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A Creepy but Well-Done Version of Christie's 'The Pale Horse' on Amazon Prime
March 13, 2020  | By David Hinckley
 


Agatha Christie stories, always tense and scary, don't often get as downright eerie as the new TV version of The Pale Horse.

The Pale Horse, a two-part tale that becomes available Friday on Amazon Prime, faithfully follows the Christie tradition of introducing lots of dead bodies.

It just flirts more intensely with the supernatural since it's unclear for a long time exactly how most of these bodies became dead.

Oh, sure, we get medical jargon like "aneurysm" and "heart attack." But what if those are only symptoms? What if there's a deeper, more menacing cause?

We know The Pale Horse is going to get our attention early when we see that our main character, Mark Easterbrook, is played by Rufus Sewell. Sewell has proven over the last few seasons that he can play a Nazi as convincingly as he plays a British prime minister, and here he reemerges as a well-to-do early-1960s British antiques dealer.

We know he drives a nice car. What we don't know is whether he's a nice man.

On the one hand, he seems shattered into tiny pieces by the tragic death of his new wife, Delphine (Georgina Campbell).

He seems less devoted to the woman he marries almost immediately after Delphine's death, Hermia (Kaya Scodelario).

We raise that point because he seems to have a simultaneous attraction to a redheaded showgirl, Thomasina Tuckerton (Poppy Gilbert). This creates some problems, but possibly not the one we would first be inclined to expect.

Mark's bigger problem is the death of a woman he says he doesn't know, Jessie Davis (Madeleine Bowyer). In her shoe, the police find a list of names, including Mark's, and Inspector Stanley Lejeune (Sean Pertwee) gets curious about what the list might mean.

While Mark professes to be simply puzzled, Inspector Lejeune has that dog-with-a-bone thing that TV cops develop when they think someone isn't telling them something.

All that's the cop part of The Pale Horse. The eerie part is that there seems to be a connection between what's been happening with Mark and three women who conduct séances in a strange little nearby village.

They include Thyrza Grey (Sheila Atim), Sybil Stamfordis (Kathy Kiera Clarke), and Bella (Rita Tushingham). They are an odd lot, it's true, and Mark further wonders if they have any links to a fellow who seems to spend a lot of time strolling around the village, Oscar Venables (James Fleet). He's odd, too.

This Pale Horse was adapted by Sarah Phelps, who has done several other Christie miniseries for television and has shown a fondness for putting an even darker wash over Christie's stories.

Phelps also tends to make the characters less pleasant, not that they were all that chipper, to begin with, and that holds again here. She does, however, maintain the mystery part, and Christie fans can savor the slow buildup to the eternal question of whodunit.

 
 
 
 
 
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