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The Pale Horse is a television adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel The Pale Horse produced by ITV in 1997. Directed by Charles Beeson with script by Alma Cullen, the television film was first broadcast on ITV on 23 Dec 1997.

Synopsis[]

Some changes to the characters in the original have been made but without changing the basic premise of the original novel. Thus it can be considered a reasonably faithful adaptation.

Comparison with the original story[]

  • Some characters such as Ariadne Oliver and Rhoda Despard are removed.
  • In the novel Mark is a historian. In the film he is a sculptor.
  • Tilly Tuckerton (Thomasina Tuckerton) and her family lives in Much Deeping. Here she has a step-sister Poppy but she is not a parallel of Poppy Stirling.
  • In this adaptation Mark Easterbrook finds the dying Father Gorman in an alley. The police initially suspects that he killed the priest. Trying to clear himself is the reason he embarks on his separate line of investigation. Hermia helps him part of the way but Mark later dumps Hermia and develops an interest in Kate Mercer (Katherine Corrigan in the original).
  • In this adaptation, Zechariah Osbourne is not a pharmacist but a doctor but otherwise his plot role is quite similar. He is also Venables' doctor. Venables offends Osbourne when he rejects his advice and refuses to let him do a physical examination. Venables tells him that he considers Sir William Dugdale, his Harley Street consultant, to be the leading expert in his condition. Osbourne resents Venables and is motivated to expose him as a fraud who is not really wheelchair bound. Osbourne's actions here branch off to a separate sideplot
  • There is a sideplot involving Osbourne and Venables. In this adaptation Venables is actually a false identity. He is a bank robber who has taken over the identity of the real polio-stricken and crippled Venables who had died some years ago. Here the present Venables really can walk and is just pretending to be wheelchair bound. Osbourne for reasons given above denounces Venables to the police as a possible culprit in the killing of Tilly Tuckerton. This actually leads Corrigan to do a detailed look at Osbourne's background and for most of the show Venables remains as the main suspect in the eyes of the police. Dr Osbourne actually collaborate with Mark Easterbrook to photograph "Venables" in a situation where he is tricked into walking.
  • Venables is accompanied by his gang of bank-robbers. They murder Florence Tuckerton because for some reason she has stumbled on Venables being a fake identity--this is not made very clear in the show.
  • In the book, Mark Easterbrook realises that the poison being used is thallium by combining a number of observations: the hairloss by the victims, Rhoda's dogs having fur loss and "an article I had read in a medical journal in New York". It is of course implausible for Mark Easterbrook as a sculptor to be reading medical journals in New York. In this adaptation the connection to thallium is made much more directly and dramatically:
    • From Elieen Brandon, Mark learns that her questions were about toiletries such as toothpaste and shampoo.
    • Mark goes to his studio... most of the toiletries appear to be taken away. There's someone, a workman, in the studio. He knocks Mark on the head and escapes.
    • Mark recovers and pursues into the sidestreets where the mystery workman knocks him on the head again, this time more seriously.
    • Mark comes to and staggers around for a while, finally ending up at the house of Dr Osbourne where he asks for help.
    • While Osbourne is treating him, Mark bends down to pick up a dropped towel; he notices a workman's bag and a tube of toothpaste!
    • Mark attacks and subdues Dr Osbourne and threatens to squeeze the toothpaste into his mouth if he does not reveal the poison, so Osbourne tells him it is thallium.
  • Earlier, Mark does call around to ascertain that hairloss occured among many of the victims but since he obtained the truth by brute force, this plot element is not really utilised.

Cast[]

Filming locations[]

  • Hall Barn, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire - Hermia's house
  • Hambleden, Buckinghamshire - Much Deeping street scenes
    • St Mary the Virgin Church, Hambleden - Much Deeping church, Tilly's funeral, Venables meets Osbourne later outside.
    • Hambleden Manor, Hambleden - Venables's house
  • Crossways Farm, Abinger Hammer, Surrey - Exterior of house of the three witches
  • Warwick Place North, London, England, UK as Exterior of Brindle House Hotel
  • Meecham Court, Battersea, London, England, UK as Mark Easterbrook talks to market researcher Eileen Brandon)
  • Wormwood Scrubs Prison, Du Cane Road, East Acton, London, England, UK as Exterior of prison gate
  • Chelsea Bridge, Battersea, London UK as London street scene
  • Raymond Burton House, Albert Street, London, England, UK as Exterior of Lincoln Bradley's office
  • The Chequers Inn, Fingest Lane, Fingest, Buckinghamshire, England, UK as The place where Kate Mercer meets Mark Easterbrook
  • 30 Market Place, St Albans, Hertfordshire - Apex Gallery, today a Cafe Nero
  • Brydges Place, London, England, UK as The alley where Father Gorman is murdered
  • Richmond Theatre, 1 Little Green, Richmond, Greater London, England, UK as The Playhouse Theatre, where Mark Easterbrook walks out of Macbeth performance
  • St Peter's Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire, England, UK as The location where Mark Easterbrook almost is hit by a car
  • Furzehill Place, Stanley Hill, Pirbright, Woking, Surrey GU24 0DN - the Tuckerton house

Research notes

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