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Miss Marple: The Murder at the Vicarage (1986) Online

Miss Marple: The Murder at the Vicarage (1986) Online
Original Title :
Miss Marple: The Murder at the Vicarage
Genre :
Movie / Crime / Drama / Mystery
Year :
Directror :
Julian Amyes
Cast :
Joan Hickson,Paul Eddington,Cheryl Campbell
Writer :
T.R. Bowen
Type :
Time :
1h 42min
Rating :
Miss Marple: The Murder at the Vicarage (1986) Online

When a despised magistrate is found shot to death in the library of the local vicarage, his wife and her lover, a portrait painter living on the church grounds, both confess to the crime. Miss Marple's keen powers of observation clear both of them of the crime, but other suspects abound. Included are the murdered man's daughter, who posed for the artist, a neurotic cleric who's embezzled church funds, the local doctor, an ex-convict who poached on the magistrate's land, and a missionary's enigmatic widow who argued with him the day before he was killed. An exasperated Inspector Slack must reluctantly accept help from the analytical Miss Marple.
Cast overview, first billed only:
Joan Hickson Joan Hickson - Miss Marple
Paul Eddington Paul Eddington - Reverend Leonard Clement
Cheryl Campbell Cheryl Campbell - Griselda Clement
Robert Lang Robert Lang - Colonel Lucius Protheroe
Polly Adams Polly Adams - Ann Protheroe
Tara MacGowran Tara MacGowran - Lettice Protheroe
James Hazeldine James Hazeldine - Lawrence Redding
Christopher Good Christopher Good - Christopher Hawes
Norma West Norma West - Mrs. Lestrange
Michael Browning Michael Browning - Dr. Haydock
David Horovitch David Horovitch - Det. Inspector Slack
Ian Brimble Ian Brimble - Det. Sergeant Lake
Jack Galloway Jack Galloway - Bill Archer
Rachel Weaver Rachel Weaver - Mary Wright
Rosalie Crutchley Rosalie Crutchley - Mrs. Price-Ridley

Based on the book that marks the debut of Miss Marple.

French title: L'affaire Protheroe.

User reviews



I have never thought that Margaret Rutherford was the perfect actress to portray Christie's famous lady detective.Angela Landsbury,who portrayed her in "the mirror cracked" was not an ideal choice either.Joan Hickson was Miss Marple as I see her ,discreet ,insightful,mischievous,terribly observant.She and the detective inspector make a funny pair,like Poirot and Japp. Unlike Poirot,Marple does not really investigate.She never questions the suspects (some of whom even use her as their alibi)but has a rare talent for observation.

"Murder at the vicarage" is a classic Christie novel:it happens in Jane Marple's village where a wicked colonel nobody likes -and thus has a reason to kill him of course- is murdered.It even involves the priests who are suspects too.Good job by all the cast.

French title (of the novel and the movie):"L'affaire Prothero" .


It is difficult to understand ITV's decision to remake the Miss Marple series, because in Joan Hickson we have the definitive interpretation of Agatha Christie's amateur sleuth. This particular story, Miss Marple's first fictional outing,dates from 1930, but the writer, T.R. Bowen has skilfully updated it to the 1950s. The script is witty and the cast is endowed with such acting stalwarts as Paul Eddington and Rosalie Crutchley. If the plot does not seem so original now it is because Christie's work was so often copied, and what must have seemed innovative in 1930 now appears to be hackneyed. All that said it is a story well told and worth a couple of hours of anyone's time.


I really enjoyed this adaptation of "The Murder at the Vicarage". It is not as good as the delightful "A Murder is Announced" but it is very enjoyable, and not only one of the better Joan Hickson adaptations, but a considerable improvement over the Geraldine McEwan version(though that was one of the better adaptations of that series I feel). The pace is solid, the pace was a problem I had with "They Do it With Mirrors" which is my least favourite of the series, and the story is well structured. There is a nice witty script and lovely production values. The acting is very good in general, the only weaknesses for me being that James Hazeldine underplaying his role of Lawrence Redding and Polly Adams a little too stiff as Anne. Joan Hickson really makes this work though, with a simple charm and wisdom she is for me the best Miss Marple, and out of the supporting cast I loved Cheryl Campbell as Griselda, a delightful performance from a great actress. I liked the music too, really pleasant to listen to. Overall, I really enjoyed this adaptation. 9/10 Bethany Cox


Hickson is by far the best Miss Marple onscreen. Her performances make these cozy mysteries really entertaining. The screen adaptations in the series are a bit uneven, but I enjoyed all of them. I especially liked this one, "A Murder is Announced", and "Sleeping Murder".

The production values for the series were quite good, the supporting actors always at least passable and sometimes far better than that, and they didn't take too many liberties with the stories. But Hickson's performances are uniformly excellent.


