Righting the Wrong
Crime writer Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) finds herself investigating yet another suspicious murder but this one is closer to home as she finds herself investigating the lynching of slave Samuel Pinkney (Michael Jace) some 140 years earlier after being accused of murdering a plantation owner. Samuel was the slave of Sarah McCullough (Angela Lansbury), Jessica's Great Aunt and together with Cassandra Hawkins (Phylicia Rashad) a distant relative of Samuel they try to dig in to the past. But they find themselves not only with the difficulties of time to contend with but also Stanford Thornton (David Ogden Stiers) a man of Southern sensibilities who believes that Samuel was guilty.
I have to applaud those who came up with the idea of "Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man" as whilst the idea of an old crime being investigated by more contemporary characters is nothing special it is a nice variation for the "Murder, She Wrote" series of TV shows and TV movies. Basically what I am saying is that if this third "Murder, She Wrote" had just been another case of Jessica in the wrong place at the wrong time it would have been just another movie doing the same sort of thing we had watched before.
Of course this investigating an old crime also allows for the wonderful Angela Lansbury to play Jessica as well as Great Aunt Sarah and that means we have some costume drama going on as we are taken back to the mid 19th century where the crime took place. The novelty factor of both Lansbury playing two parts and the recreation of the past are entertaining in the fake TV movie sort of way where the focus is on characters who act dramatically around each other rather than realism. On the subject of which the racism aspect of the drama whilst apparent as we meet characters who believe in being tough on slaves whilst others more humane it isn't gritty realism.
The thing is that whilst there is some interest when it comes to the actual crime the real enjoyment of "Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man" is its easy going tone and enjoyable performances with Angela Lansbury turning in another enjoyable performance and looking good in the costume drama part of the movie. But what is interesting is the interactions with Phylicia Rashad in the present and you kind of wish they hand found away to start the TV shows again but with both Lansbury and Rashad in them as they have the same sort of charm and vibe.
What this all boils down to is that "Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man" is an entertaining variation on what you normally get from a Jessica Fletcher storyline with Lansbury delivering yet another enjoyable performance as Fletcher but also as her Great Aunt Sarah.