Well my little sister’s wedding went off with nary a hitch resulting in a pretty positive family get together for all involved. My father somehow managed to stay controlled throughout the proceedings, which considering his was giving away his baby girl is quite the feat. Sure he lied during his toast about not crying during the wedding ceremony, this was in an effort to squash the rather large pool circulating about taking bets on just how quickly he would cry, but other then that small misstep he was shockingly composed the entire weekend.
During the reception Meghan and Jake (the newlyweds) had a nice change of pace by eliminating the tired cliché of clinking glasses to have them kiss. Instead, they asked for the guests to tell a story about either or both of them, and while I chose not to tell a story at that time, I thought it might be fitting to tell a story about Meghan during this review. Trust me, it somehow ties together with The Mirror Crack’d.
Now this story takes place just over a decade ago when my sister Meghan was just learning how to drive. My father would typically back the cars out of the garage into our driveway for him to wash them. But on this particular day my father decided to let Meghan pull the cars back into the garage. She had done this on a few occasions with my mother’s car, so she was quite excited that she would be able to “drive” both cars into the garage. But their was a slight problem with this equation in that my mother’s car was an automatic. My father’s car? Not so much.
Now me, my sister and my mother have all had our share of auto related accidents, with my mother’s tale of unknowingly ripping her own front bumper off still capable of drawing my father’s ire to this day. But you can be sure that all three of us faced stiff penalties for these accidents. But since Meghan is his baby girl, well, she faced a much different fate.
Now normally if someone is new to driving a stick shift they will stall the car rather quickly, so the events that were to transpire are amazing in and of themselves. You see, Meghan didn’t stall the car, but quite the opposite. She tore into the garage and slammed into my father’s table saw, driving it into the wall. But the carnage didn’t end there, as she somehow managed to keep the accelerator floored as the car slammed into the garage wall, partially knocking the garage off its foundation. As far as first time car accidents go, this is pretty damn impressive.
But after the dust settled and Meghan stopped crying, fearing my father’s judgment, something happened. Rather then explode into a fireball of rage my father decided on a slightly more rational approach, claiming the entire incident was his fault. I mean seriously?! If it was anyone else besides Meghan behind the wheel my father would have killed us, but since it was his innocent baby girl he took full blame, thus refusing to allow us the sweet sweet gratification of Meghan’s fall from grace. But what does an absurd parental protection measure have to do with an Agatha Christie murder mystery? Less then you would think, but enough to tie this whole sordid affair together.
The Mirror Crack’d is relatively unique for a mystery film in that its primary protagonist and chief sleuth Miss Marple (Angela Lansbury) is a minor footnote in the filter outside of an opening scene. Rather then directly involve Miss Marple in investigating the crime, it is her nephew Inspector Craddock (Edward Fox) who follows up all the leads and interviews the suspects, only to discuss his work later with his Aunt over tea. I’d never seen that take on a murder mystery before, and I have to admit I enjoyed it immensely.
But how is it that Miss Marple is the key character in this case? Being related to an inspector hardly qualifies her as any sort of authority. For those of us who haven’t read Agatha Christie’s novels it might not be known that Miss Marple is a rather common character in her stories, so to conquer that The Mirror Crack’d evokes a brilliant opening scene where Miss Marple’s deductive powers are clearly displayed.
The Mirror Crack’d opens with a black and white shot of an eerie old mansion. From there the film moves inside as an inspector rounds up all the occupants into the sitting room. From there the scene plays out like a standard whodunit, introducing each character and providing the appropriate motive for murder, but just when the Inspector plans to reveal the killer the frame begins to twitch and it is revealed that we have been witnessing a film within a film.
From here it is further revealed that this was a film being shown in a small theater, and as the audience becomes frustrated in trying to discover who the murderer is, and it is Miss Marple who comes to the audience’s rescue with a concise and logical reveal of the murderer. It is an outstanding, simple and highly effective introduction into the genius of Miss Marple that will erase any doubt on her qualifications.
But while Miss Marple dominates that opening scene, from there her screen time is reduced to a bare minimum, as the film focuses more on its all-star cast (Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Tony Curtis, Geraldine Chaplin) to tell the story. This allows a bit more freedom for the story, which quickly turns into a rather scathing satire of Hollywood, delivered by some of Hollywood’s best known and most popular actors and actresses. It was quite an unexpected turn, and The Mirror Crack’d is a better film for it.
The cast more then pulls their weight as well, especially Taylor and Novak, who clearly are enjoying tossing sliver tongued barbs at each other in scene after scene. Taylor also has a masterful breakdown scene later in the film that openly mocks the ridiculous nature of dramatic films and she goes full bore throughout the scene. For his part Curtis steals every scene he is in as a slimy Hollywood producer, and while Hudson is primarily reduced to the straight man, he has an outstanding mini-monologue on the relationship or a producer and a director that is as honest as it is ridiculous.
Director Guy Hamilton certainly pulls his weight as well throughout The Mirror Crack’d. Known primarily for directing hordes of James Bond films, The Mirror Crack’d might pose as a seemingly odd partner for an action film director. But Hamilton adds minor visual touches in the form of a strong use of negative space in his framing that gives The Mirror Crack’d an interesting and enjoyable visual look without all the bombast of the 007 franchise.
It is all these elements that make The Mirror Crack’d such an enjoyable watch, as it rarely attempts to follow the stereotypical mystery formula. It’s funny and entertaining, quite knowingly hammy and sarcastic, and it even finds a way to subtlety reveal the murderer and thus minimize the glorious reveal so often used in these films. The Mirror Crack’d is rather simply a film that is trying to stretch the boundaries of its formulaic genre, and succeeds wonderfully at doing so.