25 September 2013 | Lechuguilla
An Average Whodunit Murder Mystery
A handless corpse in a small boat and a long-ago death figure into the plot of "Unnatural Causes". The story has about the right number of suspects. The ending was a surprise to me; I had guessed the murderer to be a different person.
In this whodunit story by mystery writer P.D. James, the inevitable comparison is to the works of Agatha Christie, whose stories run the gamut from fairly good to brilliant. There are plenty of red herrings and plot twists in "Unnatural Causes", which may help to explain how I got the killer wrong. The two authors thus compare favorably in terms of plots. The script does a good job of identifying character names except for Dalgliesh's girlfriend.
On the other hand, although I found Adam Dalgliesh (Roy Marsden) to be sufficiently intellectual, he was less interesting and less quirky than a Hercule Poirot or other Christie police character. I did not care for the romantic subplot between Dalgliesh and his girlfriend. The girlfriend character I did not like at all. The subplot seemed distracting and intrusive to the murder mystery.
Prod design and costumes are acceptable, especially given that this is a made-for-TV movie. But sound quality was not all that great. At the end, the killer's explanation largely escaped me because the person either mumbled their script lines; or more likely, ambient sounds were too loud relative to the dialogue.
"Unnatural Causes" will generally appeal to viewers who enjoy whodunit mysteries. I'm not one to downgrade a film just because it doesn't conform precisely to the book on which it is based, though some people will. Overall, I would rate this film at least average, or maybe slightly above, for its genre.