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"Midsomer Murders" Dark Autumn (2001)

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

"Generally good mystery though some of the magic has gone."

8/10
Author: jamesraeburn2003 from Poole, Dorset
24 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Inspector Barnaby and Sgt Troy are sent to the isolated village of Goodman's Land where the local postman Dave Cutler (Rupert Walz) has been brutally murdered. As usual, the duo discover that practically everybody in the village had reason for wanting Cutler dead because he was a womaniser and had affairs with several local women. For instance, the local dairy manager Mike Yeatman (Dez Henney) once attacked him in the local pub because he was carrying on with his wife Mary (Prue Clarke). Then there's the wealthy but dull and stuffy publisher Owen August (Alan Howard) whose wife Louise (Celia Imrie) also had an affair with Dave Cutler as well as the struggling antiquarian furniture salesman Simon Reason (Nicky Henson). And when Reason is subsequently murdered in his showroom, it makes August the chief suspect. However, August himself is later found battered to death while he was out hill walking so Barnaby and Troy's theory is shot down. All of the women who had affairs with Cutler seem to be distraught because of his death, but could this merely be a facade to put the detectives off the scent? Meanwhile, Troy is developing a strong friendship with the village police officer WPC Jay Nash (Gillian Kearney) whom is helping him and Barnaby with their investigation. But when Troy buys her a present, she refuses it telling him that it means the start of a relationship, which she doesn't want as she was willing to give up her career for a man once who hurt her badly. Therefore, she wants to remain only a friend and colleague with Troy. There is a fourth murder and Jay very nearly becomes the fifth victim of the psychopathic killer who is stalking Goodman's Land before Barnaby and Troy are able to apprehend the guilty party. But who is the madman with an obsession for the 1950's period that leaves timepieces beside his victims' bodies such as pens, old fashioned lipstick, records and articles of clothing? In addition, he stalks his victims beforehand playing 1950's dance hall music on a tape recorder. What significance could all this have to his/her motives?

Dark Autumn was first transmitted on 16 September 2001 on ITV and it turned out to be quite a good installment to the successful Midsomer Murders series, which by now was in its fourth year. Jeremy Silberston who was the series' founding director once again does his usual professional and polished job. However, the script wasn't written by Anthony Horowitz (the establishing writer who also worked on the majority of the MM episodes that Silberston directed) therefore some of the magic has gone. The script here by Peter J Hammond is by no means bad but it lacks the quirky characterisations of the deceptively shady yet seemingly harmless eccentrics who you wouldn't think had skeletons in the closet but usually did. This was something that always made the Horowitz-Silberston collaborations so memorable. The characters in Dark Autumn seem more cold and serious, but there is still some fun to be had in the nostalgic look that it places on the 1950's period. For example, Barnaby and Troy set up their incident room in the village's derelict dance hall, which retains many of its original features. This prompts Barnaby to dig out his old David Whitfield 78's out of the loft making his wife Joyce wonder what on earth he's doing. "You haven't decided to go romantic in your old age have you?" she asks. In addition, the film still has a feeling for the seemingly soothing and tranquil way of village life with all its sinister double meanings popping through from time to time such as numerous affairs and even brutal murder. It's not long before Barnaby and Troy discover that almost everybody has something to hide. "Why does everyone in this village have to be at it?" the former remarks.

The location photography of Graham Frake is first class and the casting is up to the series usual standards. Alan Howard (the nephew of Trevor Howard) is exceptional as the stuffy, self-centered and boring Owen August who shows little interest in his wife. Gillian Kearney is quite good as WPC Nash and works well in her scenes with Daniel Casey who gets more to do than usual with the script placing an emphasis on his growing friendship with Jay. John Nettles offers his usual down to earth performance as Barnaby and his pairing with Casey is as good as always.

Overall, Dark Autumn emerges as a generally good entry into the series, though some of the chemistry that we have come to love of the show has gone. But the plotting is quite strong and the murderer's identity is well concealed up to the climatic moment whereas some subsequent episodes were to become somewhat strained for new ideas.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Average Midsomer Murders.

5/10
Author: Paul Andrews (poolandrews@hotmail.com) from UK
12 December 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Midsomer Murders: Dark Autumn is set in the small Midsomer village of Goodmans Land & starts early one morning as local postman David Cutler (Rupert Walz) is delivering the village post, however this particular morning he is attacked & his throat is slashed open with a bailing hook. DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) & Sgt. Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey) are on the case, they liaise with local community constable Jay Nash (Gillian Kearney) & quickly learn that Cutler liked to sleep around & usually with other guy's wives. Then before the police even have time to set up an incident office another villager is found dead with her throat slashed open, that of Debbie Shortlands (Fleur Bennett) who as local gossip would have it was Cutler's latest conquest. Is it a jealous lover? Or is there more to this case than first meets the eye? With little to go on & confusing evidence Barnaby has a job on his hands to work this one out...

Episode 5 from season 4 this Midsomer Murders mystery saw a return to the series for director Jeremy Silberston who had made some of the finest episodes including the very first one The Killings at Badger's Drift (1997), after the previous two big disappointments that were The Electric Vendetta (2001) & Who Killed Cock Robin? (2001) I was hoping that Dark Autumn would mark a welcome return to form for the series & while Dark Autumn is better than the two previous aforementioned episodes it's still not up there as one of the show's best. The script by Peter Hammond starts off well enough with someone getting their throat slashed open before the opening credits have even played but then for the next hour or so Barnaby just wanders around Goodmans Land interviewing people about the affairs Cutler had. To give it some credit there's some nice plot twists but it turns out the murder didn't really have anything to do with anyone connected to Cutler & the entire first hour or so feels padded & surplus to requirements. Dark Autumn isn't that well paced either, it's rather dull going for the first half although things do pick up when the twists & turns kick in towards the end. I sat there watching this thinking I had it all worked out & I knew who the killer was, well I was totally wrong & the person I thought it was ended up as a victim of the real killer which show's how much I know! The other thing that didn't really impress me about Dark Autumn was the motives, the killers motives here are really weak & weren't strong enough to convince me that someone would murder four people because of them. This is one of those Midsomer Murders mysteries where you can catch the first ten minutes, go away & watch the final twenty & still more or less 'get it'.

