FILMS… The Mirror Crack’d (1980)

#1980s

 

Kim Novak stars with a Giant and Starry Cast…

 

A Hollywood film production comes to St Mary’s Mead, and Miss Marple investigates after a local woman is poisoned… but was she the intended victim?

 

The Mirror Crack’d (1980) Movie Trailer – Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson & Angela Lansbury, Mr80sMovies

 

The original Murder on the Orient Express (1974) film was the first Agatha Christie film I saw as a kid. This whodunnit film encouraged me to read our library full of Poirot books and watch this Belgian detective in those thrilling Poirot movies. So I cherished this earlier film adaptation – with Albert Finney as Poirot – of this book for its cast, story-building and that denouement scene monologue where the murderer is revealed…

Recently, Darlin Husband encouraged me to watch Murder on the Orient Express (2017) knowing how much his wee wife loves these murder mysteries with an all-star cast. He knew already that I knew whodunnit as we’d seen the original film. But he was interested to see my thoughts on this sparkly newish remake.

So I must admit I was pretty vocal about my dislike of this remake. There was much gnashing of teeth about this cast, the script and Kenneth Branagh’s film version right to the end. Then I got even more pissed off as in those final scenes, Poirot left the train and was then immediately requested to go to Egypt… and – like Captain America – I got that (film) reference right away.

When it comes to Agatha Christie’s other sleuth, Miss Marple, however, there is no contest. Miss Marple can only be played by Angela Lansbury. This casting choice is probably why I’ve never been obsessed – possessed? – enough to watch every Murder She Wrote (1984-96) episode. Lansbury is delightfully convincing as a Miss Marple with an eccentric touch – in this elderly role which she played when she was a spritely 54 year old – and Lansbury literally chews the scenery during every scene.

Despite signing up for three movies, this ended up Lansbury’s only time in this detective role in The Mirror Crack’d (1980). But then how do you top this Hollywood dream cast list and plot?? It also has ingenious twists and turns in this movie, right up to the end. The film was based in the 1950s with Hollywood film-themed characters and played by some big Hollywood names, so what’s not to like…

Some Hollywood glamourous names ham it up and include characters from – in no particular order – a smouldering director Jason (Rock Hudson), his wife, a vulnerable but bitchy actress Marina (Elizabeth Taylor), a smarmy producer, Marty (Tony Curtis), Jason’s timid looking secretary Ella (Geraldine Chaplin) and as a delightful on-screen actress rival Lola (Kim Novak).

There is also Marple’s nephew, Edward Fox as police Inspector Craddock and a butler, Bates played by Charles Gray as and… in a blink and miss it a moment, and in one of his first roles, an uncredited Pierce Brosnan – in his first feature film role – as an actor who spends most of his screen time buried in Miss Taylor’s cleavage.

The Mirror Crack’d started with black and white scenes from a whodunnit film called Murder At Midnight. Admittedly, the addition of this bonus scene confused the hell out of me as a kid. Back then vaguely I recognised some of the cast – now identified as Dinah Sheridan and Allan Cuthbertson – and couldn’t understand why this was relevant.

The scene has a family and their friends collected together in a room, as a detective gives his theory on the murderer’s identity. Then the detective outlines the intricate and convoluted web of relationships that involve everyone in the room. Then just before he announces the murderer’s name, this film comes to an abrupt halt as the projector breaks down and we are suddenly in technicolour.

It’s now the present day of 1953… and this film is revealed to be part of a film showing at the town hall for the St Mary Mead population. As there is no way now of knowing who this on-screen murderer was, everyone turns to Miss Marple (Angela Lansbury) to reveal all. She does just that, as the audience gaze at her in awe and nobody argues with her. Then she toddles home and the only cynic in the room is hushed when a random man who saw the film the week before tells his mate, that Marple’s right.

Now I believe, this film within the film was merely a plot device to establish Miss Marple’s role in the film, as an elderly amateur detective and the much loved and respected town inhabitant. So don’t read anything into it as it is an all-star red herring. Then it’s the confusing opening credits with an inappropriate 1980s sax themed tune crossed with more twee British TV Movie music. And these accompany the title credits, where you will ooh and aah at the cast.

Cut to Rock Hudson at his shouty best as  Jason Rudd – see Avalanche (1978) and the TV Mini-Series World War III (1982) –  a film silver fox director who shouts at his poor put on and seemingly loved up, secretary Ella (Geraldine Chaplin). Jason and his actress wife, known as Marina Gregg (Elizabeth Taylor) are in Britain. This is as she hopes to make her film comeback – after a serious illness when she had a breakdown after her child was born with serious learning difficulties – in a film about Mary Queen of Scots. Marina is in the title role of this lavish production.

