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"The Blackheath Poisonings" More at IMDbPro »

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Somewhat Twisted, Victorian Who-Done-It

9/10
Author: merbatshr3 from United States
18 January 2008

Thanks to my local Library, I watched "Blackheath Poisonings" in its entirety. The excellent cast includes Judy Parfitt, who is absolutely perfect as the deliciously vicious family matriarch. There are a few recognizable faces including Zoe Wanamaker and Patrick Malahide. Warning! If you want family fare, this ain't it. There are many Adult Themes in this movie. But those of us who live on Planet Earth know that there were many sexual perversions in the Victorian Age just as there are today. They were just well hidden under a hypocritical veil of moral decency. This mystery unveils them all, with death by poisoning woven in. It begins by introducing us to a wealthy family that owns a Toy factory. We learn immediately that there are extramarital sexual relations going on and sooner than we catch that fact, someone dies. When a second death occurs, the smartest member of the family starts hound-dogging around. The police put one person on trial believing they have caught the real killer. But is it really the true killer?? I can guarantee that you won't guess the twists and turns that lead to the real killer. I kind of guessed the additional twist at the end. I love mysteries set in bygone times, especially Victorian dramas. In "Blackheath Poisonings" it's great fun and entertaining to watch. The costumes are great, so are the sets. The actors each do a terrific job of making their characters dis-likable, despicable, or likable. I have cable TV and I've seen stuff like this on USA, TNT, PBS and other non-premium channels, so I wasn't shocked at the adult content like some who've commented here. It also didn't surprise me in the least that all this happened in a rich, so-called respectable, Victorian family. That's part of the entertainment factor!

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Great Victorian Gothic Mini-Series

8/10
Author: broadway_melody_girl from United States
16 July 2008

I love this mini-series to death. Whenever I'm in the mood for some good Victorian melodrama, it's great to have this to pop in the DVD player. Thoroughly entertaining; it has a roaring good plot with plenty of twists and turns, solid acting, and beautiful costumes and sets.

I have no idea why the majority of the reviews rate this mini-series so low. I was unnerved by the ending too; it was definitely weird and disturbing, but it was a quality, well-thought out ending. It is fitting as the whole series has a macabre, Gothic tone enhanced by the often-grotesque toys the family this mystery is about toy company produces.

And Patrick Malahide makes a great Victorian ne'er do well! His character fools you with his actions right up 'till the end. And he looks so handsome!!

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3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

The Most Well-Made Drama Ever Not Worth Seeing

1/10
Author: r-e-witt from Brooklyn NY
27 September 2008

I expected at least a little enjoyment out of this piece. What a terrible waste of talent and time. I sat through the whole film. I strongly recommend that you do not. With all the effort made in acting, costumes and settings, this work simply has no soul. I wish I had not spent the time. The end, with it's swift shallowness, makes the loss of the time spent even more regrettable. There is not a moment of uplift, either. It's almost as if someone needed to crank this piece out simply to use up the funds. And with so little effort it could have been so much better. All the actors certainly did what they could. The scenery, film work,props and costumes cannot be faulted. It simply fails as a whole. So sorry.

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1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Disappointing conclusion spoils meticulous Victorian atmosphere

3/10
Author: Rosabel from Ottawa, Canada
27 June 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was reasonably entertained by the first two parts of this Victorian mystery. The set decor was very detailed, and I especially liked the Victorian warehouses used for exterior shots of the toy factory, as well as for Roger and Isabel's slummy love nest. But I simply could not get deeply involved in the mystery because of my dislike of pretty much every character. My lack of sympathy for "free-spirited" Isabel left my with a purely academic interest in seeing if she could beat the rap. Screwing her sister-in-law's husband while they're all living under the same roof is so barbarously selfish and cold, it didn't really matter to me if she was hanged for a murder she didn't commit. I would have been happy to see such a worthless woman removed from the world by pretty much any means.

The character of the police inspector seemed very exaggerated in his mannerisms. The usual excuse for this sort of thing is that he has a razor-sharp mind and no time for social niceties (à la Sherlock Holmes). So it was very perplexing to me that he seemed to completely fall apart in brain when Paul came to him with information about George's transvestite activities, and made a plausible case for George being the murderer. The police ALREADY knew that George was a transvestite, but it was not information they had shared with anyone else. When someone comes along who knows information that only the police know, they usually pay attention. So why did they suddenly turn stupid and act as if this were some tall tale Paul had just concocted to get Isabel off the hook? Especially as the case against Isabel depended upon the clerk IDing her as the veiled woman who bought poison from him? They should have realized that there was another possible culprit, who would have had access to Isabel's shoes as well.

