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Sleeping Murder was filmed by the BBC as a 100-minute film in the sixth adaptation (of twelve) in the BBC's Miss Marple TV series starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. It was transmitted in two 50-minute parts on Sunday, 11 January and Sunday, 18 January 1987. The episodes were directed by John Davies with screenplay by Ken Taylor. It is an adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel of the same name.


When a young bride moves into a country manor, long repressed childhood memories of witnessing a murder come to the surface.



Comparison with the original story[]

(may contain spoilers – click on expand to read)

The adaptation is very faithful to the original novel; it does, however, alter some of the story's elements:

  • Many matters are resolved by telephone instead of via correspondence.
  • In the adaptation, Gwenda's husband Giles is present from the start; the couple find and buy the house together. Giles later goes off to London to visit the Wests, leaving Gwenda alone to witness the "ghost scene" (her suppressed memory) from the staircase. Shaken, Gwenda telephones to London and joins her husband there, meeting Miss Marple and having another break-down during the showing of the Duchess of Malfi.
  • The scene where Miss Marple, back in St Mary Mead, cleverly obtains Dr Haydock's leave to go to the seaside for her health is scrapped.
  • The hotel registry information is obtained off-screen by Giles and related to Gwenda while they go see the Erskines.
  • The young couple's excuse for visiting the Erskines is not house searching, but rather running out of gas; Mr Erskine hospitably invites them to tea and they are able to glean some information.
  • Upon returning to look for the conveniently dropped ring, Gwenda talks to Mr Erskine but is forced to leave due to the reappearance of Mrs Erskine. In the film, she only eavesdrops on Mrs Erskine yelling jealously at her husband, while in the novel, she also overhears Mrs Erskine bursting into tears and Mr Erskine consoling her.
  • On the day of the Lily Kimble murder, some things are omitted: Mr Fane the solicitor and Jimmy the autocar dealer are not invited to Gwenda and Giles's house by a mysterious letter, and the testimony of Lily Kimble's husband is scrapped.
  • Miss Marple is not recognized by the Inspector upon meeting him.
  • Although there is some ominous foreshadowing regarding the whiskey in Gwenda and Giles's drawing room being poisoned (as it was in the novel), in the end, this is not the case. Giles drinks freely from the glass and their housekeeper Mrs Henchrist is taken ill simply due to the shock of a body having been dug up in the garden. As in the novel, she is then taken to the hospital by Dr Kennedy and Giles, leaving Gwenda (seemingly) alone in the house.
  • When the murderer returns to finish Gwenda off, he reveals that he has known that Gwenda saw him commit the murder all those years ago. In the novel, he never suspects this.
  • It is unclear whether Helen had any intention of going away with her husband and child in secrecy, fearing her brother (who then finds out and kills her). In the adaptation, Dr Kennedy merely suspects her of wanting to elope with Mr Erskine, which is why he kills her.
  • The existence of Léonie, Gwenda's Swiss baby-sitter who saw Dr Kennedy digging in the garden and was poisoned by him after returning to Switzerland, is omitted.
  • The final scene does not take place in Torquay but in the garden of Gwenda and Giles's house.

Filming locations[]

  • Fore Street, Otterton – cottages in opening scene
  • Watch Hill, Budleigh Salterton – Hillside[1]
  • Sidmouth – Dillmouth scenes
    • Michelmores Solicitors, Church Street - Walter Fane's office. These are the premises of an actual law firm today.
  • Cadhay House, Ottery Saint Mary – Anstell Manor[2]
  • Southtown House, Sowden Lane, Lympstone, Exmouth EX8 5AD - Dr Kennedy's house
  • Oak Cottage, Luscombe Hill, Dawlish, Devon EX7 0PX - Galbraith's house

Research notes[]

  • There is an easter egg in the episode. Towards the end, in the scene where Giles is calling Gwenda from the hospital, there is a poster on the wall advertising the "Ottery Saint Mary village church fete" to be held at Cadhay House and Gardens. Cadhay House was used in the episode as the filming location of Anstell Manor where Colonel Erskine lived.