Writer Philip Marlow is in hospital being treated for a severe skin affliction, something he has suffered from for 25 years but is now worse than it has ever been. He finds himself in a general ward ...
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Frances de la Tour
Reworking material from his first novel, "Hide and Seek" (1973), and folding this into a prismatic blend of autobiographical details, popular music and 1940s film noir, Dennis Potter delivered a drama now regarded as a 20th-century masterwork. Detective novelist Philip Marlow (Michael Gambon) suffers from the crippling disease of psoriatic arthritis. Confined to a hospital bed, Marlow mentally rewrites his early Chandleresque thriller, "The Singing Detective," with himself in the title role, drifting into a surreal 1945 fantasy of spies and criminals, along with vivid memories of a childhood in the Forest of Dean. As past events and 1940s songs surface in his subconscious, Marlow's voyage of self-discovery provides a key to conquering his illness, while his noir-styled hallucinations evoke the Philip Marlowe of Chandler's "Murder, My Sweet" (1944), starring Dick Powell, who later became a "singing detective" on radio's "Richard Diamond, Private Detective" (1949), crooning to ... Written by
Bhob Stewart <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The scene where a delusional old patient climbs into bed with Marlow, thinking that he is his wife, actually happened for real to Dennis Potter during one of his innumerable stays in hospital. See more »
Philip E. Marlow:
There are songs to sing, there are feelings to feel, there are thoughts to think. That makes three things, and you can't do three things at the same time. The singing is easy, syrup in my mouth, and the thinking comes with the tune, so that leaves only the feelings. Am I right, or am I right? I can sing the singing. I can think the thinking. But you're not going to catch me feeling the feeling. No, sir.
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I absolutely adore this piece of work. Jon Amiel's sensitive, clever direction, Dennis Potter's biting, brilliant script and the towering lead performance by the great Michael Gambon makes this a treat to watch. It's for those viewers who like to be treated as if they have a brain in their head and they don't need everything spelled out for them and telegraphed what is about to happen. With patience, this story unfolds with amazing power and in the long run, stunning optimism. There are three stories going on, really: an ill writer with a horrible skin condition is hospitalized and he rants and yells at all of those who come by him; fellow patients, nurses and doctors. But as he lays in bed, he begins to hallucinate from his high fever and he begins to re-write an old crime noir novel he once wrote called, The Singing Detective. He also is completely overwhelmed with memories from his childhood and growing up amongst a poor, ignorant coal-mining family in the woods of England. Aside from the amazing Gambon, this film is loaded with great performances: from Janet Suzman to Bill Patterson to Alison Steadman (as his unhappy Mother). I own a copy of this magnificent mini-series and I watch it over and over. A masterpiece. Mr. Potter, rest in peace, sir.
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