Je n'aime pas dans les vieux films américains quand les conducteurs ne regardent pas la route. Et de ratage en ratage, on s'habitue à ne jamais dépasser le stade du brouillon. La vie n'est que l'interminable répétition d'une représentation qui n'aura jamais lieu.

She Fell Among Thieves (1978)

I was just thinking . . .

I wondered what that grinding sound was. 

She Fell Among Thieves is a seventy-five minute television movie that is most famous, to the degree it is at all, among aficionados of PBS’ Mystery! series. It was the first episode shown under that title, way back in 1980 and it’s a very inauspicious beginning for what would turn out to be one of the great PBS programs of all time, delivering a consistent diet of excellent British television thrillers.  This one stars Malcolm McDowell, pretty well phoning it in, as the hero.  A young woman is being forced into marriage by her evil step-mother, Vanity Fair, because if she marries before she comes of age, the inheritance left to her by her father will go to Vanity.  Murder, car-chases, gun fights, red-hot pokers and climbs down thenearly sheer face of a castle wall all follow and yet the film remains strangely unexciting.  The tone is very, very campy.  Eileen Atkins plays to the absolute hilt as Vanity Fair and Philip Locke deserves special mention for his turn as the evil, constantly snickering butler.  Their scenes together have some life to them, at least.  Production values are standard for television movies in the seventies, so not good.  The movie is often quite silly and only occasionally genuinely funny.  It’s, even at only an hour-twenty or so, kind of labored and feels pretty long.  Recommended only if you’re a Mystery! completist, I’d say.  Oh, yes, if you do see it, watch for a very, very young Bernard Hill (King Théoden in the LOTR movies) in a small role as a mustache twirling chauffeur.  1 ½ stars.

tl;dr – British TV movie fails to balance thrills and camp, though Eileen Atkins gives her all in a villainous performance; strangely lifeless given all the things that happen.  1 ½ stars. 

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