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With his "owlish" glasses and a manservant named "Lugg"
Margery Allingham's Albert Campion at first seems like a real twit .
However, once you see our bespectacled hero in action you
realize that he is a very distinctive sleuth capable of solving
Aided by his valet cum assistant and friend, Magersfontein Lugg
he faces each case in a stylish 1930's approach that was typical
of the "golden age" of English Mysteries.
Peter Davison is perfectly cast as Albert (whose true name and
parentage are still a mystery) and he fits into his 1930's clothes
and locations with ease and grace but it is Brian Glover as Lugg
who really steals the show. A former wrestler before he became
an actor, Glover plays his part so convincingly that one wonders
how he could have been anything else in real life but Albert's
The two tackle some interesting cases in fabulous locations and
wonderful period cars.
If you like the protagonists from the golden age like Lord Peter
Wimsey and Tommy and Tuppance , Campion is for you. Since
this first appeared on "MYSTERY!" in 1989 it was never available
on video. Now for the first time it is on both VHS and
I have fond remembrances of this show from when it was first broadcast
on the BBC. It is well above the usual costume detective dramas of the
period and later. Campion is a real human with faults and failings and
has the best sidekick ever in Lugg. I recently watched "Death of a
Ghost" on VHS from the first series of this show. The VHS I watched was
released in the UK by WH Smiths in 1991 and has been butchered.
The story as originally screened ran for two 50 minute episodes, but the run time on this tape is 81 minutes. Allowing for a duplication of credits I still reckon 20 or so minutes was very obviously and clumsily chopped out. There were gaps in the narrative and If you are looking to buy this series check the running times on the back of the case before you buy. Each story should run at 100+ minutes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Peter Davison is an excellent Campion and Brian Glover perfect as the lugubrious Lugg. I've just watched Look to the Lady. The adaptors had the sense to stick to the book with all its weirdness and ghosts that aren't - or are they? Additional dialogue by Alan Plater might have been improvised by Campion himself (I love the bit about not being about to find eye of newt at Fortnum's or Harrods). All the actors are good, and the stately home plus ruined monastery is perfect. My only gripes: poor Beth is forced to wear some of the dowdiest outfits I've ever seen on an actress. All in shades of mud, lacking any shape and with awful additional frills, capes etc. And Professor Carey's last line is changed to the cliché'd quotation "There are more things in heaven and earth..." I think in the book he says "My very dear young man, it doesn't do to think too much about these things." Barbara Jefford is good as Mrs Dick, but some of her dialogue revealing her true horribleness is cut. Read the book - it'll send shivers down your spine. It's one of Margery Allingham's best.
Peter Davison is perfect as "Campion" in these mysteries from
If I were to compare this series to Inspector Alleyn, the difference is in the personality of the detectives. The Campion episodes are more lively, as Campion rubs elbows with both the low and the high classes with ease. He also is very whimsical.
I believe this is a take-off on Lord Peter Wimsey, more of one than the Inspector Alleyn mysteries. Campion has his manservant, Lugg, who is devoted to him and obviously from the streets. Brian Glover is great in the role.
Campion always looks very dapper and wears wonderful horn-rimmed glasses. The episodes are brighter in look than the Alleyn mysteries, and, like the Alleyn mysteries, they have high production values. Campion's background is a mystery. He's obviously well-educated. In the books he's supposedly related to royalty and cut off from his family, and he's not using his real name.
High quality mysteries, very well acted, with a lovely song which Peter Davison sings at the beginning which sets up the series perfectly: lyrical, tuneful, and bright.
This show has a number of sexy ingredients - English countryside, 1930s glamour, grand mansions and stately homes. Yet on balance, I found it less satisfying than other literary adaptations from this era. In seeking to be faithful to the original written stories, it picks up quite a bit of baggage that seems to speak to now-dated, prewar female sensibilities. This includes the central character's 'privileged' yet unexplained background. I'm sure 80 years ago, the very notion of a mysterious do-good aristocrat opting to fight crime would leave the ladies with a tingling sensation in their undergarments; not so much nowadays. There are other scenes, and twists and turns, which feel bookish and just packed in for good measure; they may have worked at the time, and especially on paper, but contribute little to the TV version. Mr. Campion himself fits the bill well - after all, avoiding to cast any remotely dashing male characters has been de rigueur in portraying 30s England. But after a while, his eternally goofy grin gets tiresome, particularly as there is not much else we learn about his background, childhood, career, personal life or romantic entanglements. The same applied to Lugg -- yes, the acting is amazingly realistic but after two episodes, the expression 'one-trick pony' will come to mind. All in all, a nice show to spend a quiet Saturday evening with, without getting shaken and stirred in the process.
This BBC production is light, engaging fun beautifully filmed. Its main strengths are the performances of Peter Davison and Brian Glover along with the impeccable art direction of Steve Keogh. The repartee between Campion and Lugg from the novels is translated well. In the series, both characters are composites of their literary counterparts who evolved considerably over the course of the nine novels published in the 1930s (the first one, "Crime at Black Dudley" was not filmed). If you don't have the time or inclination to read Ms. Allingham's early novels, watching this series is the second best thing. The screenplays are generally faithful to the novels given the expected amount of condensation required to fit each into a hundred minute film, and the episode casts feature numerous fine performances by supporting characters. Overall, a good example of how to bring novels to the screen. In summary, if you like the classic, British country-house murder mystery, this is a fine example of that genre you shouldn't miss.
I think the other reviews cover the lion's share of what there is to
say, but just a few comments:
- As of this writing, "Campion" is available on streaming Netflix, unabridged and with no commercials.
- I love the opening and closing theme music, especially from the first season. I am not sure why they changed it up for the second season.
- "Sweet Danger" is my favorite episode of the bunch, without a doubt.
- Peter Davison did a fabulous job in all the episodes and he is dressed to the nine's. No one else but Brian Glover could have been Lugg. The production values are quite high.
- I have not read the books but plan to start sometime this summer.
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