My favorite film version of "The Mirror Crack'd" is this one, from 1980, but only because of my great admiration for Angela Lansbury, who plays Jane Marple. The same story was also adapted twice for British television, with Joan Hickson in 1992 and with Julia McKenzie in 2010, and a third time in India under the title "Shubho Mahurat." I have seen, and can recommend, both English versions, particularly the 2010 film, which has terrific performances by Lindsay Duncan and Joanna Lumley, and also wisely includes an important character who is left out of the Lansbury version, a woman named Margot, played by Charlotte Riley (more on Margot below).
Other reviewers have commented on the all-star (and aging-star) cast of this version: Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak (each of whom would make only two more movies after this), and Tony Curtis (in the final quarter of his 96-movie career, and blessed with a strong, wise-cracking character). None of the four were consistently great film actors, in my view, but they were pros by 1980 and they handle this material well, especially in the scenes they are lucky enough to share with the divine Edward Fox, who plays Dermot Craddock, a Scotland Yard inspector and also Marple's nephew.
This review is less about the movie, which is an intricately constructed murder mystery, baffling and thus satisfying. Instead, I wonder about one particular aspect of the work as a whole: how the audience is meant to feel about the murderer, her motivation and her justification. (The spoiler alert is serious because I just revealed the murderer's gender, and will soon specify her name.) I suspect I'm in the minority, but if the story had continued, putting her on trial, I'd have convicted her without a second thought, in spite of all the admiration and sympathy being heaped on her by the other characters and, I think, the creators, perhaps including Agatha Christie herself (I haven't read her original book).
The murderer is the central character, Marina Rudd (Elizabeth Taylor), an actress who is trying to make a comeback with the help of her director/ husband (Rock Hudson). She is presented as a fragile character, barely holding herself together as the location shoot begins. The murder happens at a party they host, where she is introduced to various people including a flibbertigibbet named Heather-- an ardent fan whom she had encountered once, several years earlier, during the war. Within minutes of politely listening to her prattle about that first brief meeting, Marina realizes that Heather was the person who had accidentally exposed her to German measles while she was pregnant, a pregnancy that had not been easy to achieve, and indeed had followed the adoption of three children (one of whom is Margo, from the McKenzie film version, a daughter Marina so neglected that she doesn't even recognize her as an adult). Because of exposure to rubella, Marina's son is born with a neurological birth defect, the severity of the which is not specified; whatever it was, however, was sufficient to overwhelm Marina, who abandons him to a mental institution, has a nervous breakdown, and tanks her career. Now, meeting the innocent vector of the virus, her immediate response is murder. Marina poisons her within minutes of meeting her.
It seems, as I said, from the dialog and the treatment of Marina Rudd by other characters, that we are meant to have considerable sympathy for her. Well, count me out. I was appalled at how monumentally self-centered she was-- first, to abandon her disabled child; and then decades later to murder the woman who had, in all innocence, exposed her to the rubella virus; and finally to murder one of her staff, Ella (Geraldine Chaplin), because she *might* have witnessed the poisoning. (A precis of the original Christie novel informs me that Marina also murders the butler because he, too, *might* know too much. This Lansbury version doesn't venture into the neglect of the three adopted children.)
There is no arrest, no trial. Marina either commits suicide by overdose, or she is assisted in that by her husband, or possibly, her husband kills her with an overdose in hope of sparing her the charge of multiple homicide. It is ambiguous. But I do wonder, if she had survived and there were a trial, would you want the jury to convict her? I know I would.