Title: Murder at the Gallop
Genre: Crime, Comedy
Director: George Pollock
Screenplay: James P. Cavanagh
based on the novel AFTER THE FUNERAL of Agatha Christie
Music: Ron Goodwin
Cinematography: Arthur Ibbetson
Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell
One of the quartet of Dame Margaret Rutherford’s beloved Miss Jane Marple vehicles, after MURDER, SHE SAID (1961) and prior to MURDER MOST FOUL and MURDER AHOY! both in 1964, all directed by George Pollock.
It is a well-concocted potboiler derived from Agatha Christie’s novel, and downplays the supposedly grisly murders for lighthearted laughter, an elderly recluse Mr. Enderby succumbs to a heart attack by the sudden appearance of a cat (logically out of his pathological phobia of canine kind), and before soon his cat-loving, estranged sister is murdered by a hatpin (not a single drop of blood is revealed), then, a final one actually happens inside the titular Gallop Hotel, which is the main location and conspicuously only peopled with those who are embroiled in the murder cases, Miss Marple’s prime suspect is being trampled to death by a skittish horse. But nothing can ruffle the joviality, there still will be a ball the next day, organized by Hector Enderby (Morley), the nephew of the late Mr. Enderby and the proprietor of the Gallop Hotel, also a courtly suitor of Miss Marple.
There are the usual suspects and red herrings, all those suspicious-looking, cagey-talking and alibi-light ones are usually safe if he or she doesn’t make the cut of the casualties after all, the rule of thumb is that the culprit is always the least expected among them, and that is the case here, which deadens the thrill of surprise when it punctually arrives in a not-so-smart set-up (the clue is a certain Oscar-nominee is putting on a Janus-faced camouflage with an improbable final attempt).
For all its slipshod murder schemes and lax executions (to say the very least), the film seems to be more at easy when casual gentility are floating around as a pledge of its congenital chauvinism, sometimes punctuated by parochial jibes (e.g. French people and artist will not be too pleased), and leaves that stench of insular snobbery without considerable discretion, often marring many a vintage UK productions. There is nothing wrong with jokes, but please don’t be crude and garnish them with some scintilla of wisdom and benevolence.
It goes without saying that Ms. Rutherford is sprightly, implacable, droll but also pleasantly officious (more able-bodied than Angela Lansbury in THE MIRROR CRACK’D) in her most remembered screen persona, seldom have we the pleasure to watch a septuagenarian lady become the cock of the walk and have her say and rebuff a rebarbative snob’s courtship with a sharp-tongued repartee and allow me to add a final verdict: “we don’t like blood sport neither and indeed it is a narrow escape but for her sake only!”
referential points: Guy Hamilton’s THE MIRROR CRACK’D (1980, 6.2/10), EVIL UNDER THE SUN (1982, 7.1/10); Sidney Lumet’s MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974, 8.8/10); John Guillermin’s DEATH ON THE NILE (1978, 7.2/10); Billy Wilder’s WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957, 8.5/10).