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Agatha is a 1979 British drama thriller film directed by Michael Apted, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Dustin Hoffman and Timothy Dalton, and written by Kathleen Tynan. The Technovision film focuses on renowned crime writer Agatha Christie's famous 11-day disappearance in 1926.
The film opens as Agatha Christie (Redgrave) gets a silver cup engraved for her husband Archie, who receives the gift with utter disdain. The couple walks to a publicity event for Agatha’s new novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. They are tailed into the venue by American reporter Wally Stanton (Hoffman). The next morning, Archie demands a divorce, saying he loves his secretary Nancy Neele (Gregory).
That night, Agatha drives off from the house and gets into an accident. The next morning, the police find her wrecked car. The press flock to the accident scene and learn that Christie left a letter for her secretary, prompting speculation of suicide.
Agatha arrives by train in Harrogate and takes a cab to the Old Swan Hotel, where she books a room for a fortnight. She registers as Theresa Neele from Cape Town. In the lounge, another guest, Evelyn Crawley (Morse) notices Agatha’s ripped stockings and muddy shoes. Agatha makes a note later to “use” Crawley.
The next day, Agatha begins receiving treatments at the Royal Baths. Meanwhile, the newspapers are publishing front page stories about Agatha’s disappearance. The police wonder why Archie is not helping with the search for his wife, but he has gone to Harrogate with Nancy for her slimming treatments. Meanwhile, Stanton interviews Agatha’s secretary. She reveals that Agatha left her a coded message in The Times advertisements..
The ad leads Stanton to the hotel in Harrogate. He makes a big show of checking in while Agatha is on the phone at the front desk. In the billiards parlor, Stanton helps Agatha make a winning triple bank shot. He introduces himself as Curtis Shacks Jr., an American seeking treatment for constipation. They spend the evening together, and he makes a pass at her, which she declines. In his room, he types up notes about her behavior.
Agatha researches the various spa treatments such as the galvanic bath and the Bergonic chair. She asks the attendants to explain how they avoid making a fatal mistake with the equipment. Stanton follows Agatha to a local electronics shop and begins to work out what she is up to. Agatha peruses a manual for the Bergonic chair and begins to experiment with the rheostat. She also poses as a staff member on the phone and reschedules Nancy’s appointment for an earlier time.
Agatha is shown rigging the controls for the Bergonic chair as Nancy undresses for her appointment. When Nancy enters the treatment room, Agatha calls out from hiding to say that the nurse is not there. She asks Nancy to turn on the electricity. Having deduced Agatha’s plan, Stanton is urgently searching for the room where Nancy’s appointment is. Nancy flips the switch, causing a massive spark. Stanton follows the sound of Nancy’s scream to find her all right, but that behind a curtain, Agatha is sitting in the Bergonic chair. Her suicide attempt is nearly successful, but Stanton rescues her with CPR.
The Christies claim that Agatha suffered from amnesia from the accident and remembers nothing. Agatha visits Stanton as he packs in his hotel room. He hands her a copy of the story he wrote, confessing that he cannot file it. Agatha stoops to help him pack, and Stanton confesses his love for her. She explains that she will divorce Archie, hinting at a possible future with Stanton. He watches the Christies depart at the train station. The closing credits reveal that the couple divorced two years later, and that Archie married Nancy.
- Vanessa Redgrave as Agatha Christie
- Dustin Hoffman as Wally Stanton
- Timothy Dalton as Archie Christie
- Helen Morse as Evelyn Crawley
- Celia Gregory as Nancy Neele
- Paul Brooke as John Foster
- Carolyn Pickles as Charlotte Fisher
- Timothy West as Kenward
- Tony Britton as William Collins
- Alan Badel as Lord Brackenbury
- Robert Longden as Pettelson
- Donald Nithsdale as Uncle Jones
- Yvonne Gilan as Mrs. Braithwaite
- Sandra Voe as Therapist
- Barry Hart as Supt. MacDonald
- David Hargreaves as Sgt. Jarvis
- Tim Seely as Capt. Rankin
- Jill Summers as Nancy's Aunt
- Chris Fairbank as Luland
- Liz Smith as Flora
- Peter Arne as Hotel Manager
Kathleen Tynan began researching the project as a BBC documentary. During her research she told producer David Puttnam about it and he suggested it be turned into a feature film. The Agatha Christie estate opposed the movie and tried to get it stopped.
Agatha was generally very well received by critics, and maintains an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not all critics liked the movie, however: Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two and a half stars out of four and told readers that the relationship between Christie and the American journalist "isn't real. It's never for a moment deeply felt -- it's just deeply acted."
- Unraveling a Christie Mystery: Unraveling a Christie Mystery Krier, Beth Ann. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 11 Oct 1978: f1.
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- Agatha at Box Office Mojo