A different twist for Agatha Christie


Mystery fans likely remember Agatha Christie best for her quirky sleuth characters, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. But for a look at her equally deft touch with non-series writing, check out "The Agatha Christie Hour" on Maryland Public Television.

The three-story program began last week and continues tonight (at 10 o'clock) with "In a Glass Darkly," a clever period piece with elements that seem prescient of both Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling.

Nicholas Clay stars as a young man who visits a friend's imposing country mansion one weekend and, while dressing for dinner, seems to witness in a mirror the strangulation of a young woman by a man with a horrible neck scar.

Surprise! Moments later at dinner, Matthew recoils upon meeting the woman from the vision. She is his friend's sister, Sylvia (Emma Piper), and is in company with her fiance, Charles. Christie fans would predict, of course, that the man has a terrible scar on his neck.

Did Matthew see the future? Should he tell the young woman to save her from danger?

Well, he does, at which the story picks up its skirts and moves right along into a number of years of development, as Matthew enters the Army and finds himself in the awful trench warfare of World War I.

It would be wrong to reveal too much more plot here. But no mystery fan would fail to realize that Sylvia and Matthew come together again, and that the long-ago vision might yet materialize.

Interestingly, Christie's story deals with the early suspicion over the medical practice of psychiatry, and also clearly projects the condition our Vietnam veteran age has come to know as post-traumatic stress disorder.

The resolution of "In a Glass Darkly" may be a bit pat, but the English production is handsome and the suspense lingers right to the end.


Elsewhere on The Weekend Watch:

FROM THE ARCHIVES -- In addition to possessing the apparent antidote to aging, "American Bandstand" creator Dick Clark owns one of Hollywood's largest personal archives of memorable music performances on television. And in "Dick Clark's Golden Greats," the second of three periodic specials (airing tonight at 8 on Channel 54), we can see James Brown, Sonny and Cher, The Righteous Brothers and The Doors doing their things with the perpetual rock 'n' roll master of ceremonies.

THE MOVIE MARQUEE -- James Bond (Roger Moore) matches bullets with professional killer Christopher Lee in "The Man With the Golden Gun" at 8 tonight on cable's TBS. It's one of the better outings of Agent 007, with Britt Ecklund and Herve Villechaize.

CELEBRATING SOAP -- The CBS daytime serial "The Guiding Light" has been grinding out tales of turmoil for 40 years now. And in 'Guiding Light: The Primetime Special," at 9 p.m. Friday on Channel 11, TV's longest-running soap opera celebrates the anniversary with former and current cast members, celebrity fans and stars from other soaps among the guests.

A MUSIC MIX -- Jazz and some of America's greatest orchestral music mix in an encore "Evening at Pops" performance at 9 p.m. Friday on Maryland Public Television. Leonard Slatkin conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, as pianist John Browning performs Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," and Dave Brubeck and quartet do "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk."

THE SPORTING SCENE -- The Baltimore Arena is the center of the U.S. gymnastics world this week, and viewers can see both the women's and men's finals of the U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Trials as part of NBC's "Olympic Showcase" this weekend. The women's event is scheduled live at 2 p.m. Saturday (Channel 2), and the men's event, on tape, is part of the 4 p.m. broadcast on Sunday. (Note, however, that the Baltimore Orioles/Detroit Tigers game is airing at 1:30 p.m. Sunday and could delay Channel 2 joining the network gymnastics show.)

ON LOCATION -- In one of its periodic around-the-state visits, Maryland Public Television on Saturday plans to screen coverage of "St. Mary's Charter Days," the annual celebration in the founding site of Maryland. Look for short pieces during breaks between programs throughout the afternoon and evening.

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