The Agatha Christie vogue that began with Murder on the Orient Express (1974) fizzled quickly, but not before several big-budget mediocrities were unleashed on the public. Of these lesser Christie adaptations, the British-made The Mirror Crack’d is interesting because it doubles as a catty story about Hollywood, complete with performances by several iconic American actors. The Mirror Crack’d doesn’t work for a lot of reasons, ranging from an inconsistent tone to the way the main detective is sidelined throughout most of the action. Viewed as glossy camp, however, The Mirror Crack’d offers minor distractions. Set in England during the 1930s, the story revolves around a group of Hollywood professionals visiting Great Britain for a movie shoot. Christie’s matronly detective Miss Marple (Angela Lansbury) happens upon the shoot at the same time a series of murders begins, so, naturally, it falls to Marple and her intrepid nephew, Inspector Craddox (Edward Fox), to identify the killer. In classic Christie fashion, the investigation reveals years of secrets and lies, all of which Marple explains in a lengthy final scene.
The murder-mystery stuff is fine, if a bit perfunctory, so what really connects is the showbiz satire. Kim Novak and Elizabeth Taylor play aging screen queens who trade nasty barbs, while Tony Curtis plays the sleazy agent/husband of Novak’s character and Rock Hudson plays the director/husband of Taylor’s character. Naturally, there’s a mistress in the mix, as well. Made without any pretense to sophistication, the film is enlivened by bitchery. Looking in a mirror, Taylor’s character coos, “Bags, bags, go away, come back again on Doris Day.” Another gem: “I could eat a can of Kodak and puke a better movie.” You get the idea. Lansbury is great fun whenever she’s onscreen, and in retrospect her performance seems like an audition for the long-running TV series Murder, She Wrote (1984-1996). Yet for much of the movie, she’s absent, with Fox doing the heavy investigative lifting. As for the big names, Curtis, Hudson, and Taylor are cartoonish but appealing, while Novak is embarrassingly bad.
The Mirror Crack’d: FUNKY