules Poirot novel, After the Funeral, that this drew its plot from - loosely, by all accounts. Christie, although good friends with Rutherford, was not keen on what the movies did to her rather sedate heroine, but for fans of the actress these efforts are well worth catching as they find her at her most typical. Here she gets to verbally spar with another idiosyncratic Brit thesp, Robert Morley, playing a relative of the deceased and therefore a suspect.

These two make a relishable double act, with even a hint of unrequited romance between them to add to the charm, but as before this is really Rutherford's showcase all the way. Her Marple gets up to all sorts, from eavesdropping on the reading of the will while balanced on a barrel outside the window (the deceased of course takes this opportunity to tell the inheritors precisely what he thought of them, it's the law in these kind of movies), to even dancing the twist later on; you can't imagine Joan Hickson doing the robot in her eighties version, but here it fits perfectly with the eccentricity of the piece. We trust that even if we are not one hundred percent on top of the mystery, then Miss Marple is.

So we know we're in a safe pair of hands whatever happens. For much of the film the sleuth is intent on matching that plaster to the heel of one of the suspects' boots, and gets into all sorts of danger as she is not sure who she can trust, especially as those intended to inherit the Enderby fortune are beginning to drop off at a worrying rate. Although this is classed as a comedy thriller, you're not really laughing out loud at any ribtickling gags, more appreciating the manner in which Rutherford bustles through the other characters which cannot help but provoke indulgent chuckles. Another star name on board is a reserved Flora Robson who plays the companion to one of the murder victims, present to increase the volume of possible killers and possible killed. You can look down on this as an example of how to get a famous character wrong, but these movies fit Rutherford like a glove. Music by Ron Goodwin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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