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This was the first of the adaptations of the P D James books of Adam
Dalgliesh, which is unfortunately unavailable to the public in video. If
come again onto your local television station, it is a must
Roy Marsden makes a perfect Dalgliesh! Tall, mysterious Dalgliesh is the best man available and is picked by New Scotland Yard to investigate murder and intrigue in a highly sensitive government department.
Jowly Geoffrey Palmer plays a part far different from the relaxed comedy parts of late, and Barry Foster cuts a dash as Dr Maxim Howarth. The plot twists and turns and the viewer will be kept literally guessing 'Who done it' until the last scene! A great night of entertainment for mystery fans. Well worth a look!
This series has become one of our most enjoyable to watch with Roy Marsden being the "perfect" Adam Dalgleish. Having not watched these video adaptations in order, we noticed in some episodes of other stories mention made of Dalgleish's wife and child and the fact that they were killed in some vehicle accident. Now in this episode we find Dalgleish bidding his very pregnant wife goodbye as they await a taxi to take her (presumably) to hospital. Nothing more is said of her or her demise except for two very brief statements from Dalgleish referring to his wife's death "a month ago". Surely something better of this traumatic episode could have been made for the viewer! We did find it touching to see Dalgleish toying with his wedding band in several scenes as the story progressed...wonder if this was a little touch that Marsden added on his own. We also cannot quite come to grips with a "new" Dalgleish (Martin Shaw) in the most recent episodes.
These adaptations of the P D James books of Adam Dalgliesh are of the
best - and I mean all of them. The stories are long in comparison to
today's highly edited story lines. It makes for a natural flow to the
story, building atmosphere and generally contributing to the general
feeling of the episode. I like seeing cars arrive and depart and the
characters making the tea! It is also very natural for a detective to
sit and ponder a very complex murder - and the director did good by
showing us these scenes.
Roy was an excellent choice to do this role as he did not resort to emotional gimmicks as lessor actors would have done - he interpreted the role as that of an inspector who was fully aware of his detective abilities and the character had no need to impress the viewer with predictable devices. This show was obviously aimed at a more mature audience - hence the absence (most of the time) of bar fight scenes, car chase scenes, bed scenes, impossible superiors, sub plots and other devices to pad the plot and episode.
Nobody knows mystery and drama better than the British, and this 1983
miniseries is first-rate British drama. As a fan of BBC drama/mystery
(but unfamiliar with author PD James), I was completely unaware of the
plot when I first watched this, which made it all the more riveting.
From the start, the viewer is plunged into an interconnecting plot with
lots of clues, suspects, red herrings, forensics, and all the usual
stuff that mystery lovers love!
Roy Marsden is superbly natural as detective Adam Dalgliesh, portraying a man who is both charming and hardcore (a little like Sherlock Holmes, and his assistant, played by John Vine, as a kind of Watson). The supporting cast features such familiar BBC players as Geoffrey Palmer, Brenda Blethyn (long before her Academy Award nomination), and wonderful Barry Foster (who still impresses me with his incomparable performance of Kaiser Wilhelm in Fall of Eagles). The rest of the characters are well played (ignore the reviews that say otherwise; this is British mystery, remember, and a little theatrics is expected). Since juvenile actors are never mentioned in reviews, another minor but featured supporting player is Annabelle Lanyon, a terrific child actress who appeared in a bunch of BBC shows around this time (a notable performance being the Marchioness in The Old Curiosity Shop; she is still recognized today in the cult classic arena for playing Oona the fairy in Ridley Scott's Legend).
Remember that this was filmed in the early 80s, so it is shot on video rather than film, which gives it a little less visual style. But this was true of most of the BBC shows of the time, and once the story gets moving, you forget all about camera techniques and find yourself fully engrossed in the twisting, turning plot.
