Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *
Cast: Christina Hendricks, Gillian Anderson, Glenn Close, Max Irons, Stefanie Martini, Terence Stamp, Julian Sands, Amanda Abbington, Christian McKay, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, John Heffernan, Preston Nyman, Madeleine Hyland, Petros L. Ioannou, David Cann, Gino Picciano, Andreas Karras, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, David Kirkbride, Ricky Gabbrielini, David Seddon, Reuben Greeph, Ani Nelson, Lauren Poveda, Honor Kneafsey.
There was a crooked man… so goes the child’s nursery rhyme, a poem of indiscrete disclosure, forcing the notion into the mind of the reader that all the man touches becomes as disfigured as he, that it must be catching, the attraction of like with like. Like secrets and lies, the weight of such images can shape a person, the secretive like learning secrets, they like to have power over a person or a group of people, they are the ones who know where the bodies are buried… who lived in a Crooked House.
In the strange world of casting crossovers there is always going to be a pairing on screen to whom makes you think fondly of the past, whether it is in television or in cinematic co-incidences. To find Max Irons working alongside Glenn Close just puts the viewer firmly in their place to know that there will be a red herring to throw them onto a different scent, an underhand reversal of fortune that befalls the real killer. It is a casting quirk that works and offers much to the flow of the adaption of Ms. Christie’s work.
That aside, to watch Crooked House can have the viewer perplexed at the abrupt physical coldness of the actors, the almost lack of warmth that almost always jumps off the screen in any situation. However again what the makers of the programme have utilised to its great effect is how an overbearing patriarch, a man so used to control over his family, can have a very disturbing effect on how that unit’s dynamic with each other then works. Crooked is not a mindset in which the criminal acts but how they have become fraudulent copies of themselves, bent back, carrying the weight of guilt and frustration upon their souls and it one that is conceived wonderfully.
Agatha Christie conceived many novels that were arguably outstanding and brilliant, the Queen of British crime is not a title given lightly after all. Yet in Crooked House, she grasps the modern psychology of her day and it resonates down through the last 70 years in terms of how we understand the way a certain minds works, the war having more of an effect on how a generation thought, nihilistic, prone to acts of such violence. Yet even to this day when a cold act of murder is visited upon the quiet houses of the country we still scratch our heads. War and its effects are not only in the minds of those who wage it but in those who feel its consequences and how it turns a mind.
A genuine piece of British literature captured to great effect on television, a rare book in which to see adapted, Crooked House is arguably one of the Queen of Crime’s great hurrahs.
Ian D. Hall