19 February 2018



I always love a nice bit of Agatha Christie, whether in book or film form. What a swell dame she was, and what a prolific writer! She'd even make the hugely industrious Stephen King look like a lazy sod, lol. She's penned over sixty books and over a dozen short story collections.

Do you know that her books are the third most-published in the world, after the works of Shakespeare and the Bible? In your face, Harry Potter! It's no surprise, though. Everyone loves a good who-dunnit, and I'm no different to anyone else in that regard.

I also do so love watching rich, bitchy posh people clawing each others' eyes out over Daddy's or Grandmama's will, don't you? Hilarious to see them throwing dignity to the four winds as they scrabble about in the shag-pile carpet for every copper they can trouser. Dignity often goes out the window where an inheritance is at stake. Not that I've any personal experience, mind.

Me, I've never had any rich aunts or uncles die and leave me a whopping great pile of cash or a stonking big house in the countryside. That being the case, this new screen adaptation of Agatha Christie's CROOKED HOUSE affords me no small measure of vicarious pleasure. Yes, I know that that rhymes. In my limited spare time, I rap under the moniker of MC Sexy Mutha. Surprised? Yes, well, there's a lot of things about me you don't know...

So here's the deal with CROOKED HOUSE, anyway. The story is set in the late 'Fifties and not the 'Twenties, 'Thirties or even the 'Forties like I was expecting. Which was odd because it looked a lot like the 'Thirties to me, what with the funny shiny old-fashioned motor-cars, the Flapper hairstyles and all the lazily languid lounging about on the lovely chaise-longues. Try saying that with a few pints of tequila in you...

In this instance, Aristide Leonides is the unfortunate bugger who's been done to death in his own bed in his own fabulous English mansion. He was a Greek billionaire in life and, in death, probably still is, for all we know. 

Someone's been fiddling about with the entrepreneur's insulin and has rather unsportingly put poison in the syringe administered to him by his walking cliché of a young stripper wife, whom he met in Las Vegas. Well, okay, she's a dancer but those nipple tassels don't always stay firmly on, you know. There's a fine line between being a dancer and stripping for a living.

So, was it the wife who-dunnit, seeing as the billionaire died apparently intestate which means that Little Miss Las Vegas conveniently cops for the lot? Or is that too obvious? We've got plenty of other suspects to choose from, don't worry. Let's quickly run down that list.

A lot of people live in the Leonides mansion. There's the fabulous old Lady Edith De Haviland, a game old gal and the sister of the late Aristide Leonides' first wife, who is now also late. As in deceased. Popped her clogs. Pushing up daisies. Taking a dirt nap. Feeding the worms. You know, dead. A late parrot, as it were. No longer of this earth, no longer in the land of the living.

Lady Edith, well played by Glenn Close (My giddy Aunt, is she playing grandmothers now? Time is surely flying past!), strides about the massive mansion and extensive grounds dressed in mens' breeches and shooting at moles, the gardeners' curse. Aw, bless 'em. 

The poor little furry creatures get their little furry heads blown off their furry shoulders if they stick 'em above ground for a nano-second. Someone should report the trigger-happy old dame to the Animal Rights people. 

As someone who now permits hamsters to lodge with them and eat all their fruits and vegetables and leave tiny cylindrical poops in strange places, I feel very strongly about justice for cute tiny furry critters. And not just the cute ones either, I hasten to add. One mustn't discriminate.

There are two sons of the late billionaire's, both money-grubbing, weak-chinned poshos with dominant wives. Roger, a failed businessman, is married to the strident and bossy Clemency, a poisons specialist (hello, poisons? The old geezer died of poison!).

Philip, a failed screenplay-writer, is married to Gillian Andersen's Magda, a walking bitch, when she can be bothered to get up off the chaise-longue, that is, and a theatre actress whose plays all, well, bomb at the box-office. There's a definite whiff of failure attaching itself to the occupants of the late Aristide Leonides' fantastic mansion, wouldn't you say?

What couldn't the ineffective brothers do if they only had a fraction of their father's dosh? And their wives! The wives would be in flippin' clover. Sophia is the brittle grand-daughter of the old man. She's an annoyingly confident know-it-all and she's just too-cool-for-school altogether. Pretty much everyone in the house is easy-peasy to dislike.

Sophia's the one who calls in private detective and former diplomat Charles Hayward to solve the mystery of who-dunnit, even though the pair of them have had a steamy love affair in Cairo the previous year.

As if they're not going to fall lustily into each others' arms once he's found the killer! Unless the killer turns out to be Sophia, lol, which it easily could be. Well, she's as likely a candidate as any of them. A bazillion bucks is a great motive for murder, as many writers have found over the years.

There's also Brenda, the young dancer-slash-second wife, in the frame, of course. She has a lover who's also implicated, a tutor to Magda and Philip's children called Laurence Brown. The children, a teenage boy called Eustace and a little girl called Josephine, are the nastiest little shits you could hope to meet. Shame the killer didn't think to include the pair of 'em in his little murder spree. A three-for-the-price-of-one type of thing, you know.

My favourite character is probably Gillian Andersen as the languid Magda, who lounges and drinks too much claret and is probably mostly overcome with ennui at the tedium of everything. She also looks like she'd devour the boyish-looking Charles Hayward in one bite, if he so much as gave her an ounce of encouragement. I've seen Ms. Andersen in period drama before, back in 2011 when she did a stunningly unusual take on Miss Havisham in a three-part adaptation of Charles Dickens's GREAT EXPECTATIONS for the good old BBC. 

Terence Stamp is still handsome as Chief Inspector Taverner and the house is a jolly sight bigger and nicer than your average council flat. The film itself is just like a two-hour episode of POIROT or MISS MARPLE, Agatha Christie's two famous detectives, only without the ad-breaks. If you like that kind of thing, you'll love this. 

I love detective shows like these and MIDSOMER MURDERS and INSPECTOR MORSE and LEWIS, even though I invariably have to have the twisty endings explained to me by someone else. No, I'm not thick, it's just that these shows always try to be way too clever-clever with their dénouements. You'd need to be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon to work some of them out, so you would. Well. That's my story and I'm sticking to it, heh-heh-heh.

And it's lovely, of course, to see that rich posh people have their problems too. Actually, that was the best part, lol. Yeah, I know, I'm just overflowing with the milk of human kindness today. Enjoy the film. It'll take your mind off your own problems for a bit...!

CROOKED HOUSE will be available to buy on DVD from UNIVERSAL PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT on Feb. 26th 2018.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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