Sunday, January 10, 2021

Tonight's Movie: The Mirror Crack'd (1980) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

THE MIRROR CRACK'D (1980), featuring Angela Lansbury as the British sleuth Miss Marple, is the final film in a trio of Agatha Christie movies recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

I previously reviewed the new Blu-rays of DEATH ON THE NILE (1978) and EVIL UNDER THE SUN (1982).

As it happens, THE MIRROR CRACK'D was the only one of the movies I'd seen previously, in a theater when it was initially released.  I remembered going to see it at Christmastime, which the IMDb release date confirms.  

I hadn't seen it in the years since, so watching it now was almost like seeing a new movie; I only remembered the central fact-based plot device, which will not be revealed here.

The film is set in 1953 England, where a U.S. film production has descended onto the small country village of St. Mary Meade.

The filmmakers include star actress Marina Rudd (Elizabeth Taylor), making a comeback after prolonged ill health; her husband, director Jason Rudd (Rock Hudson); Jason's quiet assistant, Ella (Geraldine Chaplin); producer Martin Fenn (Tony Curtis); and Martin's actress wife -- and Marina's rival -- Lola Brewster (Kim Novak).

A "meet and greet" cocktail party for the village citizenry is held at a local estate prior to the commencement of filming.  Partway into the event a young woman, Heather Babcock (Maureen Bennett), who had been chatting with Marina collapses and dies after drinking a daiquiri.

Inspector Craddock (Edward Fox) is soon on the case; in between interviewing the involved parties he pays visits to his aunt, Miss Jane Marple (Lansbury), to discuss the latest clues.

A fun opening sequence sets the tone for what's to come, as a black and white mystery film being screened by the local vicar breaks just as the inspector is about to reveal the murderer.  Miss Marple confidently tells the rest of the audience who did it based on clues she spotted in the movie.  It's a nice bit of place-setting as a "real-life" mystery then begins unfolding for Miss Marple to solve.

THE MIRROR CRACK'D is entertaining, if lacking in subtlety.  The performances by Taylor, Novak, and Curtis are what might be described as loud and garish, going over the top as Hollywood types, while the rest of the lead actors play in a quieter range.

Some of the fun is seeing cast members who worked together on past projects reunited here; it's especially nice to see Hudson and Taylor playing husband and wife again, close to a quarter century after GIANT (1956). 

Lansbury had played Taylor's sister at MGM in NATIONAL VELVET (1944) 36 years before.  She and Taylor both look older than their real ages in this. Taylor was only 48 when this was released but doesn't look particularly well, though that's admittedly in keeping with her character.  Some of the problem may have been what seems to be a poorly fitted wig and costuming which seems appropriate for an older woman.

Lansbury is intentionally made up to look elderly, though in reality she was about 54 or 55 at the time this was filmed.  She looks far older in this than she appeared in her later TV series MURDER, SHE WROTE (1984-1996).

Regarding cast member reunions, it was also fun to see former Universal stars Hudson and Curtis sharing the screen; I was musing that it was three decades after they each had small parts in WINCHESTER '73 (1950).

Another fun bit is spotting a young Pierce Brosnan in a scene appearing opposite Marina when the movie is filming.

Like the other Christie films I've recently reviewed, THE MIRROR CRACK'D isn't really great cinema, but it's a pleasant watch.  I liked it the best of the three recently viewed Christie films.

THE MIRROR CRACK'D runs 105 minutes.  It was directed by Guy Hamilton and filmed by Christopher Challis.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray includes a new audio commentary track by Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell, and Nathaniel Thompson; a trailer and TV spots; and half a dozen trailers for additional films available from Kino Lorber.  The case includes reversible cover art.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger barrylane said...

I've seen this version of The Mirror Cracked twice; once on its initial release and the other on DVD. Initially, my reaction was extremely positive, second time around not at all, with the exceptions of Curtis and Novak, especially Kim, who I thought wonderful. As good as Lansbury was awful, not only the performance but her opening monologue is such an incredible and arrogant bore, which Miss Marple is not. To see this far more intelligently handled, have a look at Joan Hickson doing The Mirror Cracked, which also has John Castle as Inspector Craddock, one of the most attractive and interesting performances I've ever seen. He is a go-to guy. You will love him. I hope.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you for the recommendation! I see the Hickson version is available to stream from Amazon for a low price.

Curtis and Novak were entertaining given their roles. I'm finding one of my issues with these Christie films is that they tend to be rather shallow -- many characters and more about the story device than getting to know the people with any depth. Taylor in particular was all surface, just what we saw of Marina "performing" for others.

I'm curious to take a look at the Hickson and Suchet Marple and Poirot films and see if they leave me feeling differently.

Best wishes,

7:20 PM  
Blogger dfordoom said...

I've only seen a couple of the Hickson Miss Marples and they left me cold.

The David Suchet Poirot series on the other hand is simply superb. But make sure you start with the earlier episodes. The series went downhill a bit in its later years. But the early years are wonderful television. You'll never be able to watch another actor as Poirot after seeing David Suchet.

Strange to say I rather liked THE MIRROR CRACK'D. Not much substance but fun.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for your feedback on Marple and Poirot, DforDoom! I appreciate it.

"Not much substance but fun" is a pretty good summation of THE MIRROR CRACK'D, from my perspective.

Best wishes,

1:16 PM  

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