“A wealthy old gentleman with a weak heart had a pathological horror of cats: what easier than for some interested party to slip a cat into the house, a cat that the old man will come upon unexpectedly? Yes — old Enderby was frightened to death!”
When wealthy Mr. Enderby (Finlay Currie) falls dead from a heart attack, plucky Miss Marple (Margaret Rutherford) suspects foul play, and tries to determine who among his greedy heirs is the murderer.
British comedic actress Margaret Rutherford is primarily known for two eccentric characterizations: medium Madame Arcati in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit (1945) (originally a stage play), and amateur sleuth Miss Marple in George Pollock’s four screen adaptations of Agatha Christie’s novels; of the latter, Murder at the Gallop is the only one listed in Peary’s book, and thus is the only one I’ve seen (so far). While purists have complained that jowly Rutherford doesn’t fit Christie’s description of prim, spinsterish Miss Marple, the inimitable actress brings her own unique charm and energy to the role, and the result is sheer delight: with her otherworldly facial grimaces and her indomitable lust for sleuthing (and snooping), Rutherford carries the film with ease. The mystery itself is well-plotted (I was unable to guess the true culprit), the supporting performances are all fine, and Ron Goodwin’s lilting thematic score provides a welcome touch of humor to the proceedings.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple
- Atmospheric b&w cinematography
Yes, simply for Rutherford’s performance — but it’s likely that any of the other three films in the series (Murder She Said, Murder Most Foul, or Murder Ahoy) would suffice as well.