This Mary Queen of Scots film is going to be filmed in St. Mary’s Mead. And so the locals are super excited, as the starry couple, Jason and Marina are renting a local stately home while they stay there. They will be hosts for the village fete and a wee soiree that evening where the villagers can meet the stars of this upcoming biopic. The film’s producer, Marty Fenn (Tony Curtis) will be joining them and is bringing Lola Brewster (Kim Novak), his stunning voluptuous actress wife and a one-time lover of Jason. And it seems Marina had a past with Marty too…

Lola is playing Elizabeth I in this production, and both Marina and Lola despise each other. Lola tried to shoot Marina once when she was “miffed” with her and is still super flirty with Jason. So understandably Marina is not a happy woman. Marina also gets quite snidey with Ella, and their conversation suggests she knows this secretary has a (??one-sided) thing for her husband (and who can blame her it is Rock Hudson, but I digress). Ella dislikes Marina with equal intensity and makes cow eyes at Jason, a hell of a lot. But he seems very much the devoted husband…

Then it’s the fete with twee British customs like sack races, stalls etc. Somehow during the fete, Miss Marple sprains her ankle. She is unable to attend the evening festivities but insists on knowing everything that happened. Meanwhile, a village resident, the young Heather Babcock (Maureen Bennett) is superexcited about attending this do as she is a big fan of Marina. She excitedly tells all the villagers (who will listen) that she met Marina during the (second world) war.

At the soiree, Heather enthusiastically corners this actress and talks at length about their first meeting. As she babbles on, she tells her that she got out of her sick bed to see Marina perform for some GIs and then she kissed her, as Marina appears to feign interest.

Meanwhile, Lola arrives with Marty and Lola is quite the diva. This gorgeous star throws a pose as she gets out of her car and she waves to the crowds like a princess. After Lola swans in with her husband at her beck and call, she poses again on the stairs for the Press. (And you can’t help but love her.)

Seeing her rival on the stairs, Marina freezes in apparent horror and just stares at her. Meanwhile Heather babbles on as Marina then collects herself. Marina asks Jason to get her and Heather one of his homemade daiquiris. Jason brings the ladies their drinks, and Heather seems super starstruck (but then it is Rock Hudson). She’s not the only one and it seems everyone loves Jason…

The two actresses, Lola and Marina then have their photos taken together. Their mutual animosity is seen in some deliciously performed dialogue, heard through their gritted teeth. There are bitchy slights aplenty from Marina and purred barbed insults from Lola. There’s also a massive undercurrent of mutual dislike between their men, Marty and Jason…

Shortly after their photocall, Heather suddenly dies. Her autopsy suggests she’s been murdered and it turns out that her drink was laced with poison. Miss Marple and her nephew Inspector Dermot Craddock (Edward Fox) interrogate Marple’s cleaner who was working as a waitress at the party. They learn that this drink – made by Jason’s fair hand – had originally been Marina’s one.

Marina then gave Heather her drink – also made by him – after Heather’s drink was spilt… Heather appeared to dislike it but drank it to keep in with her film star idol… It’s then suggested Marina was the intended victim… and it seems this is true as Marina shows some threatening letters threatening to kill her… and then she is nearly poisoned with a drink on set.  The rest of the film can be seen in the usual ways.

I adored this retelling of this ingenious whodunnit,  where there are red herrings, twists and turns until that final tell-all scene when Miss Marple tells all. There are some wonderful flashbacks to that elaborate on certain plotlines. In these, the story unravels in enlightening ways where you get the full picture.

Both Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis convinced me in their performances, with Hudson seemingly a man of many feelings and Curtis hamming it up as a smooth producer. But both actors were unintentionally upstaged by the actresses playing their on-screen wives.

This film heralded a return for both Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak to the big screen. It’s reported that both were delighted with their characters and being part of this film. Wikipedia HERE quotes an interview with Novak with the Boston Globe where she said,

“I never had so much fun making a movie”

Novak elaborated on this feeling for an article in The New York Times, saying she and Elizabeth Taylor,

“both had a lot of funny, bitchy lines to say to each other. In real life, that bitchiness rarely exists on a movie set, but actresses have certainly thought about it a lot. But they’ve never said it. That’s why this movie was so much fun.”

This was more than apparent in her scenes with Taylor where Novak huskily purred those insults at her on-screen rival. It’s clear that this pair revelled in their joint scenes together as they deliciously bicker with each other, in dialogue like this…

Lola Brewster: You seem lovely, as always. Of course, there are fewer lights on than usual. In fact, any fewer, and I’d need a seeing-eye dog.

Marina Rudd: Oh, I shouldn’t bother to buy one, dear. In that wig, you could play Lassie.

Lola Brewster: Same adorable sense of humor. And I’m so glad to see that you’ve not only kept your GORGEOUS figure, but you’ve added SO MUCH to it!

