Father Brown (1974– )
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I have just managed to obtain the complete series on DVD and I'm pleased to find they hold up very well. Some of the technical aspects are a little dated: camera movements and editing have a definite 1970's feel, as does the abrupt jump from video in studio scenes to very grainy 16mm film on location.
The series was a prestige project for Lew Grade's ATV (taking on the BBC in the 'classic literature' department). Grade was so determined to cast Kenneth More (who didn't feel he had a very priestly image) that he personally telephoned the actor every day for almost a year, saying: "Good morning, Father. How's Father Brown this morning?" Finally More gave in and replied: "Bless you, my son."
More's performance, of course, is the axis around which all the stories revolve. He has great charm and a wonderful way with witty one-liners (I almost suspect More ad-libbed these). He can also suggest Father Brown's knowledge of human nature and our capacity for evil, showing how the priest is more saddened than shocked when this is revealed (such as the coin collector/miser in "The Head of Caesar"). Another highlight is his intellectual duel with Arnold Aylmer about the nature of evil in "The Dagger with Wings". These pieces of exposition are, for me, the highlight of the series.
As you can see, I'm a real fan! If you're tired of Miss Marple and bored with Hercule Poirot. If you want classic period detective stories which aren't Agatha Christie - I'd recommend giving Father Brown a try. The DVDs will certainly make regular appearances on my player.
These stories are from a bit earlier in the mystery genre than most adaptations, and this dates the series as much as the productions. Chesterfield's stories tend to be more "howdunit" than "whodunit", with the focus less on the characters than on the murder itself. This can be a problem, at times, but it can be very good, especially when combined with good characters.
You won't get the production values or the acting found in the later Christie series, but these are well worth trying if you favor British detective/mystery series. I'm certainly happy I found them, and I'll be watching them one per night until I've through the lot.
It is true that the production values aren't exactly state of the art but for sheer storytelling, this 1974 version of "Father Brown" is worthy of repeated viewing.
(SPOILER ALERT! With the character changes this season, I see it going downhill already. Very sad.)
I mean, actors' playing is bad almost for all of them. Sometimes the plot lines are vague and characters are unbelievable.
May be, one of the strong sides is that acting doesn't always look like theatrical performance. We get some interesting views and interiors.
I am not a good reader, so I've considered to watch this version. And I've got nothing. I couldn't assemble the plot, I can't understand the clerical point of view, I do not believe in acting. Just a few personal features and authors statements are well pronounced.
I wouldn't keep this historical TV production in my archive.