Nov 23, 2009

A bit of "Malice" on your Monday

I'll admit, I wasn't itching to watch this movie, but upon seeing it
on the shelf in my local library, decided to literally check it out.

*There are spoilers ahead, although I've left out the ending's details.*

Overview & Review:

"Malice Aforethought" is a two-part series filmed in 2005,
based on the murder mystery novel written in 1931
by Anthony Berkeley Cox (using the pen name Francis Iles.)

The story centers around Dr. Edmund Bickleigh (Ben Miller)
and his overbearing wife Julia (the talented Barbara Flynn) in the village of Wyvern’s Cross.
Mrs. Bickleigh is a snob.  She comes from a family with title and wealth and views being
married to a doctor as beneath her- treating him poorly, constantly bossing and putting him down.
(Mean-o.) Rather than stand up to his wife and express his feelings, Dr. Bickleigh is passive aggressive and seeks comfort in the arms of other women.  (Jerk-wad.)

We first get a glimpse of Richard Armitage as William "Bill" Chatford
in the beginning of the film at one of Mrs. Bickleigh's tea/tennis parties.

Although his character is rather a side-note in the beginning,
I couldn't help but notice he looks handsome in his twenties attire:

Bill is interested in young Ivy Ridgeway (Lucy Brown)
but she is too busy having an affair with Dr. Bickleigh to notice Bill at first.
Why in the world would she be head-over-heals for short, quirky Bickleigh
when BILL is around all tall, handsome and not married!?  (It's not you... it's the mustache.)

Dr. Bickleigh breaks things off with Ivy in hopes of pursuing an affair
with town newcomer, Madeleine Cranmere (Megan Dodds.)
Apparently Bickleigh thinks he's hot stuff or something.

Mrs. Bickleigh is no dummy. She knows about her husband's affairs over the years,
but has turned a blind eye in the past.  His latest fling with Madeleine has struck a chord,
however, and Mrs. Bickleigh decides to put her foot down (again) forbidding Edmund to see her any longer. Edmund (or "Eddie" as his women call him) is very upset, but continues to see Madeleine in secret. When Madeleine tells him that she could not marry a divorcee, Edmund plots to get rid of his wife.

Dr. Bickleigh repeatedly poisons his wife, giving her bad headaches, which he
then treats with morphine.  She becomes addicted to morphine while he makes it look like she
is stealing from his medicine cabinet and eventually Julia "gives herself a fatal overdose."

When Dr. Bickleigh finds himself free of "the old girl,"
he runs off to be with Madeleine, only to find out she is already engaged to
a young rival, Denny Bourne.  He is dumped in a similar fashion that he
dismissed his original mistress, Ivy.  Oh, the irony!

In the meantime, Bill and Ivy have been married.
Bill is Ivy's rebound guy, but he proves to be a harsh, domineering husband. 
He soon finds out about Ivy's past affair with Dr. Bickleigh and loses his temper,
yelling and threatening violence.

(Ivy sure knows how to pick her men: wife killer or wife abuser?  Hm...)

Although the coroner ruled Mrs. Bickleigh's death as accidental, Bill doesn't buy it.  Smart cookie.
Knowing there's something fishy going on (plus wanting revenge for Bickleigh's past conduct)
Bill starts digging around to see what really happened surrounding the death of Mrs. Bickleigh.
Bill talks to Madeleine, who reveals that Dr. Bickleigh told her
his wife was dead before the news had become known publicly.
(Duh, Eddie... why would you trust/love a woman who looks evil?)

Dr. Bickleigh knows Bill is onto him... and with an investigator from Scotland Yard
snooping about, decides to get rid of a few more annoyances.  He invites Bill, Madeleine
and her new husband Denny over to discuss matters of his wife's death over tea.
He serves them tainted food, planning on food poisoning to finish them off.
This gave me a new disgust of "canned meat sandwiches."
I used to like deviled ham.  I don't think I can bring myself to buy it for a long time now!

Bill and Madeleine, who both ate the contaminated food, become ill.

Look at Bill's striped pajamas! 
Will Bill and Madeleine become Dr. Bickleigh's next murders?
Will the officer from Scotland yard catch onto him?
You'll have to watch the movie to find out.

"Malice Aforethought" isn't one of Richard's most popular works and it's easy to see why.
It can be rather slow at times and there's not enough Richard.  I watched the first part last week and it took me 3 days to get around to watching the second half, which tells me my interest wasn't snagged.  Although there are several talented actors in the cast, Richard was my main reason for watching, and he wasn't featured much in the first episode. I did tend perk up when he came on screen, however.  Ben Miller portrayed Dr. Bickleigh well... helping the viewer to often side with the bad guy!  I found the second episode of "Malice Aforethought" to be more enjoyable.  Not only is there more Richard as Bill Chatford, but the pace seems to pick up as well.  Suddenly, I was wondering- would Bill and Madeleine die from food poisoning?  Would Dr. Bickleigh continue to get away with murder?  What's going to happen next? I enjoyed the ending with several twists that I didn't see coming.  (I also laughed at the tiny, evil mustache.) Although this isn't one I'd watch over and over again, I do recommend it to RA buffs and/or anyone who enjoys a murder mystery.

*Thanks to the Richard Armitage Central Gallery,
which supplied me with most of these screen caps.*


Miss Eliza said...

I rather liked this, though as you said, not enough Richard.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Nat. This is the only one missing from my collection! I obtained a copy which was faulty so only saw about the first hour but my impression of Richard's performance was that he was playing the sneery, nasty cad - a role he plays superbly. I would welcome others comments who have seen it to give their views. Is it similar to his performance in In Divine Proportion eg?

Unknown said...

Wow, I should definitely check this out! It looks like a fantastic cast, even if it might be a bit slow at times as you say. Thanks for the review!

Longhairedtoad said...

I haven't seen it myself, or I can't remember if I have or haven't. LOL. Maybe one of these days...

I find a lot of RA's early works to be okay, nothing that grabs at you though. Of course I blame the material he was given to work with because we know... he can really bring a character to life.

WitchyWoman said...

I haven't seen this one yet(only the clips on Youtube..its on my list of things to see).
I'm also a fan of Ben Miller. He's better known for doing comedy so it's nice seeing him do serious for a change.

Mulubinba said...

I don't mind a good murder story so quite enjoyed Malice despite RA's minor role (...and his character very unlikeable). Lovely scenery and costumes.

Traxy said...

A striped pyjamas and the word verification is currently showing me "thelis"... freaky coincidence! ("Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" stars David Thewlis, amongst others who I really don't remember because they didn't play REMUS LUPIN! Which is of course my main motivation for wanting to see that film. Plus it seems like an interesting story. But mainly the prospect of swooning over David Thewlis in a uniform, it has to be said.)

I like Ben Miller from "That Armstrong & Miller Show", and even if RA has a horrid moustache, I'd still watch it. Even if it is a bit boring. Thanks for the heads up so at least we're fore-warned! ;)

Starheart said...

Wow that moustache is perverse. Nat you could try doing a stick figure of Bill Chatford and see if you can get the moustache razor thin too!

Jacqui said...

I remember the 1979 version with Hywell Bennett as Dr Bickleigh. I don't remember much of the story (only the end where Bickleigh, in court, cries: I did not do it!)Apparantly this series made an impression on me as a drama. Love to see that one again and comparing it with this newer version..!