Miss Marple investigates the murder of one of her fellow trustees of a fund which rehabilitates young criminals. To investigate she goes aboard the ship used to train the juveniles, much to the distress of the Captain. She soon stumbles onto more murders, and a ring of thieves.
Margaret Rutherford ... Miss Marple
Lionel Jeffries ... Captain Rhumstone
Charles \'Bud\' Tingwell ... Det. Insp. Craddock (as Charles Tingwell)
William Mervyn ... Breeze-Connington
Joan Benham ... Matron Alice Fanbraid
Stringer Davis ... Mr. Stringer
Nicholas Parsons ... Dr. Crump
Miles Malleson ... Bishop
Henry Oscar ... Lord Rudkin
Derek Nimmo ... Humbert
Gerald Cross ... Brewer
Norma Foster ... Shirley
Terence Edmond ... Sgt. Bacon
Francis Matthews ... Compton
This was the fourth and final offering in the Rutherford/Marple quartet of old English masterpieces. As good as it was though - and it did not let us down as yet another reminder of how quaint some parts of a middle class England of yesteryear were - this was, perhaps, the least riveting of the great Dame\'s portrayal of the delightful Miss Marple.
For those who are interested in locations, the centrepiece of the tale, H.M.S.Battledore, was anchored in the bay betwixt Falmouth and St.Mawes (in cushty Cornwall) with the latter named small town providing the backdrop for the thefts of the scallywags who were supposed to be being reformed as part of a trust initiative to aid young men who had been led astray. From the outset of the plot, a \'snuff\' murder way ahead of its time, we were kept on our toes as Miss Marple (as ever, ably assisted by her elderly beau, Mr.Stringer) weaved her way through the suspects aboard that fabulous old ship which looks as if it has just been vacated by Drake or Nelson. Nevertheless, the contemporary Captain, played to perfection (by Lionel Jeffries) with a mixture of \'old sea salt\' zest and a zany personality unmatched by the rest of the crew, almost upstages the film\'s star with his demeanour ranging from the seeming son of Blackbeard through to a sort of Peter Pan who has lived all his dreams and desires of great seamanship within a perpetual stone\'s throw of land.
The sword fight at the end may ahve been a bit naff - but it didn\'t matter, we knew who would win as Jane was bound to have been a fencing champion of some sort in her merry old past. But what was surprsing was that this proved to be the last of a proven fromula that ought to have been repeated many times over.
A thoroughly good yarn - best watched with a flaggon of cider to keep one\'s whistle wet!
Murder Ahoy was the fourth and final entry in the series of comedy whodunits starring Rutherford as Miss Marple. The series was doing well at the box office, but the producers were unable to get the rights to any more of Christie\'s works. In addition, this is the only one that wasn\'t adapted from a Christie novel and the film was produced in 1964, but released at the end of 1965 in order to space out the series. Following the end of the Miss Marple franchise, director Pollock would make one more feature before he more or less vanished from the scene. Another Christie, Ten Little Indians (see my review), for Fu Manchu producer Harry Alan Towers.
All in all, Murder Ahoy is fantastic light hearted fun with Rutherford on fine form as usual as the spinster detective. She gets good support from Lionel Jeffries as the Captain and Stringer Davis offers his touching portrayal as the local librarian Mr Stringer who is Miss Marple\'s closest friend and is always concerned that her meddling may result in her getting bumped off, but its never any use as she is determined to unravel the mystery and she does in her own inimitable fashion. Moments to savour here include her sword fight with the killer at the climax when she assures her assailant \"I must warn you that in 1931 I was the winner of the ladies fencing championship.\" Screenwriters David Pursall and Jack Seddon came up with quite a good storyline of their own and the identity of the killer is well concealed until the end, but I felt that the script could of been a little tighter. Nevertheless, its all good fun and Rutherford has no trouble in dominating the film with her uniquely individual performance as Miss Marple, George Pollock\'s direction is smooth and the atmospheric black and white camera-work of Desmond Dickinson is an added bonus.
Apparently Agatha Christie totally removed herself from any association after the third in the series of these Margaret Rutherford vehicles. So this is not even adapted from any of Agatha Christie\'s novels and it shows.
Margaret, as usual, has a great time and her sidekick Stringer Davis (real-life husband) appears a little stronger in his role.
However, the plot creaks along and none of it makes much sense but Margaret in her buttoned suit and tricorn hat is not to be missed. Lionel Jeffries hams it up as the frustrated captain who views Margaret as his own personal albatross and there are some whopping discrepancies, - i.e. a lover\'s young sweetheart is murdered and he displays not a whit of grief - but all in all it is the same huge fun as before, though more weakly plotted. I gave it a 6 but it is more of a 6-1/2.
Margaret fencing is not to be missed and it is such a shame that not more of these were not made. This was sadly the fourth and last in the series. Incidentally Margaret kept her impoverished studio afloat financially with them.
* The screenplay was not based on any published Agatha Christie story. It did, however, borrow a few obscure plot details from \"They Do It With Mirrors\" and there is a delightful moment when Miss Marple pays homage to Christie\'s long-running play, \"The Mousetrap.\"
* We see Miss Marple\'s impressive library. It is composed mainly of Pan and Penguin crime paperbacks (including duplicate editions of \"Follow the Saint\" by Leslie Charteris and Georgette Heyer\'s \"The Foundling\") alongside a book of limericks and \"Return to Peyton Place\" by Grace Metalious. There is also a copy of \"Three Act Tragedy\", a Poirot book by Miss Marple\'s creator Agatha Christie.
* The novel central to the plot, J. Plantaganet Corby\'s \"The Doom Box\", was devised by the scriptwriters and never really existed. The prop-makers mocked up copies in both hardback (for the Battledore) and paperback (for Miss Marple).
* There is a reference to the fictional UK county of Rutherfordshire, an obvious tip-of-the-hat to the film\'s star.