As far as I remember, Edgar Allan Poe´s short crime story Thou Art The Man is just a few pages long, told in first person by very sarcastic unnamed narrator, and occupied by only four characters, including the narrator. The identity of the murderer is quite clear there, being constanty indicated by ironic tone the narrator uses every time he talks about that person. So, the pleasure from reading the story is not really caused by constant questioning who the killer could be, but by a curiosity whether or not he will be revealed and if so, then how. The spectacular ending, in which the archaic-sounding titular sentence is expressed, is what the story is most famous for.
Czech TV adaptation of it, written by Jana Knitlová and directed by Lucie Bělohradská, changed a lot. Even the “canonical” ending is little bit different. But more importantly, the adaptators generously expanded the number of suspects and added two detectives – one totally dumb police inspector, and one intelligent stranger who is suspect himself and as such, he has a good motivation to solve the crime.
So, unlike its source material, this TV adaptation is a traditional whodunnit with no less traditional English manor setting and the overall feel is more like if you are watching some Edgar Wallace or Agatha Christie detective story. The humourous tone of the short story is unfortunatelly ignored, wich is not unusual in cases of Poe adaptations.
I was relieved that Mr. Shattleby (the same man as in the Poe´s story, just with a different name) remains the victim, because the actor who played him, Jan Hrušínský, was so annoying after just few minutes of his appearance, that murder seemed to be the only right option. However, at first the incident was considered to be only a disappearance, not necessarily a murder.
Mr. Shattleby´s horse returned to his barn alone and injured by shot, while Shattleby himself was missing even after several investigative actions conducted by his close friend, Mr. Charlie Goodfellow (Viktor Preiss). Now and then, there were discovered some clues during these actions, most of them indicating that Mr. Shattleby is really dead and his nephew David (Jan Teplý Jr.) could be responsible for the crime.
Another theory, championed by sister of the missing Klára (Taťjana Medvecká) nominated Mr. Monroe (Lukáš Hlavica) as the possible killer. Monroe, who arrived in Shattleby´s house just shortly before the incident, is little bit mysterious figure, because with exception of the missing master of the house, nobody actually knows anything about him.
This character is an equivalent of the short story narrator and also seems to be inspired by detective C. Auguste Dupin from another Poe´s stories, The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter. After realizing that police inspector (Jiří Langmajer) is more a strict bureaucrat than a brilliant mind the case calls for, Monroe takes control under the investigation.
What follows, is rather conventional string of chatty scenes of Monroe speaking with each other character and almost always discovering some secret of that person, widening the scale of possible offenders and their motives. I must add that this is actually a good change, because the only thing I didn´t like on the source material, was rather weak motive of the killer. In this, his plan is more sophisticated and his position in the house linked to more people than just to the victim.
With few exceptions, acting is very good. Viktor Preiss and Taťjana Medvecká are seasoned professionals and their names in the credits usually indicate certain level of quality. But I was also pleasently surprised by Lukáš Hlavica, who plays Monroe. He is acclaimed theater actor and director, but he rarely appears in front of a camera. Some other talents, like Klára Issová as neighbour´s daughter or Boris Rösner as Shattleby´s carter, are bit wasted in really small roles, the rest is OK.
IMDb page for this movie (less than 5 votes to date)