October 26, 1992 12:00 PM

PBS (Sun., Oct. 25, 9 P.M. ET)

B

A man’s voice is on the other end of the line, with the same message for a dozen or so aging literary Londoners—poets, writers and their spouses and friends. “Remember,” the voice says, “you must die.”

The ultimate point of this Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of a 1959 Muriel Spark novel is, of course, to identify that voice, but for the most part it’s the chance for such first-rate actors as Maggie Smith and Michael Hordern to play off each other in a mild comedy. Hordern is one of the people being warned; Smith is the paid companion of his wife, a senile novelist (Renee Asherson). Smith is in comic-sinister mode, plotting to pack Asherson off to a nursing home and take her place beside Hordern.

Memento Mori treats the elderly as sweet, bumbling buffoons making inappropriate remarks at funerals, knocking over teapots, and so on. The seventh stage of man is, apparently, cuteness. The saving graces are Smith, saucer eyes taking a silent inventory of the furniture, and that ultimate revelation, which is both whimsical and suitably grave.

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