Whatever Happened to Agatha?

DATELINE:  1979 Vanessa Redgrave Movie

 agatha:vanessa Redgrave with Hoffman

The biopic movie about the mysterious disappearance of Agatha Christie remains a fairly puzzling non-explanation as can be found.

In Agatha, the Michael Apted movie is scruptiously produced and has big stars of the day in the key roles:  Timothy Dalton, fresh off James Bond, as Captain Christie, the unloving husband who drives his wife to distraction—and Dustin Hoffman as a no-nonsense American journalist who is hot on the trail of the missing mystery writer.

Vanessa Redgrave’s eyes steal the picture as the writer. Willowy, she is hardly like the real Agatha  who was a well-fed Miss Marple type. However, there are hints to indicate this is the same methodical writer who produced so many classics of fiction. Dame Agatha seems to apply her writing habits to orchestrating a disappearance that is inexplicable.

Mrs. Christie actually left her child for eleven days—and was dealing with her mother’s death at the time of her strange disappearance. Neither of these points is made in the movie.

All in all, the viewer is led to believe this was an insensitive publicity stunt, though the writer may have wanted to punish her husband who is having an affair—and Agatha may be researching how to do in her husband’s paramour.

Hoffman is physically dwarfed by the tall, elegant Redgrave, but he gives a sharp performance. However, he too seems to send mixed messages as to his real motives as Wally Stanton, a deceptive investigator. If the real Stanton looked like Hoffman, Christie would have seen her model for Hercule Poirot, a role Hoffman might have played with more relish.

Ultimately, this fictional theory about the incident of Christie’s weird disappearance is about as unsatisfying as you could give the audience.

Along the way, the performances are meant to distract and impress. Indeed, they do. If Christie had plotted this script, she would have done a better job.

(This entry is one of a series of blogs on Agatha Christie.)

Penny Ante Stuff

DATELINE:  Dreadful Penny

Featured imagecast of Penny Dreadful

We have finally made our way over to Showtime to watch the gaslight London series Penny Dreadful.

The show’s time is post-Jack the Ripper England where a bunch of classic characters have come together for a ripping good time. Into the mix the show had to throw an obligatory naif American. How do you put an American cowboy into the world of Sherlock Holmes and Scotland Yard? You make him a Wild West show refugee in the person of Josh Hartnett.

As a dullard Yank, Hartnett is pretty to look at, but is fairly much hanging about waiting for an opportunity to shoot off his six-shooters. In a derivative series like this, we are surprised they didn’t summon Hartnett to play Wyatt Earp abroad.

The cast features the usual strong actors doing sex scenes. We have yet to see the wonderful Timothy Dalton naked as Sir Malcolm. Thank heavens, but everyone else seems to have Victorian strip tease on the brain.

Other characters of some familiarity include Victor Frankenstein and his assortment of self-made boy toys. Throw in a particularly beautiful, but straight, Dorian Gray—and you have Oscar Wilde wincing.

In all likelihood, other well-known creatures from the Universal Studios of the 1930s and 1940s will be stopping by this high-gloss, fancy production. It seems a cut above the vampire series HBO labored on for half a dozen years, True Blood.

Echoes abound in this series that draws upon ideas used previously. We call this homage nowadays instead of plagiarism. Yeah, we will watch more episodes of Season 1. We aren’t hooked, but we are intrigued.