Saturday, September 25, 2021

Murder at the Gallop

MGM's British unit produced four films in the early 1960s starring Margaret Rutherford as Agatha Christie's detective Jane Marple. TCM ran all four of them back in August during Rutherford's day in Summer Under the Stars, although I only had enough space on my DVR to record one of them, Murder at the Gallop. I recently got around to watching it and doing a review on it here.

At the start of movie, Marple is going around town with her companion and custodian of the local library, Mr. Stringer (Rutherford's real-life husband Stringer Davis, reprising his role from the first of the movies, Murder She Said), to raise money for a local charity. One of the stops is at the big manor-type house of a rich old man, Mr. Enderby (Finlay Currie), notorious for not donating to charity. He lets them in, however, where they find him getting scared by a cat and suffering fatal heart attack in the process!

Miss Marple just knows that it's murder, and figures that the last person before them to show up at the house deliberately brought a cat in order to induce that heart attack. So even before local police inspector Craddock (Charles Tingwell, also reprising his role in Murder She Said shows up, she's trying to get evidence, which you'd think would be a crime since she's technically impeding a legitimate police investigation.

Except that the police don't believe it was murder, just a run of the mill heart attack, leaving Marple free to come up with her batty conspiracy theories. Well, of course, this being Miss Marple maybe they're not so batty. First she concludes that the murderer, whoever it was, must have come over on horseback as she's able to get an impression of a riding boot. Find out whose boot it matches, and you've got the murderer. She also eavesdrops on the reading of the will.

Among the heirs is Enderby's sister Cora, so Marple goes to visit Cora, finding her dead, and a housekeeper Miss Milchrest (Flora Robson) who wonders whether Marple is in fact the killer. As for the other heirs, there's Enderby's nephew Hector (Robert Morley) who runs a local inn that also provides horse riding as part of the recreation; art dealer Crossfield (Robert Urquhart); and Mr. and Mrs. Shane. All of the heirs are staying at Hector's in the Gallop, so Marple decides she's going to take a "vacation"... at the Gallop.

Some vacation, since it's patently obvious that she's going to investigate the murder. Along the way, she's going to be put in a bit of danger as she finds everybody is a suspect. But you know that she's ultimately going to figure out who the killer is.

Eddie Muller, in the wraparounds, stated that this particular movie is based on one of Christie's books that did not in fact have Miss Marple among the characters. So for Agatha Christie purists, they may not like the movie as a result. I more or less liked it, as the mystery is good enough and Margaret Rutherford brings the same humor to the Marple role that she did in Murder She Said. I have to admit, however, that I preferred Murder She Said.

Still, anybody looking for a relatively undemanding mystery can enjoy Murder at the Gallop.

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