|Index||4 reviews in total|
As many of us that were eternally grateful to Acorn Media for reissuing
after too many decades the Lord Peter Wismey "Clouds of Witness," just so
many and perhaps more can welcome back The Unpleasantness at the Bellona
Club with the incomparable Ian Carmichael whose idea it was to film the
series in the first place and who almost did not get the
Like the other four in this series, this is a low budget, shot mostly in the studio, affair; but it is impeccably "period" in décor, dress, and even idiom. The plot involves at first not a "who done it?" but a "when was it done?" Since the vast inheritance depends on the timing of the deaths of an elderly brother and sister, the hour if not the very minute of the former's demise is the Big Question. Surprisingly, that mystery is revealed half way through the story; but by then we have a murderer to find and.well, I will not spoil things for you and urge you to see for yourself.
Carmichael's Wimsey is ever the aristocrat, here ready to quote W.S. Gilbert and W. Shakespeare (though not nearly as frequently as Rumpole will quote his favorite poets), even though he must apologize now and then for being over the heads of some of his less well-educated acquaintances. In this story the grinding poverty of one of the interested parties is shown in striking contrast to Wimsey's luxurious accommodations and ability to be very generous with his money (which after all was never earned by any workaday sweat of his brow).
As with all of this series, the minor characters are extremely well drawn, right down to a patron of a tea shop who becomes all flustered in meeting "a lord." While the two opposing lawyers might border on the Dickensian, they are both shown to be intelligent and honestly working for the good of their clients. And even the villain is basically a very Good Person in all other respects! But such is the universe created by Dorothy Sayers and it is treated with respect and intelligence in this fine series.
> Now we can only hope that Acorn Media will accelerate the releases of "Murder Must Advertise," "Five Red Herrings," and "The Nine Tailors."
Oh by the way, they are releasing at the same time some of the Poirots that have been butchered by A&E to make room for their insultingly frequent and overlong piggyback commercials. See the webpages for those. And by the way again, a comparison of Poirot and Wimsey would make a fascinating study.
Has the same loving attention to period as Clouds of Witness - but I don't think people said women were 'liberated' in the 20s. Some of my favorite lines have gone in favour of imported jokes that aren't as good as Sayers'. Anna Cropper is a natural for Ann Dorland, but it's a mistake to see her calling a mystery man. The actress playing Margery Phelps - here portrayed as Lord Peter's part-time girlfriend, and why not?- is impossibly arch. And why were George's lines about masculine women given to his wife to report (George says...)? Why was the scene where Shiela (the wife) embarrassingly reveals their debts (and her own devoted but rather irritating personality) cut? The actor playing George, though, is almost too good as the shell-shocked ex-officer. Just a few carps from a devoted Sayers fan. xx
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't know that what I am about to write really constitutes a
"spoiler", but if you haven't read the novel or seen the film, you
might want to opt out of reading this until you have seen or read, as
the case may be.
The BBC did an excellent job of presenting nearly all the denizens in and around The Bellona Club, which as Latin scholars all, you will recognise as a club for former officers of His Majesty's armed services. A dead body is discovered in the library on "Remembrance Day" (as the Brits tend to call "Armistice Day", November 11), and since there is no "Poppy" pinned to the old general's lapel, "Lord Peter Wimsey" immediately realises that "It's Murder!".
You don't see the connection? Well, see this nice BBC film and you will. There are many excellent portrayals, over and beyond Ian Carmichael's insouciant "Lord Peter", not the least of which is Anna Cropper's "Ann Dorland". One minor cavil (and here we are approaching the possible "spoiler") is that at the end of the novel there is the suggestion that "Ann" and "Robert Fentiman" may possibly be constituting "an item" in the near future, which little touch is omitted from the film. I wonder why.
What I really want to discuss, especially after seeing this entry in the five-part Ian Carmichael series of "Lord Peter" TV films, is the prodigious consumption of alcoholic beverages by the characters of the story. "Lord Peter" and his upper class friends, including usually the ladies, are seldom seen without a glass of "Scotch and splash", "brandy (Napoleon 1800, of course) and soda", or Sherry clutched in their aristocratic hands. The lower orders, except "Bunter", who, of course, drinks whatever "Lord Peter" drinks, will be seen swilling down a large pint (Imperial, that is) of bitters, cider, or other potent brew. How in the world did Dorothy imagine her characters could remain sober with all this boozing? The BBC may have exaggerated a bit, but what they have shown is pretty much what Dorothy wrote. While watching this series, I found it very difficult to follow my doctor's orders!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you're a fan of old-fashioned, British-to-the-bone, period-set, BBC-produced murder mysteries, you'll probably find "The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club" a cozy, comfortable delight. If you're not, you'll probably find it stuffy, stodgy and stagey. Me, I'm somewhere in the middle, leaning more towards the second camp this time. The story is divided into four chapters lasting a total of about 180 minutes, but it probably could have been told in half that time; most of the narrative lacks propulsion, and there is even less outdoor "action" than in "Clouds of Witness". The last 10 minutes are well-done, but getting there can be a sometimes agonizing process. ** out of 4.
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