Agatha Christie’s Seven Dials Mystery
Sound: C+ Extras: C- Telefilm: B-
Written back in 1929, The Seven Dials Mystery is
one of stand-alone Christie mystery novels that do not feature her main
detectives (Poirot or Marple), but Lady Eileen “Bundle” Brent (Cheryl Campbell)
in her second of two outings as a detective.
The Secret Of Chimneys from 1925 was her debut as a
character. Two men die and say the same
thing about “seven dials” and Scotland Yard Superintendent Battle (Harry
Andrews), who would be in many Christie books unrelated, beings to
investigate. Valuable security secrets
turn out to be in the mix, upping the ante here.
Some of the turn out of the story is more like a Saturday
Morning Serial than a regular mystery from Christie, but she did often have
(SPOILER, skip to next paragraph if necessary) an obsession for secret
organizations, without giving away anything vital. It is one of the wilder Christie novels and one of her earliest
literary works, so fans and readers can see how she was developing as a master
storyteller and how she went about laying out some of the greatest mystery
tales still ever written. Rula Lenska,
James Warwick, and Sir John Gielgud as the Marquis Of Caterham. This 1981 adaptation was written, produced
and directed by Tony Wharmby, who obviously enjoys the source material.
The 1.33 X 1 image is hazier than expected, but
originating on PAL video has less to do with it than just the quality of the
transfer and/or problems with the source material. Some of the problem is noise; other parts have to do with some
streaking usually only seen in the PAL format.
This is likely down a generation or so and we have seen flaws from the
London Weekend Catalog before when covering the amazing Sandbaggers
series on the site, though that had more to do with wear. The Dolby Digital 2.0 is boosted to a very
simple stereo, barely better than the image, but the telefilm is good enough to
suffer through any imperfections.
Joseph Horowitz’s score is just right for the story. Extras are few, all text on Christie and
also offering cast filmographies. The
Seven Dials Mystery is worth a look and is a very authentic-feeling
work. It is at least as British as
recent such productions, if not more so, something not easy to capture.
- Nicholas Sheffo