A great experience for mystery and drama fans, and especially for fans of classic BBC productions, which, granted, were thin on action and technique, but big on acting, characters, dialogue, and plot!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have been watching the Adam Dalgliesh mysteries from Netflix either by streaming (this one) or ordering the ones not streamed. I found Death of an Expert Witness quite confusing with respect to Dalgliesh's wife and child. A previous poster explained it somewhat, but I do wish the program had delved into it more. The wife and child died, but I was unsure in what way. Another poster said when she got into the taxi to go to the hospital it crashed killing them both. I have re-watched the first few episodes but no real explanation there. Then when Dalgliesh is in a church and the priest says he will miss the wife and will pray for the wife and child, I knew she died but not how. I am almost through with this program. I do like it, but I wish it had made the wife's death clearer.
The first of the Dalgliesh detective series will surely put intelligent viewers off. First, at four and half hours long it is about 300 percent as long as it should have been. What seems like endless scenes of cars arriving, departing, and moving down roads, and of Dalgleish sitting and thinking to himself are just two of the ways the script is padded almost beyond belief. If this is being down in the first two parts of this three part series to establish an air of realism all this is thrown to the winds in part three when the major characters act in a downright silly way. Clichés abound. With a murderer on the loose, a young girl, who hitherto would faint at a frown, decides to take the shortcut home through the dark woods, announcing her reason for doing it to the audience as if the justify so silly a behavior in the mind of the viewer. The final coup de gras in this respect is when Superintendent Dalgliesh and the confessed murderer go for a walk alone in the countryside while the murderer explains the reasons for his criminal behavior. As someone who has just finished teaching the mystery as a part of a course in Modern Drama I count myself among the great fans of the dramatized mystery story. However, I fell asleep more than once trying to get through this one. 'Nuff said. Unless you are ready for your nap skip this one and go to 'The Black Tower' or one of the other later programs in the Dalgliesh series.
Having very much enjoyed "Original Sin" (one of the later P D James
adaptations in this series), I was disappointed by "Death of an Expert
Witness". The main actors - Roy Marsden, Geoffrey Palmer, Cyril Cusack,
Brenda Blethyn, Fiona Walker - are very good, as one would expect, but
most of the minor characters are played really badly - sometimes so
badly as to be embarrassing or amusing. This may well be in part down
to the direction, which is inexplicably poor from the normally
excellent Herbert Wise, who must have been going through a bad patch.
Also I hated the device of occasionally making Dalgleish's thoughts
audible: it simply doesn't work.
A pity the team didn't remake this adaptation in later years.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My spouse and I are long-term fans of the Dalgleish series, but are a
little surprised that it survived this near disaster of a production.
The leads are fine in UK stock company tradition, but many of the
supporting players turn in really terrible performances.
Distractions mount up to the point where we started looking for things going wrong with the production rather than the main flow of the narrative. For example, watch for a seen where an actress is bottle feeding a baby. Baby Debbie audibly gurgles in the scene, duly captured and sweetened in the soundtrack with unintended humorous effect. The scene collapses into hilarity when the actress yanks the bottle from Baby Debbie and the kid's expression looks like she has been traumatized for life. The actress reveals herself as never handling a baby before and the scene gives the feeling that Debbie was thrust into her arms followed by a quick call to "Action!" by the director.
Like any avalanche, once the snow starts sliding downhill, there's no stopping it. What was the use of a "extra" policeman bobbing his head framed by an interior door window, distracting from the main business of a scene? Was this an early appearance by Ricky Gervais? Why did Dalgleish need to arrive at the former stately home crime lab on a helicopter? Did the entire cast need to stare out of the windows to ooh and ahh at this dramatic arrival? Why does Dalgleish talk to himself? Why does the plot unfold in Agatha Christie style: victim plus half a dozen plausible suspects?
We'll keep watching, but not for the keenly modulated suspense and story telling that we have come to expect from the Dalgleish series. I give the production six stars out of loyalty, but deduct four for clumsiness, as enjoyable as it might be at certain moments.
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