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A Pocketful of Rye (Miss Marple Series)

Joan Hickson , Timothy West , Guy Slater    Unrated   VHS Tape
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 26.95
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sing a Song of Sixpence ... Nov. 14 2004
Format:DVD
Seemingly innocuous, English nursery rhymes often have a rather sinister origin; and noone knew this better than Agatha Christie, who repeatedly used them as a motif; most famously probably in 1939's "And Then There Were None" (a/k/a "Ten Little Indians"), where the murderer kills his victims, one by one, in the fashion of the "Ten Little Indians" ditty.
"A Pocket Full of Rye" is one of three Christie mysteries based on "Sing a Song of Sixpence;" the others are the short stories "Four and Twenty Blackbirds" and "Sing a Song of Sixpence," contained in the collections "Three Blind Mice" and "The Witness For the Prosecution," respectively. The nursery rhyme describes, in coded language, the modus operandi of a feared pirate known as Blackbeard, terror of the high seas between 1716 and 1718, who lured men into his services by promises of lavish pay and rations of rum ("sixpence" and "rye"), and often approached merchant ships under cover of friendly colors, only to have his concealed crewmen ("blackbirds in a pie") emerge at the last moment and assault the other ship, which more often than not resulted in rich takings ("a dainty dish") for Blackbeard ("the king") and his men:
Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing.
Now wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?
In Christie's mystery, it is the murderer himself who uses the nursery rhyme to play his ghastly game with the Fortescue family.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Incorrect video packages Aug. 24 2001
Format:VHS Tape
This is just to say that I have almost all of the Miss Marple videos and several have incorrect pictures on the jackets. For instance "A Pocket Full of Rye"... has a picture of a scene from "Murder At The Vicarage" with Joan Hickson and Paul Eddington. There are a couple of others also. I makes it a little confusing when you go to choose one to watch. Thank you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Aunt Jane does it again July 6 2001
By bernie TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
Outside o the two Miss Marple collection sets are three videos that are more of a made for television series. This is one "A Pocketful of Rye"

Rex Fortescue is out of character as he arrives at is office. You immediately know something is wrong because this is England and Rex has ordered his tea much too early. Yep mean old nasty Rex is found dead. Thorough detectives have determined that there was some mysterious grain in his pocket. If you remember the nursery rime you can follow the story. So how does Jane become involved? She trained the maid and is afraid for her safety. Naturally at several places in the mystery Miss Marple (Joan Hickson) points out the obvious to Det. Sergeant Hay (Jon Glover) who realizes and corrects the error of not listening to her.

There is only one repugnant scene where you have to watch Rex eat. Other than that it is a thoroughly enjoyable mystery.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sing a Song of Murder ... Nov. 7 2004
By Themis-Athena - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
Seemingly innocuous, English nursery rhymes often have a rather sinister origin; and noone knew this better than Agatha Christie, who repeatedly used them as a motif; most famously probably in 1939's "And Then There Were None" (a/k/a "Ten Little Indians"), where the murderer kills his victims, one by one, in the fashion of the "Ten Little Indians" ditty.

"A Pocket Full of Rye" is one of three Christie mysteries based on "Sing a Song of Sixpence;" the others are the short stories "Four and Twenty Blackbirds" and "Sing a Song of Sixpence," contained in the collections "Three Blind Mice" and "The Witness For the Prosecution," respectively. The nursery rhyme describes, in coded language, the modus operandi of a feared pirate known as Blackbeard, terror of the high seas between 1716 and 1718, who lured men into his services by promises of lavish pay and rations of rum ("sixpence" and "rye"), and often approached merchant ships under cover of friendly colors, only to have his concealed crewmen ("blackbirds in a pie") emerge at the last moment and assault the other ship, which more often than not resulted in rich takings ("a dainty dish") for Blackbeard ("the king") and his men:

Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing.
Now wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?

