by Kathleen Costa
Staying at home? Tired of the news? Desire something different? Check out whether streaming AcornTV is the answer for you; it is for me! I’ve been a member for a very reasonable annual fee (monthly membership available) for a few years, and have always found something entertaining, engaging, and thought-provoking. From comedies (Ain’t Misbehavin’) and dramas (Pitchin’ In) to amateur and licensed detectives (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mystery and Hamish MacBeth). I plug myself in and…relax!
These are several examples why I continue to be an eager AcornTV member. My anticipation was quenched when the long awaited feature film of Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears aired this past March. I watched it twice in the first 24-hours, and two more times since then. I also was intrigued by the Agatha Christie’s sleuths Tommy and Tuppence partnered in a limited series; Partners in Crim3 was only one series, six episodes, and two Christie novels. Well-worth my time and money!
Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears earns 5+/5 Green Stones…Mesmerizing Fun!
Miss Fisher meets Indiana Jones in this feature-length (1:41:13) movie that took a worldwide crowdfunding campaign to send into production—those backers also received a mention in the ending credits. The popularity of the original thirty-four episodes (2012-2015) of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mystery series and the skirting of the “love” issue between Phryne Fisher and DI Jack Robinson, made it very hard for fans, including me, to resign themselves to the final scene of the two embraced in a passionate kiss as the end, “Come after me, Jack Robinson.” Did he? Did she? Did they? The film Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (2020) answers those questions.
It’s 1929, Jerusalem, and an opening scene with which fans are very familiar: Miss Fisher (Essie Davis) is on the case, the case of missing person, but in the process she’s been labeled an agitator: dancing in public after dark and seen in the custody of members of the Black Hand. But, the rescue, the escape, the train, the tunnel…Phryne! Back in Australia, Phryne’s trusty companion and often partner in crime-solving, Dot Collins née Williams, is expecting her first child with husband DS Hugh Collins; she tearfully shares a newspaper with headlines reporting Phyrne’s tragic death with DI Robinson (Nathan Page), who has been sadden by Phryne’s recent marriage to the Maharaja of Alwar. At the memorial in London, a distraught Robinson begins his eulogy, but is interrupted by the arrival of a yellow bi-plane. Phryne! Apparently the reports of her death were greatly exaggerated…Jack is not amused!
Shirin Abbas is safe, returned to England and the care of her uncle, but she continues to insist, ten years later, her childhood memories of her mother’s death are not fanciful. It was murder, but her claim of a massacre of the Bedouin tribe has been dismissed by all authorities for lack of evidence. Phryne is suspicious of all the denials, and seeks to find the truth. “Jack, you have to come with me!” Then a man wanting to speak to Shirin is shot and in his possession…a green stone necklace. A curse? A crypt? A case! But for Phryne and Jack it’s once again trouble, trouble, trouble!
Brilliant! Oh, I so missed Phryne and Jack! From Jerusalem to London to Palestine to an ancient oasis in the Negev desert, the movie is a more complex epic than any of the series episodes—including camels! The elements of the movie are the same that made me an eager fan of the series…the glorious fashion, clever wit, perilous predicaments, and Phryne’s signature gold-plated revolver, but it’s the unrequited passion (love/hate) between Phryne and Jack that invokes the most anxiety. The drama also has elements of an Indiana Jones adventure with ancient tales, jewels, and sand storms that swallow up the evidence. Issues between the British government and Palestine muddy the waters along with a murder, a shocking revelation, redemption, and closure. Set in Morocco added to the grand scale as a critical character and representing a post WWI image. Another Miss Fisher I plan to watch over and over again. Wait! Did he? Did she? Did they? All is revealed, and then the telegram…Is that a cliffhanger heralding a sequel?
Bonus! AcornTV also includes two additional shorts. The cast shares stories from the set (18:49) including insights into the production, soundtrack, costuming, and personal experiences. There is also a delightful Q&A with Essie Davis (12:05). Fun! These links from YouTube are additional fun.
YouTube—Crypt of Tears: Behind the Scenes (6:33)
YouTube—Phryne & Jack Say You Love Me (3:41)
Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime earns 5/5 Bee Hives & Wigs…Entertaining!
