Tom George’s film, “See How They Run” takes us back to those golden days when the theater had not become obsolete, and it was still on par with cinema. It was a time when Agatha Christie was at the peak of her career, and whatever she wrote caused a sensation. It was a time when thespians were considered celebrities, and they could earn their livelihood by just doing theater shows. So, let’s go back in time and observe the intricate details of a murder that took place in one of the most prestigious theatres in the city and witness the drama that was yet to be unfolded.
‘See How They Run’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
It was 1953, and The Mousetrap, a play written by Agatha Christie, became a huge hit. Moreover, it had its 100th show at the Ambassador Theater in the West End, London. John Woolf, who was present at the centennial celebrations, wanted to adapt the stage play into a motion picture. He was quite adamant about doing so, and he had already entered into a contract with Petula Spencer, an eminent theater impresario. Leo Kopernick, the Hollywood biggie, was going to be the director of the motion picture. Kopernick had always found Christie’s work a bit boring. To top it all off, he had a lot of creative differences with the writer of the film, Mervyn Cocker Norris. Kopernick had found the ending of the play way too convenient and simplistic. He wanted to give his audience something more. He had thought that he would have flashbacks in his climax, but Mervyn was opposed to the idea. The two weren’t able to solve their differences, and finally, Woolf had to be called to be the judge and take the final call. Kopernick asked both the men to at least give him a chance to narrate what he had written. The director had added a lot of spice to an ending that he found mundane.
Kopernick narrated that the protagonist went to the remote castle, where all the suspects and the killer are already present. The protagonist had a face-off with the killer, and he shot him. The killer also retaliated, but the protagonist was saved by his partner, who jumped in between and took a bullet for his colleague. Mervyn found the climax to be extremely ridiculous; according to him, it didn’t blend with the tone of the rest of the film. The trio wasn’t able to reach a conclusion as Kopernick had some prior engagements to attend. On the day of the centennial celebrations, Kopernick had entered into a brawl with Richard Attenborough. Richard played the protagonist, Detective Sergeant Trotter, in the play. He had gotten annoyed as Kopernick was flirting with his wife, Sheila Sim, who was also a part of the play and played the character of Mollie Ralston. Kopernick fell on the cake while fighting Richard and then went to the backstage area to change clothes. He was attacked by an anonymous man wearing an overcoat and a hat. Kopernick was killed that night, and his body was placed on the stage itself. Nobody knew who committed the offense, and immediately Scotland Yard was informed about the crime.
Stoppard And Stalker Begin To Investigate
Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker arrived at the scene to investigate the crime. Constable Stalker was an energetic individual and was very passionate about her work. She had a habit of jumping to conclusions almost immediately without even giving them a second thought. Stalker took notes about everything so that she doesn’t miss out on any details. On the other hand, Inspector Stoppard was more composed and calmer. He was a seasoned campaigner, and he had seen many tricky cases in his illustrious career. He had his own unique way of going about things, and the authorities didn’t meddle too much as they had trust in his abilities. Stoppard didn’t have any interest whatsoever in cinema, art, or any other creative fields. He didn’t know who Kopernick was, and he had never heard the name of Richard Attenborough in his entire life. Stalker was shocked to hear that. She was starstruck the moment she saw the cast and crew of the famous play sitting in the auditorium. She was beyond happy to know that she would get to interrogate these celebrities one-on-one. During the investigation, Petula Spencer was more interested in knowing if she would have to cancel the upcoming shows due to the investigation. She feared that she would have to incur huge losses as the shows were going housefull. Petula had entered into a contract with Woolf, which stated that the Mousetrap could only be adapted into a film when the theater run was over. It served the best interests of Woolf if the theater was shut down and Petula informed the detectives about the same.
Stoppard and Stalker went to The Savoy (a five-star Hotel), where Kopernick had been staying, and from there, they got to know that he had a heated argument with Mervyn a few days before he died. Mervyn had threatened Kopernick that he would kill him. Obviously, Mervyn didn’t mean it, but he had just said it in anger and under extreme provocation. Through Mervyn, the detectives came to know that Kopernick was all of a sudden shifted to The Savoy, and the production was bearing all the cost. Mervyn had presumed that Kopernick knew something about the producer and was in a position to blackmail him. The detectives went and talked to Woolf and came to know that Kopernick had come to know about his extramarital relationship with Ann Saville. Though Constable Stalker was jumping to conclusions after every testimony, Stoppard knew that they still had a long way to go before they found some incriminating evidence. The interrogation of Dennise Corrigan, the usher at Ambassador, was probably the most hilarious one among all of them. He said that he had seen a suspicious character the night Kopernick was murdered. Dennis said that the man wore a trouser and a hat (he felt that there was a need to specify that the hat was on his head and nowhere else), though he knew nothing about how he looked. Dennis was as clueless as a goldfish, and he couldn’t tell even one thing with certainty. The detectives didn’t get any leads after talking to Richard and Petula either.