Dark Autumn sees the character of Sgt. Troy get more on screen development than usual as he tries to embark on a relationship with Jay, this episode also brings out one of Barnaby's hidden talents as he turns out to be brilliant at the pub game of Aunt Sally! A game where wooden batons are thrown to knock a wooden dolly off a stand, apparently it's a game only played in Oxfordshire so forgive yourself if you've never heard of it. He kept that one quiet didn't he? As usual there are some impressive photography capturing the English countryside, Great Haseley in Oxfordshire was used while the windmill in this episode is from Turville in Buckinghamshire & was also seen in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). There are four murders in this one, there are a couple of corpses seen with slashed throats but otherwise nothing too graphic. The acting is very strong as is usually the case.

Dark Autumn is an OK Midsmoer Murders episode, a lot of it is very forgettable & the motive for murder here is one of the weakest & most unbelievable the entire series has thrown up & that's saying something in itself. I still thought it was OK & an improvement on the previous two episodes but far from a classic.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

that big band sound

7/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
5 February 2014

Barnaby and Troy investigate the horrible murder of a womanizing postman in "Dark Autumn," a 2001 fourth season entry.

The village this time is Goodman's Land. The postman, Dave Cutler, who seems to have slept with every woman in the village, is found murdered, nearly decapitated by some sort of scythe. One person claims to have heard faint music playing outside on the night he was killed.

Needless to say, the women of the village are devastated and the men are suspects. But a few of those suspects wind up dead themselves, by the same method, and with musical accompaniment.

A messy case, in which the detectives are helped by a local police officer, Jay Nash (Gillian Kearney) whom Troy falls for. However, she tells him that she can't have a relationship with him. She is still very hurt from her last one.

Then Jay is nearly killed herself. Barnaby and Troy notice that the murders have a distinctly '50s theme going on -- there is old lipstick, and also records, old clothing near the victims, and someone describes "dance hall" music being heard.

Interesting case but not one of the best. As I've said before, every Midsomer Murder can't be a masterpiece. This one is good and intriguing, with the usual high production values, and a realization by Barnaby at the end that is rather sad.

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Interesting and in Some Ways Outrageous

7/10
Author: Hitchcoc from United States
21 February 2016

The object of many off color jokes has to do with the guy who services all the married women in a community. The first murder victim here is one of those. He is a postman who shares time with his customers (take that Cliff Klaven!). Anyway, during one of his rounds, he is savagely attacked, nearly decapitated. It turns out that most of the husbands are quite aware of this guy, and, hence, quite a pool of suspects emerges. Of course, this sets up quite the possibility for Barnaby and Troy to focus on minutiae as they sift through the evidence. A significant aspect of the crimes is that big band music is heard as the murders are being committed. One interesting subplot is Troy's falling for a pretty young officer who is aiding in the case. She lives in the village and is a fount of information. She is also kind, but has some baggage we really don't know about. This is a decent episode, returning to some of the more bizarre stuff that makes good theatre.

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3 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Not that great, but always worth a watch

4/10
Author: Jagan Nath Khalsa from United States
17 September 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I knew it! The bartender did it. I watched half the episode yesterday before work and I was just coming to the conclusion that all the obvious murderers had already been murdered themselves, so who was left? Either the bartender or the lady he boarded with (whom I thought was his mother... maybe she was his stepmother?).

I was heartened by the spark of romance within the police force. Between Gavin and Jane. Says me, as long as everyone in town is always 'at it', maybe it's inspector Troy's day. At the end, when Barnaby sees the gift Troy gave her but she refused (a book of Lord Byron's poems) I thought Barnaby would make a play to take the book himself and give it to his wife and get a little spark too. He set the stage earlier by playing dance hall music at home and Joyce says, "Are you going romantic?" and he says, "Why not?!!"

There were a couple of little parallels to Columbo. In an art heist episode, Columbo calls in a lady policemen in high heels to simulate an escape down stone stairs so the security guard who came just after the burglary could verify the sound he heard out back was indeed the sound of high heels going down stone stairs. She looked rather like Jane, in a smart looking policeman's cap. Secondly, Barnaby's stunning win at that bowling game throwing the wooden batons reminds me of Columbo executing perfect pool shots and excellent golf strokes, and playing the tuba expertly --- a guy you least expect to excel in these things.

I was sorry to see the accountant lady murdered. There wasn't a vicious bone in her body, so it was undeserved. I was awfully glad Jane was spared. I thought the bartender did a good moment of acting during his confession, with that quivering lip and all.

In one of the earlier DVDs was a special feature "The Making of Midsummer Murders". In it the director said when there aren't enough murdered bodies, people start complaining. So it became de rigueur to make sure there's enough mayhem. They decorate those corpses so nicely, don't you think, with all that blood splatter and eyes a-popping.

Who needs Halloween when I get my dose every week. With that scythe as the murder tool, it puts one in mind of the Grim Reaper, eh?

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