THE MIRROR CRACK'D -- AMC Academy, AMC Skyline, Capri, Crofton Cinema, McLean Cinema, NTI White Flint, Old Town, Showcase Turnpike, Village Mall and West End Circle.
The Hollywood holiday blitz is one of the more recent Christmas tradition. This yesr the celluloid studios sent us an even dozen -- the Twelve Flicks of Christmas, you might say -- but two of them arrived (as some Christmas cards do) just too late to respond to. High-powered Hollywood is juxtaposed with rural England in "the Mirror Crack'd," and it is soon obvious what an unfair contest it is between the two cultures. The film folks pale pitifully by the comparison.
When last we saw Angela Lansbury in Washington, she was tending the oven in "Sweeney Todd." On the other side of the murder act, she is just as captivating. Having long mastered doing flamboyant eccentrics, as for example in her last Christie film, "Death on the Nile," she demonstrates that the very opposite character, the precise and thoughtful Jane Marple, can crackle with even more excitement.
Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak play great feuding stars, Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis play their devious husbands and Geraldine Chaplin their high-strung sidekick, against the background of an English country house, where these people have all come to film "Mary, Queen of Scots" with the appropriate costumes and extras.
But how can this hope to compare to Angela Lansbury, in the Agatha Christie role of Miss Marple, the elderly amateur detective, in her rose-chintz-and thatch-covered cottage?
It is not the best treatment of a Christie story, since many lines, situations and characters depend on an in-joke knowledge of movie-making. Stars playing stars do somewhat satirized versions of their previous roles.
But the village people -- notably Charles Lloyd-Pack as the Vicar, Maureen Bennett as the victim, and Wendy Morgan as the witness -- have made of the old Christie roles something fresh and funny.