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Television Reviews : Zimbalist, McClanahan Good Fit in ‘Brown Suit’

Agatha Christie’s “The Man in the Brown Suit,” airing at 9 tonight on Channels 2 and 4, is missing its ‘20s British flavor: This early Christie thriller ( sans Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot) has been Americanized and updated to the present. Christie fans don’t have to stay away, though. The breezy adaptation leaves the prolific mystery writer’s twists and turns fairly intact and makes for pleasant viewing.

Directed by Alan Grint, set in Middle Eastern and African locales (actually filmed in Madrid, Cadiz and off the coast of Spain), the film is escapist fare with an international touch. What makes it most worthwhile, however, is the enjoyable cast, particularly Stephanie Zimbalist as Christie’s adventure-hungry heroine, Anne Beddingfeld.

Anne, a tourist in Egypt, witnesses a death and sees a “man in a brown suit” running from the scene. She finds murder, stolen diamonds and romance when she follows a clue to a cruise ship full of upper-crust eccentrics.

Zimbalist is true to Christie’s creation, humorous and feisty, her strong, beautiful face fairly aglow with eagerness for adventure and romance. She is aided and abetted by Rue McClanahan, who plays bubbly, rich, husband-hunting Suzy Blair. McClanahan simply does a variation of her appealing “Golden Girls” character, but she and Zimbalist play cozily off each other.

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Edward Woodward, Nickolas Grace and Tony Randall are a kick to watch--Randall appears in several guises--and Simon Dutton is a highly attractive hero. Carla Jean Wagner’s script fails primarily in the character of a paunchy, balding CIA man named Gordon Race (Ken Howard plays this thankless role). Christie’s original, who appeared in several books, was the darkly handsome, mysteriously saturnine Johnny Race of the Secret Service.


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