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Agatha Christie’s "The Mousetrap" triggers new and highly entertaining film, "See How They Run"

Audrey Kupferberg, seated at a desk in her office
Audrey Kupferberg
Audrey Kupferberg

When it comes to things theater and movie-related, my friend Monty Arnold is a most reliable source, an expert in both entertainment fields. Receiving news from him that Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is finally coming to Broadway in 2023 was good news, indeed. Then Monty added that the longest running play in the world is now the springboard for a new movie called See How They Run.

My cup runneth over!

The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End in October 1952. Originally a radio play called Three Blind Mice, it was Christie’s birthday present to Mary of Teck, Queen Consort to Britain’s King-Emperor George V. The whodunit begins with a woman’s murder and then follows a group of guests at a country manor house. Is a killer among them? Soon an Inspector Trotter arrives amidst a snowstorm to solve the crime – or will it be crimes? Traditionally, at the end of the play the audience is sworn to secrecy as to the identity of the killer.

Since 1974, The Mousetrap has been playing at St. Martin’s Theatre, only temporarily closing for COVID. So far, I have seen The Mousetrap twice. Each time I thoroughly enjoyed my experience, especially because I couldn’t remember who the killer was by the time of my second visit. So much lore accompanies Christie’s play. Two cast members played their roles for more than a decade. Richard Attenborough was the original Inspector Trotter. The plot is based on a real-life murder. Reviews were mixed in 1952. More than ten million theater-goers have seen The Mousetrap to date.

Now we have a new feature film that incorporates The Mousetrap into its plot. See How They Run is a comedy and a murder mystery. In both genres, it’s a success. The fast-paced plot revolves around a group of quirky characters who either are murdered or are suspects, and the inspector and his raw constable who attempt to solve the crime. There are many nods to the original play. The film’s story takes place is 1953.

Leo Kopernick, a Hollywood director played by Adrian Brody, has arrived in London to make a movie of The Mousetrap. He and screenwriter, with the jokey name of Mervyn Cocker-Norris, acted by David Oyelowo, are at odds. Both performers happily chew the scenery, and their lively characters get the party rolling.

Soon after the first crime takes place, two Scotland Yard detectives arrive on the scene. The story mixes a form of fictional “real life” with actions and characters in Christie’s classic play.

Sam Rockwell is Inspector Stoppard, likely a name acknowledging playwright Tom Stoppard who wrote The Real Inspector Hound in the 1960s, a play that spoofs The Mousetrap. Rockwell is terrific in a role that easily could have been cliched, stale. His sidekick, the earnest but inexperienced Constable Stalker, is performed by Saoirise Ronan. My goodness, she’s good. Great comic faces and timing… and such chemistry with Rockwell! Together these actors could co-star in a TV detective series that might run longer than Morse, Lewis and Endeavour combined!

See How They Run is light fare, a murder mystery in the tradition of the “cozy”. Even comedies about murder can be dark, but not this film. I smiled throughout and laughed more than once. The characters are outlandish and fun. The production values are first-rate. The cinematography favors bright colors, and that element helps to bring out the artifice and fun of the tale.

See How They Run is widely available from a variety of streaming sources. It continues to run on the big screen in movie theaters.

Audrey Kupferberg is a film and video archivist and retired appraiser. She is lecturer emeritus and the former director of Film Studies at the University at Albany and co-authored several entertainment biographies with her late husband and creative partner, Rob Edelman.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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