Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Pale Horse

I’m not quite sure what to make of this movie. We picked it up at the library (nothing like free movies, I always say). It’s based on an Agatha Christie novel and appears to have been made for the A&E cable network. I’d never heard of anybody in the cast except Jean Marsh, who was on the old PBS series UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS.

Since I haven’t read the book, I don’t know how faithful an adaptation this is, but the plot is certainly convoluted enough to have come from the mind of Agatha Christie. The hero is rugged young sculptor Michael Eastabrook, who finds a priest who’s been walloped over the head with a spanner (a wrench to those of us over here in the U.S. of A.). The priest gives Michael a bloodstained list of names and then dies, the cops come along and arrest Michael for the murder, and as soon as he’s out on bail he sets out to find the real killer, of course. This leads to a bunch of people who have apparently died of natural causes, a sinister guy in a wheelchair, more murders, a couple of pretty girls, a creepy old house, and an evil mastermind behind the whole thing. It all winds up being so complicated that after it was over Livia turned to me and said, “Wait a minute. Why was so-and-so murdered?” I had to answer honestly that I had no idea. It probably would have helped if I’d been able to understand more than half the dialogue, most of which was delivered in such thick English accents that my Texas ears couldn’t decipher it. I’d go and read the book, but hell, now I know who the killer is, so what’s the point?

Despite those complaints, I have to admit that I sort of enjoyed the movie. It was made in 1998 but set in the Swinging Sixties, so it has a little of the vibe of those old ITV series that the American TV networks imported back then, like THE AVENGERS. I wouldn’t run right out and look for a copy of it, but if it crops up on your TV schedule on a lazy Saturday afternoon, it might be worth a look.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've not seen The Pale Horse but that's an interesting comment there about the thick English accents. Maybe they -- whichever ones they were -- were right for the characters and setting?

The British Isles are very small geographically but there has always been a huge range of distinctive accents within them. The UK population, of course, has to live with this constantly. Many people possibly welcome the aural color and character it gives to life. The man from Oxford speaks differently from the man from Birmingham who speaks differently from the man from Manchester, and so on. I know that in my childhood in England the cinema and television drama were dominated by US product -- the economics of market size -- so we had the chance to get to hear, and learn to understand, American accents, too. It was no different from having to follow the speech of a Scotsman or Irishman, of whom you would meet many.

Now I live in New Zealand and I hear still more versions of English. The Maori, the Pacific Islanders, the significantly increasing number of Koreans and other ethnic groups -- all add their variety. Yesterday, I needed some emergency dental work done and could not reach my usual dentist. I was seen by a young Asian, who spoke English in a very different accent to my own. Fortunately, though under moderate stress, we were able to understand each other without much effort, and the dental work was as good as any other's.

We all hope the world melting pot will one day produce global harmony . . . but please let it be without removing the distinctions that make life interesting.