The Singing Detective (1986)

TV Mini-Series  -   -  Drama | Musical | Mystery
8.7
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Ratings: 8.7/10 from 3,209 users  
Reviews: 47 user | 10 critic

Tormented and bedridden by a debilitating disease, a mystery writer relives his detective stories through his imagination and hallucinations.

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Season:

1

Year:

1986
6 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete series cast summary:
...
 Philip Marlow (6 episodes, 1986)
...
 Mark Binney / ... (6 episodes, 1986)
...
 Nurse Mills (6 episodes, 1986)
...
 Mr. Hall (6 episodes, 1986)
Gerard Horan ...
 Reginald (6 episodes, 1986)
Leslie French ...
 Mr. Tomkey / ... (6 episodes, 1986)
...
 First Mysterious Man (6 episodes, 1986)
...
 Second Mysterious Man (6 episodes, 1986)
Sharon D. Clarke ...
 Night Nurse (6 episodes, 1986)
Lyndon Davies ...
 Philip (aged 10) (6 episodes, 1986)
Geff Francis ...
 Porter (6 episodes, 1986)
...
 Nicola (5 episodes, 1986)
...
 Mrs. Marlow / ... (5 episodes, 1986)
...
 Mr. Marlow (5 episodes, 1986)
...
 Staff Nurse White (5 episodes, 1986)
Janet Henfrey ...
 Schoolteacher (5 episodes, 1986)
...
 Dr. Gibbon (4 episodes, 1986)
William Speakman ...
 Mark Binney (aged 10) / ... (4 episodes, 1986)
...
 Dr. Finlay (4 episodes, 1986)
Charles Simon ...
 George Adams (4 episodes, 1986)
Wally Thomas ...
 Grandad Baxter (3 episodes, 1986)
Kate McKenzie ...
 Sonia (3 episodes, 1986)
Trevor Cooper ...
 Cloth Cap / ... (3 episodes, 1986)
Charon Bourke ...
 Amanda (2 episodes, 1986)
Mary MacLeod ...
 Sister Malone (2 episodes, 1986)
Thomas Wheatley ...
 Registrar (2 episodes, 1986)
...
 Uncle John (2 episodes, 1986)
...
 Aunt Emily (2 episodes, 1986)
Niven Boyd ...
 First Soldier (2 episodes, 1986)
Angela Curran ...
 Mary (2 episodes, 1986)
...
 Second Soldier (2 episodes, 1986)
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Storyline

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 <bhob2@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Details

Country:

|

Language:

Release Date:

16 November 1986 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Az éneklő detektív  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(6 episodes)

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to director Jon Amiel in the audio commentary, Janet Henfrey, who plays the cruel school teacher, is in reality "a very deeply gentle woman", and she had to go through a lot of painful rehearsing to muster the kind of cruelty towards children that the part required of her. See more »

Quotes

Doctor: [Doctors and nurses have been clustered round, discussing Marlow's condition while ignoring him] How do you feel about trying one of the new retinoids? Hmm?
[pauses]
Doctor: Do you understand the question?
Philip E. Marlow: Uh - no, I don't think so.
Doctor: [slowly] I'm asking you if you'd like to try one of the new...
Philip E. Marlow: I don't understand the question because I seem to have regressed into a helpless, pathetic condition of total dependency, of a kind normally associated with infancy. The last time I experienced anything remotely ...
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Karaoke (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

Peg o' My Heart
(uncredited)
Music by Fred Fisher
Performed by Max Harris & His Novelty Trio during the credits
See more »

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User Reviews

Like a giant jigsaw
26 July 2002 | by (Derby, England) – See all my reviews

This is Dennis Potter's 'Sergeant Pepper' - the work of his life. One of those times when the recurring themes and characters from an artist's collected works come together at the right moment, with the right direction and the right actors.

The story is simple - embittered, sarcastic, over-the-hill author is admitted to hospital with a highly disfiguring skin condition. Whilst lying virtually helpless in his bed, he begins to rewrite one of his pulp novels (The Singing Detective) and to reminisce on his childhood in the Forest of Dean and London. But the memories and fiction start to overlap, with some hallucinations thrown in for good measure!

In the hands of lesser mortals, this could have been a disaster (I fear for the 2003 remake. Robert Downey Jr?!). But the direction of Amiel and the acting of the entire cast are outstanding. Michael Gambon is stunning as the (initially) sour and downright nasty Marlowe. That we sympathise with him given all of his shortcomings is testament to this.

The subtext is of a man exorcising his demons and coming to terms with his guilt: guilt about the death of his mother, guilt about his treatment of the women in his life, guilt about his victimisation of a schoolmate.

One of those films that is like a giant jigsaw - at first what appear to be a random collection of unrelated images which are rearranged, flipped over and pieced together. Ultimately we are presented with solutions to everything - almost.

After all, not everything has a solution...


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