The Mirror Crack’d-1980
Director Guy Hamilton
Starring Angela Lansbury, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson
Scott’s Review #1,371
Reviewed June 22, 2023
I’m a sucker for any sort of whodunit especially based on an Agatha Christie novel. Some of her treasures like Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile have made for quality filmmaking in the crime thriller genre.
With The Mirror Crack’d (1980) director Guy Hamilton (he directed four James Bond films) collects some of Hollywood’s finest stars and creates an adaption with British authenticity and a knock-it-out-of-the-park finale twist that I didn’t see coming.
Any fans of the long-running CBS sleuth series Murder, She Wrote from the 1980s are treated to gleeful clues that the film influenced the series. Both star the iconic Angela Lansbury.
The main character and murder solver in The Mirror Crack’d is a kindly old woman named Miss Marple played by Lansbury. The actress is aged via makeup to look much older than she was at the time. Lansbury does a good job with the speech and mannerisms of one of her character’s age.
Jane Marple (Lansbury) is tickled pink when two glamorous Hollywood actresses, Marina Rudd (Elizabeth Taylor), and Lola Brewster (Kim Novak), arrive in her quaint English village to shoot a movie.
Drama is sprinkled in when it’s revealed that the two actresses despise each other.
At a welcome reception related to the film, Marina engages in conversation with a longtime fan named Heather Babcock and is momentarily distracted. Soon afterward, the fan collapses and dies, poisoned by a drink intended for Marina.
Pleasure is had by the incorporation of so many stars some way past their prime. My favorite is the dynamic duo of Taylor and Hudson as a married couple. Fans will recall that Hudson’s sad death due to A.I.D.S. in 1985 led to Taylor championing a crusade for research with which the government then refused to be associated.
Her efforts and star power led to tremendous progress to be made as the disease ravaged the world’s LGBTQ+ community.
So, any scene centered on Taylor and Hudson is heartfelt and a pure treat.
Otherwise, the cast of characters is positioned in a familiar pattern to reveal almost everyone would have a reason to kill the glamorous star. Could it be her sexy blonde rival? Or the cranky producer of the film played by Tony Curtis? Or even her hubby Jason?
Geraldine Chapman appears as Ella Zielensky who is secretly in love with Jason and has a good reason to want Marina out of the way. Especially suspicious are her trips to a phone booth to call an unknown person accusing them of murder.
The setting adds value as the small English village is cute and picturesque. Marple’s cottage is perfectly dressed with colors and patterns well suited for her character.
The Mirror Crack’d has a couple of misfires and sometimes has a television movie feel. The comparisons to Murder, She Wrote while nice are also detractors since it makes the film seem like a small screen effort.
The time is supposed to be 1953 and the characters are dressed appropriately but it doesn’t feel authentic. The real year 1980 feels more believable despite the costumes.
While it doesn’t drag a bit it also isn’t quite as good as the aforementioned Murder on the Orient Express (1974) or Death on the Nile (1978).
For a good old-fashioned detective story based on a storied author, one could do worse than watching The Mirror Crack’d (1980). Sure there are other better-produced efforts but the film is a solid, entertaining watch with glamorous stars incorporated.