|Index||5 reviews in total|
This adaptation of Dorothy L Sayers' novel is excellently adapted for television. I watched this in junior high school and credit its production for tweaking my interest in reading Sayers' novels themselves. The acting is phenomenal. Lord Peter is played by the sublime Edward Petherbridge, who absolutely epitomises the character. Harriet Walter, although not posessing the adequate deep voice for Harriet Vane, nonetheless shines as the character and is absolutely believeable. The beautiful Cornish coast is a gorgeous backdrop. The story is fairly true to the original book; with some exceptions...but it is so well-directed that one barely notices. Fantastic production. Two thumbs up.
I love all 3 Dorothy SAyer's mysteries with Harriet Walter and Edward
Petherbridge. They have amazing chemistry and I couldn't get enough of
I have all 3 films(Strong poison, have his carcase, and Gaudy night) on tape, and I am well into wearing them out due to over-watching!
All the characters are very well cast and the performances are very believable indeed.
I am an avid who-done-it fan and this series is right up there in my list.
Go watch it if you haven't yet!
After seeing the miniseries of Sayers mysteries starring Ian Carmichael
as Wimsey, I wasn't sure whether I would enjoy another actor's
characterization. The first Petherbridge episode I watched was "Gaudy
Night" (even though it is the last of the trilogy) and judging from the
first few minutes, I didn't like him. He seemed to be a precious twit
at first, and I daresay I'll always find this opening rather a
mis-step. But by the end of the story, he had won my affection, and
only increased it through the other two.
Wimsey is a gentleman amateur sleuth. Carmichael (who is after all known as a comic actor) emphasizes the gentleman and amateur, full of hearty bonhomie. Petherbridge's Wimsey, on the other hand, is much more reticent, sensitive, even melancholy, while capable of merciless confrontation when he has cornered the villain. Bunter observes that he has a mind like mousetrap. Compare the climactic interview in "Strong Poison" with its counterpart in "The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club." He is first and foremost a man of keen observation and penetrating intelligence, an avid disciple of Sherlock Holmes in his intellectual and emotional makeup as probably in his appearance. Underneath his sometimes frosty persona, however, beats a compassionate heart that doesn't fail to go out to various characters whom society exploits while considering unsavory because... well, just because.
I will recommend and continue to enjoy both series, thankful to be able to do so. The sharply contrasting pictures which two talented actors can paint of a single character only increase the interest.
The Harriet Vane stories lead one to speculate that Dorothy L. Sayers might have put herself into this character, and drawn Wimsey as an imaginary ideal mate. She was herself a pioneer as a sterling academic in a time when many assumed that women were incapable of such a role; and her own marriage, though long and devoted, was far from happy.
I am not sure if I am watching the Petherbridge/Walter series in the correct order. Perhaps "Strong Poison" or "Gaudy Night" go first. I will be renting the bloody lot - and "...Carcase" was certainly bloody! Having watched Ian Carmichael's buoyant '70s series, I was rather brought up short by the less ebullient Wimsey of Petherbridge, not as jollifying and ingratiating as Carmichael's. But there's plenty of room for differences! Petherbridge's preoccupation with Harriet, his consuming passion, this is a switch. Carmichael bounded about with such satisfied zest and interest in other mysterious matters, houseman Bunter perfecting his Lord's environmental whimsies, and, when amour reared a merry tendril, Lord Peter would simply plop his elbows on a couch behind, say, Phyllida Law, and jauntily demand, "NOW what shall we do?" and Phyllida's eyes would POP! Not so Petherbridge's wooing of Harriet Vane. He is her love captive and she - for reasons I could not determine in this episode - does not wish to be dependent upon him or anyone and she resists him mightily, sending him off with limp spirits and dashed hopes on successive occasions. But his valiant repartee is so convivial and his banter so droll, Harriet succumbs to laughter if not kisses. Petherbridge has a marvelous mouth, sort of Cupid's bow, and an arch proboscis that marks his aristocracy. This is a great series for mystery lovers and I plan to see them all,from the archives. BBC knew how to present fabulous fare! I was compelled to view all four episodes in one heady sitting and then leapt into the car to drive, in rush hour traffic, to a friend's home, leaving the DVD with her, who sports an ankle cast from a recent accident, that she might, although deaf (and unfortunately, these older TV masterpieces are not captioned!), sit and lipread what she can and drink in the scenery and costuming and demeanor of the sterling cast! See them all. There are not enough of these, both Carmichael's and Petherbridge's. One of life's glories! Correction: my deaf friend did indeed have captions for this program! Good news. Her TV set was set to provide them and it worked! Even later addendum: Recently I have seen "Strong Poison" and "Gaudy Night." And now I can say that this Lord Peter Wimsey is irresistible and definitive. This series is seductive "Strong Poison!" "Gaudy Night" is cerebral - how will the captions capture all that rich pedantic dialogue? And to think, I have yet to read Dorothy L. Sayers! THAT will be remedied because one wants more, more, MORE!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Detective novels morphed to mystery novels with the addition of several new ideas. One of these is the notion of intent, which appears in the story as "motive." In the old, Sherlock, mode, the story was driven by facts. In this new mode, the story is driven by the discovery of intent. Many people are thrown onto the stage and we evaluate each, giving us a chance to explore them as people and their relationships with others as determined by the magnetic causality of the crime.
Sayers was a master at this, with "Carcase" being her best project along these lines. In this case, we actually know early in the story who the likely killer is and the mistake is with the facts-- that one fact about the blood.
The story is a matter of implicitly dealing with this matter of intent. The conspirators intended to make off with the inheritance. The Russian intended to marry and that was changed. Everything else fades into weather, so far as the mystery except for some improbable disguises.
That by itself is not what makes this story great. Sayers used this new notion of exploring characters to similarly explore the intentions of the two sleuths: does she want to get involved and what is the problem? Why does Peter do what he does? Later writers would extend this notion in so-called "psychological" mysteries, mostly heavyhanded. But I find this mix here to be just right. That's because she creates the perfect balance with Peter and Harriet: they exist in some sense amidst the suspects and indeed Harriet's existence is first as a suspect. But they similarly intermingle with the world outside the book, the writer and reader, Sayers and us, Harriet and Peter.
In all this, the key role is Bunter, who alone is exempt from an examination of motive.
Books like this have a triple struggle for survival: they have to hit a sweet spot with their audience when they first appear. In this case, it was the novelty of how Sayers pushed the medium. Then later, as the immediate context passes, they have to struggle all over again for an audience, usually by different rules. Ordinarily, we (readers of "classic" crime fiction) look to the single quality of whether the characters and situations are attractive. And then when the odd existence within the written word is mapped to the screen, it struggles for existence all over again. The whole game shifts, and certain early strengths may be lost or recast.
In the books, it doesn't matter much whether the crime is indoors or out. But it makes a world of difference on the screen. That's one reason why this is the best of the three Petheridge Wimsey projects.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 4: Worth watching.
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