Nothing is very much afoot, really, in "She Fell Among Thieves," the 90-minute opener for public TV's imported "Mystery!" anthology tonight at 9 on channel 26. This half-cracked tale of dirty deeds in the French Pyrenees of 1922 has its foolish charms, however, and the most obvious of these is Eileen Atkins as the definitive villainous Vanity Fair.
Those who thought that Sian Phillips' portrayal of the larcenous Livia was the best thing about public TV's "I, Caludius" will appreciate Atkins and her flamboyant monomania. If she is not a wicked woman for all seasons, she'll at least do for three out of four.
Not so much consumed with evil as delighted by it, Ms. Fair barks "Get out, you scum!" at the hero and "Bring the slut here" to a henchman. It's an amusing portrayal, broad but firmly in control, suggesting a cross between Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard" and any old witch who ever flew around a Disney storyboard.
Malcolm McDowell is the upright and properly dauntless hero and Sarah Badel the victim of most of the skullduggery; there are several attempts to marry her off in order to collect an inheritance -- once to a stiff so drugged he passes out at the altar.
Tom Sharpe wrote and Clive Donner directed the adaptation of a Dornford Yeates novel. Their film is both flagrantly expendable full and stylish pleasurable hokum. Gene Shalit, who comes off as a thundering Neanderthal even on commercial television, was carelessly chosen to host the series, which will continue for 14 more weeks.