Film of the Day - Murder at the Gallop


Margaret Rutherford in riding gear in Murder at the Gallop

Margaret Rutherford in riding gear in Murder at the Gallop

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

15 September

 

 

Birth of Agatha Christie, 1890

 

On this day in 1890, one of the greatest writers of detective fiction was born. Agatha Christie’s two most famous creations are fastidious Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and the prim but indomitable Miss Marple. Christie is the best selling novelist of all time and has the longest running play of all time – The Mousetrap – still playing to full houses in London’s West End after more than 60 years. Her stories were being adapted into films already by the end of the 1920s, and continue to this day – Crooked House is just going into production, directed by either Neil LaBute or Julian Fellowes, depending on which rumours you follow. And no less than Hideo Nakata (of Ring fame) recently directed The Incite Mill, which does not at first glance appear to be a Christie product but is clearly influenced by her And Then There Were None. Christie – four billion books and counting and only outsold by Shakespeare and the Bible – keeps on going.

 

Murder at the Gallop (1963, dir: George Pollock)

The best of the four films starring Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple, Murder at the Gallop is actually an adaptation of a Hercule Poirot story, After the Funeral. Centring on the murder most horrid of a harmless old buffer, it eventually sees Miss Marple joining a riding club in an attempt to find out whodunit. The thought of the redoubtable Margaret Rutherford climbing onto a horse is amusing enough, but the highlight of this film is Rutherford’s shameless mugging to camera, tongue literally in cheek, eyes rolling while Robert Morley, also engaging in scene-stealing of a most florid nature, lays on the flattery. Purists aren’t fans of these Rutherford films but they’re all crisply shot in black and white, and this one benefits from a jaunty Ron Goodwin soundtrack – a middle-aged guy’s version of swinging young people’s music. That, Rutherford’s bizarre dress sense and proper repertory-style acting from the likes of Flora Robson and Noel Howlett, not forgetting regulars Stringer Davis (Rutherford’s real-life husband) and Charles Tingwell as the cheery put-upon Inspector Craddock, make this an entirely enjoyable piece of escapism.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Rutherford was no stranger to death – her father bludgeoned her grandfather to death with a chamber pot; her mother committed suicide
  • “I never intended to play for laughs,” she said in her autobiography – surely not true
  • Purists might not like the Rutherford Marple films but Agatha Christie dedicated a book to the actress
  • She’s wearing her own clothes and has had her own husband, essentially playing himself, written in to the script

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 

Murder at the Gallop – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

imdb poster Murder at the Gallop
Murder at the Gallop (1963)
Run time: 81 min
Rating: 7.1
Genres: Comedy | Crime | Drama
Director: George Pollock
Writers: James P. Cavanagh, Agatha Christie
Stars: Margaret Rutherford, Stringer Davis, Robert Morley
Trivia: When a wealthy old man appears to have been “frightened to death” by a cat, Miss Marple suspects one of his four relatives, all heirs to his estate, of his murder.
Storyline The old and wealthy Mr. Enderby dies of a heart attack but the ever suspicious Miss Marple has her doubts. Who or what gave him a heart attack? Enderby’s poor relatives gather at the The Gallop, a combined boarding-house and riding school. Miss Marple also gets there to find out if any of them had any particular reasons to see him dead. Written by Mattias Thuresson
Plot Keywords: cat, heart attack, murder, charity, heart failure