In Christie's mystery, it is the murderer himself who uses the nursery rhyme to play his ghastly game with the Fortescue family. Soon after ill-tempered, wealthy patriarch Rex Fortescue (Timothy West) has died in his office of a rare poison - and subsequently been found with rye in his pocket - his impossibly young and, shall we say, free-spirited widow Adele (Stacy Dorning) is likewise found dead, in the house's drawing room and after having had tea, which uncharacteristically included a serving of honey. (The nursing rhyme continues "the king was in his counting house counting out his money; the queen was in the parlor eating bread and honey.") But while Detective Inspector Neele (Tom Wilkinson), in one of the few mysteries not featuring Milchester C.I.D.'s Inspector Slack, is still searching for clues and the press is starting to speculate about black magic, Miss Marple instantly zeroes in on the nursery rhyme, and as instantly she is worried: For the ditty ends with the lines "The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes, when down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose" ... and the Fortescues' maid is none other than one of Miss Marple's proteges: impressionable, naive, clumsy and not very bright Gladys Martin (Annette Badland). Unfortunately Miss Marple arrives too late to protect her; and now, of course, the matter becomes personal - and she will not rest until she has found the murderer who, she feels, must be among the surviving members of the Fortescue household; particularly given that an actual pie containing dead and decayed blackbirds has made its appearance in the house a while earlier. Indeed, there are suspects aplenty, including everyone from Rex's unequal sons Percival (Clive Merrison) - heir to the Fortescue business - and Lance (Peter Davison) - recently returned from Africa-, their wives Jennifer (Rachel Bell) and Patricia (Frances Low), Rex's bible-quoting sister in law from his first marriage (Fabia Drake), Adele's shallow "golfing partner" Vivian Dubois (Martyn Stanbridge), the family's perfect housekeeper (or is she?) Miss Dove (Selina Cadell) ... and the as yet unknown heirs of Rex Fortescue's former business partner, who quarreled with him over the rights to a certain Blackbird Mine.

Originally airing on TV in the 1980s, the BBC's adaptations of Agatha Christie's twelve Miss Marple novels featured Joan Hickson in the title role; quickly establishing her as the quintessential Miss Marple even in the view of the grandmother (or rather, grand-aunt) of all village sleuths and "noticing kinds of persons"'s creator, Dame Agatha herself. (After seeing Hickson in an adaptation of her "Appointment With Death," as early as 1946 Christie reportedly sent her a note expressing the hope she would "play my dear Miss Marple.") Prior versions, partly involving rather high-octane casts, had seen as Miss Marple, inter alia, Angela Lansbury and Margaret Rutherford, but had been decidedly less faithful to Christie's books. While Lansbury holds her own fairly well when compared to the character's literary original in 1980's "Hollywood does Christie" version of "The Mirror Crack'd" (and that movie's ageing actresses' showdown featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak is a delight to watch) the four movies starring Rutherford are only loosely based on Christie's books: Dame Margaret's Miss Marple, although itself likewise a splendid performance, has about as much to do with Agatha Christie's demure and seemingly scatterbrained village sleuth as Big Ben does with the English countryside, and of the scripts, only "Murder, She Said" is an adaptation of a Miss Marple mystery ("4:50 From Paddington"), whereas two of the others - "Murder at the Gallop" and "Murder Most Foul" - are actually Hercule Poirot stories ("After the Funeral" and "Mrs. McGinty's Dead," respectively), and "Murder Ahoy" is based on a completely independent screenplay.

Like all entries in the BBC series produced with great faithfulness to the tone and atmosphere set by Christie's original, "A Pocket Full of Rye" first aired (in three installments) in 1985, a year before the BBC's adaptation of the first Miss Marple novel ("Murder at the Vicarage," 1930 - the first BBC production featuring St. Mary Mead's elderly spinster was 1984's "Body in the Library," based on the second Miss Marple novel, written 1942). As always, Miss Marple finds the solution while the police are still hot on the pursuit of the wrong suspect. And the murderer's motive? "Oh, it was greed ... one knows that, naturally ..."