Life in the vicarage is not as gentile and peaceful as it would seem as even mild-mannered Reverend Clement is driven to swearing by the stiff-necked attitude of Colonel Protheroe over the church accounts. In fact Protheroe is so unpopular that, when he is found murdered in the vicarage, several people confess to the crime to protect others who they assume must have done it. When the police manage to prove that the confessors couldn't possibly have done it, it leaves them with the question of who actually has killed him. As they conduct their investigation, Miss Marple continues her gardening and listens to the village grapevine to build a picture in her mind of what could have happened.

Although I have seen several BBC Miss Marple films where boredom could have been the cause of the murder, I still tried again several times and I was happy when this film turned out to be one of the more enjoyable and free-flowing in the series. Stepping away from the uptight and repressed standards of the period this film instead builds on the gossipy, small-world nature of life in a small English village. In doing this it show Miss Marple's quiet use of the grapevine in nice contrast to the police resources of Slack. The story itself is well structured and has plenty going on – it avoids the trap of being dull by way of trying to "English" and is quite fun. The mystery is well spun out and well solved with a nice air of humour along the way. It will still appear "boring" to those raised on the quick-fire mysteries of CSI etc but I found it to be quite sparky by the usual BBC Miss Marple standards.

Hickson is the one I always think of when I think of Miss Marple and here she is good value. She plays the "village" aspect of her character well and her personality comes through well in even simple lines. She is well supported by Horovitch's Slack who provides several laughs with his character. The support are generally up to the task – Eddington had a smaller role than I expected but was good; Lang was enjoyable before his final shot while people like Adams, Hazeldine, Good, West and others are all solid enough to stop the audience ignoring them or seeing them as dominate (and thus a possible murderer).

Overall this is an enjoyable and interesting entry in the solid BBC Miss Marple film series. The story is engaging and developed well and, far from being stiff, it actually flows quite well. The addition of humour and lively performances only helps to make it all the more enjoyable and makes this a good introduction to the BBC Marple series.


'Murder at the Vicarage' was Christie's first Miss Marple book. The BBC filmed it about mid way through their series featuring Joan Hickson. As always, Hickson is very good as the elderly sleuth and St Mary Mead is realistically shown as a very average (ie not TOO picture postcard) English village. Again, the slightly grainy nature of the film is in keeping.

There is good support from Paul Eddington as the vicar and Cheryl Campbell is just delightful as his wife Griselda - the high point for me! The other village gossips are well presented as is the nervy Mr Hawes and Norma West is very effective as the slightly creepy Mrs Lestrange. Fatally however, in my opinion, the central characters of Anne Protheroe and Lawrence Redding are quite poorly done as are the other members of the Protheroe family.

The newer McEwen version is much more effective in my opinion but this is still well worth watching.


Spoilers herein.

Watching all these BBC Marples is a real treat visually because you get a different director each time, and usually a different writer. That way, there is as much discovery in how the translation is made as there is in the mystery itself.

But T R Bowen adapted seven of these and they are the worst of the bunch. That's because he truly believes in the TeeVee model: the viewer doesn't want to think about what is going on. There is no game between writer and reader. The TeeVee viewer just wants to pleasantly take up time and be surprised by the clever solution.

Christie never intended such a thing, and railed against it in her lifetime. Her own plays show that intelligent engagement with the audience is possible,

This Bowenization is a case in point. The novel idea here is that the detective herself provides the mistaken alibi. A pretty clever idea in 1930, already copied many times by the time this production is set. The book has it as a matter of self-confrontation; that's why we have the mad curator, and the introspection of the dying woman, and the painter.

All that is washed away in this TeeVee script. Shame on Bowen and curses to viewers who don't complain.

Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.


When Mrs. LaStrange first attends services, the vicar asks if she is just there "for the season", to which she said, "Well, to everything there is a season". The vicar replies, "Oh yes, "Proverbs'". No, that quote is from the Book of Ecclesiastes. One would think vicar would know that. BTW, this exchange does not appear in the novel.

Also, Mr. Dawes, the curate, is described to be a Jesuit. Why would what appears to be a Presbyterian church employ a Catholic priest? The curate is in the novel, but is never referred to as a Jesuit.


I don't believe there are any spoilers. I enjoyed this one. It was easy to have compassion for the varying characters and their situations. Miss Marple was as observant and as keyed in to the actual situation as ever.

I've seen this one often and will again.


Colonel Protheroe is a resident of St. Mary Mead and a loathsome man. A magistrate, forceful, opinionated and tyrannical. It comes as no surprise when he's shot dead, plenty of suspects including his adulterous wife, her lover, his ex wife, and a local petty criminal. Hailing from the same village it comes as no surprise that local sleuth Jane Marple is first on the scene, much to the annoyance of Detective Inspector Slack.

The first Miss Marple story that Christie wrote, and a classic plot, one that could have been delivered in a too heavy handed way, with the killer seeming obvious, but the production team managed to divert attention and keep the viewer guessing.

Plaudits to the casting director, who did an exceptional job, primarily with the pairing of Paul Eddington and Cheryl Campbell, they are exquisite as the Vicar and his wife, Campbell manages to be sympathetic, funny and utterly charming, I would say she's the standout.