Not quite the most iconic detectives in Christie’s repertoire, Tommy Beresford and Prudence “Tuppence” Cowley are prominent figures in four novels and a collection of short stories that span Christie’s writing career. The books are unique in that Christie realistically ages the duo from young adulthood to middle-age to senior citizen. In The Secret Adversary (1922), twenty-something childhood friends Tommy and Tuppence are reunited and, since jobs are scarce, start The Young Adventurers, Ltd., a business searching adventure and money. However, being hired as private detectives becomes very profitable, as well as perilous; the two also become engaged. In the fifteen short story collection, Partners in Crime (1929), husband and wife duo use the opportunity to take over Blunt’s International Detective Agency and team up on cases trying to live up to their slogan “Any case solved in 24 hours.” Now middle-aged in N or M? (1941), the team works to uncover master spies as WWII breaks out. The title of By the Pricking of My Thumbs (1968), comes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes,” and the now elderly couple find themselves challenged in four stories. In the final novel Postern of Fate (1973), the septuagenarians seek a quiet retirement in an old English village, but the old cottage holds secrets they find hard to ignore.
As of 6/6, The Secret Adversary was a FREE Kindle book. “This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers.” Check price first, before you click buy.
Outside of the novels and short stories, Tommy and Tuppence have found themselves adapted into several television episodes and movies, including an adaptation of a short story in By the Pricking of My Thump that rewrote Tommy’s role for Miss Marple (Gwendolyn McEwan) and Tuppence (Greta Scacchi). Hopefully, Gwendolyn McEwan’s Miss Marple will return to AcornTV as well as the eleven episodes of Partners in Crime (1983-84) starring James Warwick and Francesca Annis. Currently two of Christie’s novels were produced in 2015 and are currently airing on AcornTV. The six episode series was a delight, and the team of David Walliams (comedian actor) and Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife 2012-2015) are a very entertaining duo.
Episodes 1-3 is an adaptation of Christie’s The Secret Adversary, following husband and wife Tommy (David Walliams) and Tuppence (Jessica Raine) Beresford, who due to money issues, hope to raise bees, but “he hasn’t read the book” making it questionable they’ll make any money. However, on the train, with their French queen bee in a jar, they are seated next to a very nervous woman, who disappears. Tuppence, who reads too many detective novels, finds the woman’s journal and seeks answers. Betting parlors? Soviet agents? An assassination plot? Major Carter (James Fleet), Tommy’s uncle, is with the Home Office [Shhhh!], and since they’ve stumbled on key information, the two of them are enlisted along with their friend with the wooden arm (Mathew Steers). “Don’t you think we were born for this kind of thing?”
Episode 4-6 is an adaptation of the 1941 novel, N or M?, and Tommy is excited about a new money-making project. The bees didn’t work out, so now it’s wigs: Beresford’s Barnets (cockney slang for ‘hair’). However, “King and Country” calls again! A British atomic physicist and alumni of the Manhattan Project has gone missing, and a possible leak at the Home Office has Tommy’s uncle enlisting him again. All top secret, so don’t tell Tuppence. That doesn’t last long when the contact Tommy is suppose to meet is poisoned. Then a mix-up, a fancy umbrella, and a shoot out makes things too dangerous to continue. That doesn’t last long either. Meeting the mysterious contact leads to another murder, “Tell Carter there’s a spy in the house. Tell him…” The confusion is whether the man said ‘N” or “M.” And keeping Tuppence out of it, well, that doesn’t last long…again! Undercover and trouble…always trouble!
This is a really delightful series, but sadly, like many I’ve found delightful, it didn’t continue past the six episodes. There are so many Tommy and Tuppence stories to adapt that they could have gone on for several more mini three-episode movies. David Walliams portrays Tommy as a bit absent-minded, but with only good intentions, and Jessica Raine is a competent, strong-willed adventuress. Together they make a great pair. I love the 40s-50s era, the fashion, the cars, but I don’t like the hairstyle they chose for Tuppence. Yet—Absolute fun!
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