Constable Stalker had formed another speculative theory according to which Stoppard was the main culprit. Mervyn had somewhat gotten a glimpse of the women who had come to meet Kopernick at the Savoy. Mervyn had given them a description based on whatever he was able to see that night. When Stalker had gone to drop off Stoppard at his house, she had seen the picture of his wife, kept in his bedroom. Stalker found an uncanny resemblance between that picture and the description that Mervyn had given. She speculated that Stoppard’s wife must be having an illicit relationship with Kopernick, which would have led the detective to kill him. That woman with whom Kopernick was that day had the same name as Stoppard’s wife, i.e., Joyce. Due to the similar names and appearance, Stalker had built her own imaginary narrative. But it was a baseless theory, and it was proved wrong as soon as Joyce was brought in front of Stoppard.
‘See How They Run’ Ending Explained: Who Killed Kopernick And Mervyn? What Was The Motive Behind The Killing?
Reality had become a whodunit itself, and nobody knew who the killer was. Richard, Sheila, John Woolf, and Ann reached Winterbrook House in Wallingford, Berkshire, as they were invited by Agatha Christie for dinner at her house. Fellowes, the butler, and Max Mallowan, Agatha Christie’s husband, had no clue that guests were going to arrive at their place. Max told them that the invite wasn’t sent by them, but nonetheless, he welcomed his guests and asked Fellowes to prepare dinner. Petula also joined them with her mother, as she had also gotten the same invite. Meanwhile, Stoppard and Stalker both figured out who the killer was. Joyce told Stalker that the night she was with Kopernick, he had picked up a fight with an anonymous man. Hearing the description, Stalker knew that she was talking about Dennis, who worked as an usher at the Ambassador theater. Stalker went to Dennis’ residence and found incriminating evidence. Stoppard went through the newspaper clippings in Mervyn’s house that were about the real-life case that had inspired The Mousetrap.
Dennis had come out of hiding and told the guests at Christie’s residence that he wanted revenge for the years of torture and mental agony. The Mousetrap was inspired by his life. Dennis had lost his brother in real life. He had thought that Agatha Christie would tell his story to the world. But it didn’t turn out like what he had imagined. Dennis had to watch that play over and over again, and it frustrated him. It felt like people were deriving pleasure from his tragedy. When he heard that a film was being made on it, he decided to kill the director and stop the film from being made. After Kopernick was murdered, Mervyn had new ideas for the film, which he often shared with Dennis. Dennis said that it made him sick to his core, and that’s why he killed him too. Agatha Christie heard the commotion outside and realized what was happening. She prepared tea and put rat poison in one of the cups. She came out and talked as if she wanted to resolve the dispute, but in reality, she just wanted to make Dennis drink the poisoned tea. Instead of Dennis, Fellowes drank it and died on the spot.
Life imitates art, and the storyboard that Kopernick created for his climax came to life. Stoppard wasn’t able to get a clear shot as Dennis held Agatha Christie and used her as a human shield. Sheila used a bottle of alcohol and set the house on fire. Stoppard shot Dennis twice but then ran out of bullets. Dennis was about to shoot him when Stalker came out of nowhere and saved his life. “See how they run” has its own “meta” moment, when Stoppard turns towards the camera, breaks the fourth wall, and in a classic Whodunit manner, tells the audience to not reveal who the killer is.
Dennis was not affected by the fact that his story had been adapted as a play, but he felt bad about how it was treated and executed by Agatha Christie. “See how they run” leaves it up to you to decide whether the renowned writer was in her right to do so or not. Dennis said that he wouldn’t have had any problem if the undistorted truth had come out in the open. But Christie had perverted the truth. She had used his tragedy and pain as a motive for the character of a deranged killer. Dennis had believed that after the play, The Mousetrap, his brother would rest in peace. But Christie made a mockery of his grief. Even Petula in the end said that it was loosely inspired by Dennis’ case. Maybe Petula was right, but at that moment it felt like she had a very ungrateful attitude towards a person who had gone through a lot. Dennis had to witness the travesty every single day as he worked as an usher in the theater. He witnessed the people getting entertained by something that had been a source of trauma in his life.
Dennis did try to take an extreme step in the end, but could he be blamed for it completely? Can we not say that the writer was unsympathetic towards his plight, and she treated his misfortune with utter disregard? A lot of times, stories and other works of the art stem from reality, and that is completely fine. Art imitates life, and sometimes life imitates art. We are allowed to take inspiration, and we are allowed to take creative liberties, but in the process, we shouldn’t exploit the resources at hand. Some people might also think that Dennis had false expectations, and just because the play didn’t give him much importance, he became agitated. If we look at the other side of the coin, then we see that in the present time, society has become so intolerant that if an artist starts curating his art according to the likes and dislikes of the audience, then they probably wouldn’t be able to create anything. So, it is very important to strike a balance. As much as it is necessary for an artist to not be dishonest and exploitative in nature, society too needs to be tolerant and give the artist room to express themselves.
“See How They Run” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Tom George.