Marina Rudd: What are you doing here so early, dear? I thought the plastic surgery seminar was in Switzerland.

Lola Brewster: Actually, darling, I couldn’t wait to begin our little movie. You know the saying: once an actress, always an actress.

Marina Rudd: Oh, I do know the saying. But what does it have to do with you?

Lola Brewster: Cute angel. So do tell. How does it feel to be back, after being away SO LONG?

This was my favourite plotline from this film has a dark-haired woman vying with her blonde-haired rival, with those fabulously catty lines which sound like pure eighties soap opera dialogue. These delightfully played scenes were performed by two actresses, the raven-haired British lovely and the stunning blonde American, both of who look as pretty as a picture…

This rivalry was mirrored in a soap opera that Elizabeth Taylor was considered for and aired a year after this film. This was in a role as the British Alexis Carrington, the delightfully bitchy first wife of Blake Carrington in Dynasty (1981-89).  Before Alexis arrived in this series, Blake was happily married to his blonde onetime secretary, Krystal. And sadly, I can tell you that the casting coincidences for both the actresses end here. As Novak instead had a role in the Dynasty rival soap, Falcon Crest (1981-90) for a number of episodes.

Dynasty upped the stakes as fights also took a physical turn with blonde vs the raven haired characters. This led to their cat fights in boutiques and lily ponds. Three years later, in 1984, Rock Hudson must have thought that history was repeating itself, as he signed the dotted line and joined this prime time soap cast as Daniel Reece, in what would be his final acting role.. but that’s another story.

 

Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦/10

Handsqueeze Rating:  🙂 🙂  🙂  🙂  🙂  🙂 🙂  🙂  /10

Hulk Rating:  mrgreen ‎/10

New Rating! Eye Candy Rating: (check out definition HERE): 😍😍😍😍😍😍😍/10 from me (for Rock Hudson) and from my Darlin Husband, 😍 😍 😍😍 😍 😍 😍/10 (for Kim Novak)

 


The Kim Novak Blogathon 2022 No 3

This review was added to The Classic Movie Muse’s Kim Novak Blogathon. Other posts with this cast include Kim Novak in Middle of the Night. Rock Hudson in McMillan & Wife (also HERE), McMillan, Pillow Talk and Avalanche. Elizabeth Taylor stars in Father’s Little Dividend, X, Y and Zee / Zee and co, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and is featured in the book Elizabeth and Monty, The Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship (2021) by Charles Casillo. Angela Lansbury is in The Manchurian Candidate, Terrific 1980s TV Leads and The Linda Blair Cooking Project. Geraldine Chaplin is in Chaplin and Doctor Zhivago. Tony Curtis is in Some Like It Hot.


 

33 thoughts on “FILMS… The Mirror Crack’d (1980)

  1. I agree that nobody else, on either the big screen or the small screen, had ever equalled Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple. And it really is a delightful movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What’s your thoughts on Poirot?

      For me there’s only one Poirot. David Suchet in the British TV series. The series itself has a few problems, especially in the later episodes, but Suchet is spot on.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This film used to be a staple of Sunday afternoon viewing over here, and I would always stop to watch the scenes where Elizabeth Taylor shares the screen with Kim Novak. I love the bitchy rivalry between those two. “I could eat a can of Kodak and puke a better movie.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Gill, great article on a fun movie. My favorite line is when Liz chants into the mirror, something like, “Wrinkles, wrinkles, go away. Come again on Doris Day” and Rock Hudson gives her a horrified look. Need to see this again soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ooh – I bet Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak are fabulous in their scenes together.

    Looks like a dream cast here, and I bet Angela Lansbury is wonderful as Miss Marple. However, I have to say I ADORE Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple, but I’ll certainly give the lovely Angela L a fair shake when I finally see this film.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve seen miserable reviews for this, but the temptation of seeing such a terrific cast (plus Angela Lansbury, whom I adore) makes me want to watch it anyway. It sounds like such fun, and those catty lines you quoted had me howling with laughter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A lot of critics take movies much too seriously. They can’t appreciate movies that are just pure fun. They also can’t appreciate movies that are trashy, but trashy in a good way. Movies that were always intended to be glorious exercises in excess. Personally I love movies that are fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The film is a lot of fun. And all actors are excellent. Liz Taylor’s interrogation scene is fantastic (it ends on a hilarious note). And I agree with you that the flashbacks are particularly well-done.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m always down to discover some film adaptations of Agatha Christie’s books, so thanks for writing that great article about it. 🙂 I remember seeing photos/stills of that film, but hadn’t associate it to that title!

    Liked by 1 person

Love you to leave your thoughts on this... but I will only allow comments that are spoiler free and no personal attacks please regarding cast or crew members! Offenders may be blocked.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.