The St. Mary Mead gossip team are wonderful, so believable, Rosalie Crutchley and Barbara Hicks are delightful, with the latter returning six years later for the final episode. I love the dynamic between Miss Marple and slack, the annoyance would last years.

The music is excellent throughout, helping to add mystery to the story without being too much. As always a huge focus on attention to detail, the fashion, cars etc all on point.

A cracking mystery 9/10


The first 20-30 minutes of "The Murder At The Vicarage" are quite poorly done: a collection of random characters are seen walking and talking without having been properly introduced to the viewer, which, coupled with some heavy accents, makes the story difficult to follow for anyone who has not read the book. The lack of any familiar faces in the cast does not help, either; several of the women are so similar in appearance it's sometimes hard to even distinguish who is who. And there are important characters (like Lawrence Redding, for example) who get no more than 3 or 4 scenes in the entire film. The direction is uninspired, to put it kindly. Things improve a little in the last 20 minutes, when Miss Marple devises a trap for the killer, but on the whole this is definitely one of the weakest Agatha Christie films I have seen so far (though the recent French "By The Pricking Of My Thumbs" remains the worst). (*1/2)


Quote 'hbs': "Hickson is by far the best Miss Marple on screen"

Ooooh! there's a debatable point. Though I accept heartily ones opinions, I can't help thinking that's got the members of the Margaret Rutherford fan club ruffling their pillows in a disgruntled manner. Joan Hickson just doesn't do it. I don't know what it is, but she comes over leaving me thinking 'no wonder your a spinster. SMILE for gods sake'. MR I could have happily passed off as my eccentric grandmother and liked. JH does it her way, but I can't help wonder if she had her beady-eyes on this role while filming with MR in 'Murder, She Said'. Unconvincing seems to be a word that, although harsh, crops up every time JH plays this role. Watchable, for sure, but not eager for more. I also consider that I am a victim of choice here. The plots and plans are all immovable if adapting Agatha Christie. This film is no exception, so the only real ways in adapting to difference are the choice of the actor/actress, or time shift it, as with the recent 'Romeo Must Die'. JH is a superb actress I have seen many times and her talents are so easily on show here as a 'tight' Miss Marple, by which I mean non-expressive. MR was more full-on and in yer' face. 'Filo doth compare too much'. As I said, it's choice.


Lifeless. Boring. Dull. Awkward. Disjointed.

Bad directing, acting, casting, editing, music. Colorless, ugly buildings and backdrops. The actors have even less life in them. Not to mention Joan Hickson's lisp. They can't finish a scene in this episode without jumping to 4 or 5 others first. David Horovitz's interpretation of Inspector Slack is one dimensional- he's just abominably rude to everyone with no zeal or enthusiasm for his work.

Utter tripe. Try Geraldine McEwan's version; at least it won't put you to sleep.


This is a quasi perfect murder that turns sour because of completely secondary moralistic considerations that should never have come up in the minds of two criminals. But it is the feminine touch of Miss Marple and Agatha Christie. They cannot admit the viciousness of a woman, at least to that point. It is also the presence of the vicar and his vicarage that makes the tale more moral than it should be. A criminal is far beyond redemption when he or she starts planning and preparing, especially when he or she is not alone in the business. A crime of passion can lead to a guilty conscience, but not a premeditated crime with a plotting accomplice. But once again Miss Marple targets people who are living in at least divided circumstances. The main victim is a colonel who has a daughter from an earlier wife and is re-married to a quite younger woman. He is wealthy for sure but he has a very bad character, if not temper, and that makes him a difficult person to live with in private and public life, which provides him with a lot of enemies.


The underlying problem with this version of Murder at the Vicarage is that the producers took it out of order. Murder at the Vicarage was Agatha's Christie's first adventure with Miss Marple. This edition was evidently produced later in the series. Here, Miss Marple is used to being involved, and police are used to consulting her, however much they resent having to do so. The script is rather heavy-handed, moving quickly from one incident to another with little or no set-up. And while the original novel does this as well, it doesn't spring things on us totally out of the blue. Joan Hickson is most probably the Miss Marple that Agatha Christie envisioned - more so than Margaret Rutherford or Helen Hayes, for example, but the rest of the production is not. True, a 200+ page novel had to be condensed into one hour and 42 minutes. This is never easy, but it has often been done successfully. Not here. The writers needed to capture the leisurely and still foreboding small village atmosphere early on. They didn't, and it makes the necessarily hurried plot revelations seem even more so. This results in far too many smug reaction shots, far too many exchanges of dialogue dripping with "significance", far too many scenes which could have been cut to a few lines of dialogue, freeing up the pace for more insightful exchanges elsewhere. (For example, the secondary priest subplot is reduced to an obligatory afterthought here. It was more prominent in the novel, but its lack of necessity here is obvious. The bit with the vicar's car is also totally unneeded; he rides his bicycle the rest of the time, anyway.) Overall, Miss Marple is reduced to an almost supporting player, which of course she is in many of the Christie novels, but one whose presence is always felt whether she is on scene or not. That isn't true here, at least until the end, and it should be.