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Wellspring presents
The Pale Horse (2003)

"Don't be ridiculous, Sergeant. That's big-time crime stuff."
- Inspector Lejeune (Trevor Byfield)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: January 22, 2004

Stars: Colin Buchanan, Jayne Ashborne, Hermione Norris, Leslie Phillips, Michael Byrne, Jean Marsh
Director: Charles Beeson

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:41m:24s
Release Date: September 09, 2003
UPC: 720917802923
Genre: mystery


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- B-CC+ D

DVD Review

When you think Agatha Christie, the Kinks may not immediately come to mind for soundtrack music, but this is mid-'60s Christie, and things are groovy, baby—Austin Powers would be right at home in the world of The Pale Horse. This Christie novel seems to be something of an anomaly—no Hercule Poirot, no Miss Marple—and it's a far cry from her best work. But it makes for a passable entertainment, more fun for its trappings of time and place than for its plot.

Mark Easterbrook (played by Colin Buchanan, seemingly the winner of a Ewan McGregor lookalike contest) is a sculptor, in that proverbial wrong place at the wrong time: just as he's returning to his motorcycle, in the same alley poor Father Gorman gets whacked on the head with a wrench, and killed. In the priest's hands is a list of names, all of whom are turning up dead under mysterious circumstances; the local authorities figure that the case is open and shut, that Easterbrook is their man. But since he's our hero, we know the lad is innocent, and he sets about trying to figure out just who it is that's doing dirt to the good citizens of the local parish.

The movie is decked out with all kinds of great mystery clichés—the country squire in a wheelchair with a plaid blanket over his legs; the inevitable good cop and bad cop; the pauncy art gallery owner; the inevitable femme fatale, Kate (Jayne Ashbourne), the necessary love interest for our man. (He ditches his impossibly wealthy sometime girlfriend, Hermia, to make time with Kate; Hermia lands on her feet with a stockbroker ready to keep her in the life to which she's become accustomed.) The title refers not just to the relevant Biblical passage, but to a house on the outskirts of town, inhabited by two dotty old sisters and their cook—comparisons are overtly made between them and the three witches of Macbeth, as the queer sisters like to cultivate their dark side. But this is Agatha Christie, not Anne Rice, so the territory isn't murky with tales of the hereafter; we're much more at home in the world of Colonel Mustard, in the conservatory, with the candlestick.

The characterizations are wispy thin, but the film is undeniably entertaining; and as a special bonus, it features some smashing shots of huge, elegant English country houses. The movie is all plot, so describing any more pretty much gives away the store; it's not an especially ambitious project, but it has a certain charm. It was originally produced for British television, too, so it's got the fadeouts necessary for commercial breaks, or to hit the pause button and run out for another cup of tea.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: A fair number of nicks and imperfections are evident on the print, detracting from the handsome photography of the exteriors especially. Some of the work here is solid, but the transfer seems like rather a slapdash job.

Image Transfer Grade: C

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: It's a little tinny and thin, but the dialogue is entirely audible.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: An Agatha Christie biography and career overview are here, along with filmographies for Buchanan, Ashbourne, and Jean Marsh (who plays one of the three witches), and a weblink to the DVD's distributor, Lance Entertainment.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

Top-tier Dame Agatha on film would lead you to something like Murder on the Orient Express, but if you've run through many of the other offerings on the mystery shelf, this one is perfectly acceptable.

 


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