But it hardly mattered, because the whole "George masquerades as Isabel" plot was so ludicrously far-fetched, it was hard to take the mystery seriously by that point. It could have worked if they'd cast an actor for George who was reasonably similar in size to Isabel - I would hope the original novel covered that plot hole by making them not so different in size. But the filmmakers couldn't resist going for the lurid thrill of making George a grotesquely fat pig, with jiggling titties, hanging jowls and bee-stung lips.

The "mystery" turned out to be so lame, I'd already drawn the conclusion that George was the woman on the common, almost as soon as it was revealed that he owned the corset (which hardly looked big enough to fit him, anyway). It's disappointing that mystery writers today seem to think that twisted sex is the only really exciting motive for anything anymore. No matter how much they set the scene with financial problems, wills, professional jealousy and ambition, they throw it all away at the last to show us a pervert in a tizzy. It's becoming downright boring. I could hardly believe that the final poisoning and Paul's confession were the actual conclusion - I kept hoping that there would be a REAL twist, and we'd discover, as Isabel steamed away to freedom, that she really WAS guilty of at least one of the murders, and that Paul had committed a crime to free a guilty woman. But alas, the program ended in a flat, drab anticlimax, with the stupid inspector closing the file with no particular concern to find out who might have murdered George.

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5 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A Shoddy Ending

Author: Robert Champ (robertchamp2002@yahoo.com) from Hyattsville, MD
27 May 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first two parts of this movie work well. The third part, the resolution of the plot, falls on its face. Chief among its faults is the veil/corset/ transvestite underplot--preposterous ideas all, but the veil especially so because, as the first poster said, no one could confuse the sex of the person beneath it. The device is made all the more unbelievable by the presentation of an eyewitness of the veiled personage who has, supposedly, a near-faultless memory. Another misstep, no less egregious, is the identity of the killer. One should not create an unlikable individual and then make him/her the murderer. Your unlikable individual is the red herring, the person you would like to be the murderer, but who seldom is. I must admit to disgust at the writer's choice of perpetrator.

I also found unbelievable the attitude of our heroine, Isabel, to the clergy. No Victorian lady, though there is some doubt about Isabel's fitness for that term, would have talked to a clergyman as she did in the jail. To tell the truth, I disliked Isabel a good deal and _wanted_ her to be the killer. I generally don't care for turning adulterers into heroines or heroes.

I hated Paul, our lovelorn young son, or maybe it was just the actor who played him.

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2 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Shoddy

2/10
Author: steven-222 from Berkeley, CA, USA
18 July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Contains Spoilers: There should be a special filmmakers' hell for movies that purport to give us new or subversive angles on old themes, and instead wind up reinforcing hoary, hideous old stereotypes. Here we have a "racy" look at a dysfunctional Victorian family, with a sympathetic pitch for an adulterous, manipulative wife accused of murder; she is "only following my nature" and laments that society will punish her for it. So who is the real culprit? Why, a fat, homosexual, woman-hating, mother-hating transvestite! The film might as well have been made in 1955, for all the new insight it sheds on Victorian mores. How much more daring -- and logical! -- if the gay member of the family ("only following my nature") had been made the sympathetic victim, instead of the filmmakers' scapegoat. On top of this, as other reviewers have made clear, the plot simply makes no sense. Despite a cast of pros and good production values, the result is very shoddy.

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4 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Disappointing

1/10
Author: notmicro from Seattle
6 May 2004

Yet another example of why I gave up on PBS Masterpiece Theater years ago. I would not recommend it to anyone, except possibly rabid and desperate Anglophile fans of Victorian period mystery melodramas. On the whole, this thing is pretty dismal and lifeless, and with just a few slight changes it could become a Saturday Night Live skit titled something like "Bad Victorian TV Playhouse".

The plot is so shot full of holes that you could fly a fleet of space-shuttles through it. The "evidence" the police start out with is laughable; no one with any sense would take any action based on it, let alone take it to court. The worst part is that the trial ends up hinging on a key witness identifying the defendant as someone he had served in a shop, when as it turns out even a blind 5-year-old could not possibly have made that mistake.

And its another promising production full of "if-onlys"; if only there had been a decent story to begin with, if only there had been decent direction, and better acting on the part of a few key characters. Its really too bad, because most of the actors are quite competent, but the young man is dismal. The production values are high, but the editing is poor. The problems pile up, and the minuses overwhelm the pluses in the end.

Instead of wasting time on this thing, I would recommend seeking out a copy of "The Cater Street Hangman" (1998), available on VHS but unfortunately not on DVD.

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