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Murder Is Easy

Murder Is Easy (1982)

January. 02,1982
| Thriller Mystery TV Movie

American computer whiz Luke Williams meets elderly Lavinia Fullerton on a London-bound train. She reveals she's discovered the identity of a serial killer in her village and is going to report it to Scotland Yard. When she is murdered after disembarking the train, Williams vows to pursue the case himself.


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This is a TV movie from 1981 featuring a starry (for it's day) Anglo-American cast and based on one of Christie's novels from the thirties. It has been updated to the early eighties but that seems to have done little harm as the 'English country village' setting could just as easily be from the thirties anyway (slow but sure policeman on a bike, tweedy middle aged ladies, tennis parties at the big house etc). The eighties only really intrude in some of the more bizarre outfits for heroine Lesley Anne Down and in the fact that Bill Bixby's character is supposedly a computer whizz. The whole 'computer' thing is actually quite poorly thought out and contributes very little and I never believed that Bixby was any kind of whizz at all in that particular field. Some of the music is good (the main theme, love theme for Miss Waynflete) and some of it is dreadful (the comic 'Carry On' moments and especially the 'sexy' sax for the main couple).There are plenty of positives though. The film is astonishingly faithful to the book and plays out almost to the letter. This actually has a slight downside as there are far too many characters and most of them are barely fleshed out. The whole thing is very well shot and there are some very good performances. I was pleasantly surprised by Lesley Anne Down as Bridget - a very good performance indeed. Olivia de Haviland is appropriately tweedy and sympathetic as Miss Waynflete and Timothy West puts in a good turn as Bridget's childish fiancée. Helen Hayes is lovely in the brief but memorable role of Miss Fullerton. Bill Bixby is OK but not much more as the leading man. The story plays out well but the final confrontation between two possible killers is rather unconvincing but, to be fair, I think it would be a difficult scene to carry off really well.Overall, this is a very worthy adaptation and worth a look if you can find it.


Bill Bixby shed his image of "My Favorite Martian" to portray an American on holiday in England who naturally stumbles into the typical Ms. Christie mystery of who-did-it.Even with a great cast, the film suffers from being way too talky. The dialogue is often quite boring and the characters are exactly this way as well. You reach the point where you don't really care who has been committing all these dastardly murders.Each character appears to be quite stilted. The bodies tend to pile up quite rapidly and yet there is little to no action.The guessing game intensifies during the last 10-15 minutes but by then, you just couldn't care less.Olivia De Havilland brings us another seemingly Melanie Hamilton like performance, but much older of course. However, she can be as devious as she was in "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte," (1964)Leslie Ann Down is interesting as the woman that everyone wants to suspect.


Agatha Christie's 1939 story has been updated to the Eighties and it's hero/protagonist made an American allowing for the casting of Bill Bixby as Luke Williams, mathematical genius and computer programmer. He takes a fateful ride on a British commuter train and meets up with Helen Hayes who has an important errand to run.Helen's a talkative old biddy who is worried that there have been a number of strange deaths in her small village recently and she fears that village constable Freddie Jones isn't quite up to a homicide investigation. She's confides in Bixby and then gets run down by a hit and run driver as she leaves the train.Bixby's mathematical mind can't take in the random probabilities of all this coincidence and it intrigues him. He goes back to Hayes's village and turns detective, annoying village constable Jones, but finding romance with Lesley Anne Down and a host of suspects and a couple more deaths before the mystery is solved.Among other inhabitants at the village is the local librarian Olivia DeHavilland and Timothy West who owns several newspapers. It's a pity that the story called for Helen Hayes to be killed off immediately so there could be no scenes with DeHavilland and Hayes.As this story was written in 1939 I suspect that Agatha Christie had Lord Beaverbrook in mind for Timothy West's character. Audiences in 1982, especially American ones couldn't possibly appreciate the satire that Christie was employing with West as the tyrannical ego-maniacal newspaper publisher. Still I suspect citizens of the United Kingdom of the older generations knew quite well who West's character was modeled on.I don't think the updating especially hurt the story however. The cast does very well by their roles and it's an intriguing film and idea that Helen Hayes voices.


Pretty good mystery. Lesley-Anne Down has never looked better and Bill Bixby portrays the hapless American well enough. Plot twists abound and the viewer is left with a very satisfying mystery. Agatha Christie would approve!