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Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1980)
TV Movie

This intriguing story is set in the 1930s at a country house, where two amateur sleuths, Bobby Jones and Lady Frankie Derwent, try to unravel the mystery behind a tale of murder, suspense and false identities. And the only clues the two have to go on are the puzzling last words of a dying man. Featuring characters created by Agatha Christie, Why Didn't They Ask Evans is a classic crime thriller sure to please murder-mystery fans.

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1980)

The Boomerang Clue

I make a habit out of examining film adaptations of classic mystery novels for clues. I’m looking for clues about why the narrative works. There is a reason Christie is the best selling writer in history, even now as print runs are huge.

I think I understand the primary mechanisms, how she engages the reader in a contest of wills. Usually, these don’t translate well to film and we are given instead some puzzles with a surprise answer at the end.

One approach is what was attempted here, just work through the book more or less as it is written. But that doesn’t work either because the infrastructure of the imagination differs so between reading and viewing.

Here the stretch of the mystery is too long for the reward. We’ll know who the villain is soon enough just because of the theatrical mannerisms of the actors, and the rest comes across as “Hardy Boys” stuff. Add in some unbelievable coincidences (even for Christie), a Miss Moriarty Morphia and a little too pert Frankie and you’ll see why this series wasn’t continued.

Posted in 2003

Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.


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