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Review: Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1980)

Director: John Davies, Tony Wharmby | 180 minutes | drama, thriller, romance, crime | Actors: Francesca Annis, , , Eric Porter, Leigh Lawson, , Madeline Smith, , , , Joan Hickson, , , Mitzi Rogers, John Pennington, Lynda La Plante , Deddie Davies, Frank Tregear, John Horsley, Chris Mansfield, , Elaine Wells, , , Raymond Francis, Sally Grace, Chris Cregan, , , Debbie Armstrong, Arnold Peters, , , , Kate David, Penny Ryder, , Mischa De La Motte, Colin Cunningham, Derek Hollis, Charles Morgan

Above average and faithful adaptation of a detective novel by Agatha Christie, which, however, takes a bit too long to keep the attention for the full three hours. The original 1934 novel (released in the US under the alternate title, “The Boomerang Clue”) is known for slowly unfolding the plot and slow pace. Although that does not have to be a problem for a book, this television film is a textbook example of wanting to be too slavish portrayal of the novel. With the exception of a few minor cosmetic procedures, the film follows the entire plot of the book. This leads to long drawn-out scenes and, likewise, a slow pace. It takes some concentration to sit through all the plot lines, tracks, clues and not always interesting dialogues. Especially since it is a murder mystery – and for those unfamiliar with the story – you are afraid of missing a crucial clue. Although it must be said that as is often the case with Christie’s works, it is not always possible to think along and solve the crime yourself.

James Warwick as Bobby Jones and Francesca Annis as Lady Frances “Frankie” Derwent have the leading roles of the film and they are a fun, fresh and unconventional couple. Here and there there are less good acting performances in the supporting roles, but the show is stolen (and not even consciously) by Sir John Gielgud (1904-2000). As Reverend Jones, Bobby’s father, he is a shining beacon to the rest of the cast. His acting might be unfair competition, but the good man was still fascinating reading the London telephone directory – and of course he couldn’t help that. What was very funny to the reading audience for Christie was the name reference of the main character to the famous golfer Bobby Jones. By now that name has largely been forgotten, but with that knowledge in mind, it is amusing when the film Bobby Jones does not do anything with golf and just because of a wrongly hit ball – the body of the dying Alex Pritchard and thus the intrigue. helps.

As mentioned, the film is rather lengthy and co-directors Davies and Wharmby allow the story to spread too far. In a number of areas the plot development is rather unbelievable and far-fetched. There are, for example, the necessary changes of personality, disguises and coincidences that raise eyebrows. But this shouldn’t spoil the fun, especially when all kinds of bizarre characters pop up, like the fantastically named Bassington-ffrench family (including Connie “Fawlty Towers” ​​Booth). In a relatively small role, Joan Hickson especially falls as the eccentric Mrs. Rivington on. During her lifetime, Christie was by no means a fan of television adaptations of her novels and short stories. After her death in 1976, her heirs, including her daughter, decided that further film adaptations should be possible. Screenwriter Pat Sandys went to work and “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?” Was the first major Christie production for television to see life in 1980. With a budget of one million pounds, certainly for that time, a huge sum. , it was possible to cast famous actors in important roles and to do a (long) shoot of more than three months.

There are many connections with other Agatha Christie film adaptations. Warwick and Annis would later team up again as the investigative duo Tommy and Tuppence in “The Secret Adversary” (1982) and the subsequent ten-part series. Incidentally, just like “The Seven Dials Mystery” (1982), that film was directed by Tony Wharmby and written by Pat Sandys. Joan Hickson played Miss Marple in television movies in the 1980s and 1990s for many years. Finally, a new version of “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?” Was made in 2009, but this changed the plot to make it a Miss Marple mystery, which was not featured in the original novel. The reactions to this were not entirely positive, to put it mildly.

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