Also recommended:
Murder at the Vicarage: A Miss Marple Mystery (Agatha Christie Collection)
Agatha Christie: Five Complete Miss Marple Novels (Avenel Suspense Classics)
Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories
Marple Classic Mysteries (Caribbean Mystery/4:50 from Paddington/Moving Finger/Nemesis/At Bertram's Hotel/Murder at Vicarage/Sleeping Murder/They Do It with Mirrors/Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side)
Miss Marple - 3 Feature Length Mysteries (The Body in the Library / A Murder Is Announced / A Pocketful of Rye)
The Mirror Crack'd
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incorrect video packages Aug. 24 2001
By "kirkwood28" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
This is just to say that I have almost all of the Miss Marple videos and several have incorrect pictures on the jackets. For instance "A Pocket Full of Rye"... has a picture of a scene from "Murder At The Vicarage" with Joan Hickson and Paul Eddington. There are a couple of others also. I makes it a little confusing when you go to choose one to watch. Thank you.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sing a Song of Sixpence......... July 14 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
This is a great Miss Marple. It is not exactly the same as the book. Its even better. And it is the first Miss Marple I think, in which the murderer is killed. One problem, A bit boring in some parts.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Nursery Rhyme Points to Murder!! Dec 4 2004
By Stephen Pletko - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
+++++

I watched this movie without reading the 1953 Dame Agatha Christie novel that it was based on. (Christie wrote twelve Miss Marple murder mysteries altogether.) I'm glad I did this! Why? Because it forced me to really watch the movie in order to try and deduce who the murderer was.

This movie begins with a wealthy person dying. The police, led by Detective Inspector Neele (Tom Wilkinson), are called in to investigate. Forensics determines that this person was poisoned and it is found that one of the victim's pockets had seed (later determined to be rye) in it. At this point, a nervous member of the estate that the dead person owned (called "Yew Tree Lodge") writes to Miss Marple (the late Joan Hickson) and tells her of the death. Miss Marple begins an unofficial investigation but not before two more suspicious deaths occur.

The major clue to these deaths, as Miss Marple determines, is a sixteen line children's nursery rhyme:

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocketful of rye;
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn't that a dainty dish,
To put before the King?
The King was in the counting house,
Counting out his money;
The Queen was in the Parlor,
Eating bread and honey.
The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes;
When down came a blackbird,
And bit her on the nose.

Eventually, a surprising accidental death occurs.

Who are the people that live at or are associated with this estate? They are as follows:

1. Rex Fotescue, a London financier and the estate's owner (Tim West)
2. Adele, Rex's young wife (Stacy Dorning)
3. Miss "Effie" Henderson, Rex's sister-in-law from his first marriage (Fabia Drake)
4. Vivian Dubois, Adele's "golf partner" (Martyne Stanbridge)
5. Percival Fortescue, Rex's son from his first marriage (Clive Merrison)
6. Jennifer, Percival's wife (Rachel Bell)
7. Lance Fortescue, another son of Rex from his first marriage (Peter Davison)
8. Pat, Lance's wife (Francis Low)
9. Mary Dove, housekeeper and supervisor to the staff working at Rex's estate (Selina Cadell)
10. Mrs. Crump, the estate's cook (Merelina Kendall)
11. Mr. Crump, the cook's husband (Frank Mills)
12. Gladys Martin, the estate's maid and Miss Marple's protégé (Annette Badland)

Joan Hickson (whom Agatha Christie herself wanted to play Miss Marple) captures the essence of the heroine super sleuth in her performance. (Hickson was 79 years old in this movie!)

The cinematography is visually stunning. All costumes are authentic looking. Also, the background music adds to each scene.

Finally, I have noticed in this Miss Marple series that the cassette containers have the wrong still pictures usually on the back of the container. For this movie's container, however, there is a wrong still picture on the front of the container. (This picture is from "Murder at the Vicarage," another good Miss Marple murder mystery.)

In conclusion, this is a fun movie even if you have read the novel it's based on!!

(1985; 100 min; made for TV; closed-captioned; British drama; full screen; color)

+++++
5.0 out of 5 stars HICKSON IS MISS MARPLE Jan. 21 2009
By Kristy Bruner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
SAME AS ALL MY REVIEWS ON THIS MISS MARPLE SERIES. ALL ARE GREAT AND JOAN HICKSON IS THE BEST MARPLE EVER.
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