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Friday, 19 June 2020

Burl reviews The Mirror Crack'd! (1980)

Pondering the mysteries of life, it’s Burl, here with a touch of Christie for you! Yes, today I’m reviewing one of the star-studded Agatha Christie whodunits, but not Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile, no! This is a distinctly lesser effort that came trailing along later: The Mirror Crack’d!
It’s set in a little English village, so it lacks the exoticism of the earlier grander efforts; but there are still any number of Hollywood glamour-pusses reeling about, even if well beyond their sell-by date! The story, set in 1953, begins promisingly with a movie-within-a-movie: a mystery picture screening at the vicarage, which resident biddysleuth Miss Marple, played by a well-cast Angela Lansbury, solves when the film breaks just as the killer is about to be revealed!
The tale proper involves an invasion of the village by Hollywood moviemakers, who are for some reason shooting an Elizabethan drama in this tweedy Tudor town, which, we are led to believe, is home to a large studio facility! The film’s star is fragile, violet-eyed Elizabeth Taylor, famed from her role in Night Watch; its director is the Taylor character’s husband, played by Rock Hudson from Written on the Wind and Seconds! Hudson seems to be having an affair with his assistant, the hay fever-ridden Geraldine Chaplin from The Moderns and The Forbidden Room; and soon enough a boorish producer, played by Tony Curtis from The Manitou, arrives on the scene with his wife, another actress, and a nasty, bitter rival to Taylor, played by Kim Novak from Vertigo! And guess who else shows up, playing the Mayor: none other than Thick Wilson, whom we certainly recall from Sex With the Stars, Strange Brew and Bullies!
At a party for the village noteables, held in the estate where the movie’s above-the-liners are staying, there is an unexpected death! But who was the glass of poison really meant for, and will the killer strike again? On the case of course is Miss Marple, though she must engage with it remotely for the most part, due to a sprained ankle! Most of the legwork is undertaken by Marple’s nephew, a Scotland Yard detective played by Edward Fox from Never Say Never Again!
The catty byplay between the starlets is fun at first, but wears thin quickly! Ditto the provincial eccentricities of the townsfolk! Curtis’s crass producer is a caricature to be sure, but we can tell the actor is injecting some of the realities he’d encountered in his career into the performance! Rock Hudson, also clearly channeling some Hollywood reality, bestrides about the place, towering over everybody else in the picture! Ha ha, maybe this was a more subtle jab at Hollywood and stardom: to make no effort, with camera angles and apple boxes, to prevent Curtis, Fox, and certainly Lansbury, from looking like midgets in comparison!
Like The Man With the Golden Gun, which I watched on the same evening, this picture was directed by Guy Hamilton! This unintentional Hamilton double header did not elevate my estimation of his filmmaking talents, I’m afraid, though it was not necessarily a representative sampler! There’s not a great deal of style or atmosphere on display in The Mirror Crack’d; little more than you might find in a BBC television production of a Miss Marple story, anyway! It all relies too much on the aging stars, who march about like automatons mechanically uttering lines that might have played better on a West End stage forty years earlier!
It all wraps up with a pretty unconvincing twist ending, and the solution to the mystery, after ninety minutes of determinately keeping Miss Marple away from all the action for some unknown reason, comes to her in the middle of the night apropos of nothing, with the blue-haired sleuth sitting up in bed to exclaim “The vicar!” When you compare it to a really good English village mystery like Green For Danger, or even A Canterbury Tale, which isn’t even principally a mystery, it comes up pretty short! I give The Mirror Crack’d one and a half jars of Kensington gore!


  1. Christie fans were aghast to see Miss Marple chainsmoking and living in a huge house with acres of garden out the back! Among other missteps.

    But the film doesn't seem interested in her, it's more excited about securing the greatest Hollywood cast of 1958. It gets by as camp, but there's a reason the Peter Ustinov as Poirot movies were hits and this was a one-off.

    1. It's strange how little Miss Marple is in the thing!

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