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MALICE AFORETHOUGHT (2004)

Director: David Blair

Written by: Anthony Berkeley (novel)
Screenplay by: Andrew Payne

Starring: Ben Miller, Barbara Flynn, Richard Armitage, Lucy Brown and others...

Genre: Mystery/Crime/Drama

Available on DVD
Originally shown in the UK. Now being shown on PBS Mystery!
180 minutes.
Check local listings for time and channel.

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

Viewers who don't like knowing who did what to whom before the ending of a book or program, be forewarned. This is not a "whodunit" (the title should give one a clue about that...). We know whodunit and why. The fun in this movie is knowing who the "bad guy" is and rooting for him, despite the knowledge that we should be rooting for justice, and goodness, and well, you get the idea.

Dr. Bickleigh (Ben Miller) is a much put upon man. He has an odious wife (Barbara Flynn) who deserves to be killed. I was very sympathetic to his plotting her demise, as I'm sure many viewers will be.

I did find the going a bit tedious at times. After all, I got the idea right away. The doctor has a wandering eye, and wandering hands, and other parts of his anatomy are very active when and where they shouldn't be. I get the part about him being a mere doctor, and a country doctor, at that, and that his wife is of "better" breeding and social standing in the community, and has all of the money, and doesn't let him forget it for a minute. I can't for the life of me fathom why she would consent to marry him in the first place.

As I've said, I enjoyed the premise but good grief! I didn't need 180 minutes of it. If I recall, the original movie released in 1979 wasn't nearly so long...it's listed as being only 50 minutes in length. I know the Brits prefer a slower pace for their mysteries, but please...the story isn't that good or that unique. I would have been willing to sit through 90 minutes, tops. At 180 minutes, I was beginning to feel murderous myself.

I don't see any indications that the 1979 version is available on VHS or DVD. Pity, that. I would have loved to watch both versions and compare. The older version stars Hywel Bennett as Dr. Bickleigh and Judy Parfitt as Mrs. Bickleigh. I am a fan of actress Cheryl Campbell (Lady Frances Carfax from the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holme's series). She plays Madeleine Cranmere in the 1979 version.

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