"A Dorothy L. Sayers Mystery" Gaudy Night: Episode One (TV Episode 1987) Poster

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Flawed but excellently cast
TinaRhea15 November 2006
The adaptation is a disappointment, especially since the producers gave an extra hour to Have His Carcase, by far the weakest of the three books, rather than to Gaudy Night, which needs more time, and then spent part of their severely limited time in flashbacks to the previous episode. It's a pity to lose the subplots, including Peter's nephew, and so many fine scenes. Alas, the scene on the river could not possibly be done properly except when one can read Harriet's thoughts. Bits do remain of the best of the book, the atmosphere of academic peace and the conversations about what one should make of one's life; I hope the film inspires more people to read the book itself. What they did film, however, is well done, and excellently cast. I am very fond of Miss Devine, and it was a delightful surprise to find that I am also very fond of the actress who plays her here.
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Flawless Adaptation
jnvalente4 September 2002
Gaudy Night is in my opinion (and a very humble one at that) Dorothy L. Sayers' best Lord Peter/Harriet Vane book, so I was quite excited about its screen adaptation. Well what can I say? Nothing short of perfection! Once again I am not disappointed by the ensemble cast - and here they had to evolve and revolve a little on the superb original. They did it well and beyond any expectation of mine. Kudos for them all!
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This series makes Lord Peter and Harriet come alive!
nouveauphoenix3 April 2004
This is a terrific series ,that does Dorothy L. Sayer's wonderful characters, justice. The time frame for the episodes, is the 20's , a little after WW1. The costume and set design are extensively researched. The best part, of course, is that the actors really know these characters, capturing the feeling and nuances of the books .This is a trio collection, which includes "Strong Poison"(in which Lord Peter meets Harriet, while she is on trial), "Have His Carcase" (in which a body is found on an isolated beach) and "Gaudy Night"(in which, a murder is committed at the university). I strongly recommend seeing them in order, as it will give you a sense of continuity , and an understanding of the relationship between Lord Peter and Harriet. This is a rare instance, where the movie will make you want to read the books.
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Unworldly, but fascinating.
hgallon7 August 2000
"Gaudy Night" was the second of Dorothy L. Sayers's "Lord Peter Wimsey" detective novels to be written with the action and plot seen through the eyes of Harriet Vane rather than Wimsey himself. When transferred to the screen, this results in poor Wimsey being relegated almost to a supporting actor. Apart from one or two brief introductory appearances, he appears only in the last half of the series.

Still, the plot holds things together quite well. Detective novelist Harriet Vane has lived down the notoriety of having been accused of murdering her lover. She accepts an invitation to revisit her alma mater, a ladies' college in Oxford. Shortly after she renews her acquaintance with her former fellow-students and tutors, someone starts playing distasteful pranks around the college. The Warden and the other dons ask Harriet to investigate. Wimsey, her suitor, joins the investigation when the practical jokes become more dangerous. Finally, there is the long-standing romantic tension between Wimsey and Harriet to resolve.

Edward Petherbridge plays Wimsey very much in the style set by Ian Carmichael in the 1970's. However, Harriet Walter, as Harriet Vane, rather steals the show.

This is definitely not a stock "Whodunnit". Without laying it on with a trowel, "Gaudy Night" highlights the difference in attitudes between a withdrawn set of cloisters which need deal only with matters of philosophy and theory, and the "real world", with practical problems to face and overcome. This gulf is emphasised by the cut-glass accents and precise diction of the dons and students, and the "common" speech of the college servants and other inhabitants of Oxford, where they appear.

Worth both watching and reading.
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good but missed some of the story lines
writergeeknh25 February 2003
When I first watched Gaudy Night (one of my favorite Dorothy Sayers' books) I got confused because of the missing story lines and characters. For example, Saint George loomed fairly large in the book. I think I would have traded some of the scenes where Harriet was sitting in her room or walking through an archway for some of the missing story lines.

But that would be my adaptation. When I watched the video again, I could let go of what I perceived as missing and enjoyed the acting.
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Gaudy night? From the Latin gaudium, meaning delight or joy
Fisher L. Forrest20 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
What I am about to write may constitute a spoiler for some, so wait until you have read the novel or seen the film before going on. "Gaudy Night" is my favourite among Dorothy L. Sayer's writings, but I can't say the same for the BBC's TV movie. They have deleted too much that made the novel both an entertaining "fairplay" puzzle, and at the same time an interesting "mainstream" story of Oxford University life at the women's colleges in the 1920's. And, for a bit of lagniappe, "Harriet" finally succumbs to "Lord Peter's" suit and answers 'placet' to his question (in Latin, of course) 'placetne magistra'. In the movie, they end in a "clinch" worthy of Hollywood.

As devotees of Dorothy's 11 novel canon will know, there are no murders in "Gaudy Night", only vicious assaults and many poison pen communications directed at the women of "Shrewsbury" College, Oxford, by someone with a psychopathic hatred of female academics. When "Harriet Vane" attends her college's "Gaudy", she is invited by the "Warden" (In the U.S., we would call her "president") to return during the long vacation and investigate with a view to exposing the perpetrator. "Harriet", you see, writes detective fiction, which eminently qualifies her as an investigator, or so the "Warden" seems to think. "Harriet" disclaims this expertise, but agrees to give it a try. She embarks on a series of extensive interviews with most of the women at the college, servants, students, tutors, fellows and officials alike. At least, in the novel, she does. Here is where the BBC falls down.

In foreshortening the admittedly long novel, BBC eliminated many of the interviews, especially the revealing ones with the eventually exposed perpetrator. And they eliminated the really essential meetings between "Harriet" and "Lord Peter" that resulted in their resolution of the long term problem of marriage. There was no need for this. Enough time was devoted to "Hollywoodish" creepy sequences in dark corridors and night exteriors, to produce an atmosphere, which if devoted to the essential business of the "detective" story would have produced a much better movie. It would also have made for a "fairplay" mystery, giving the alert viewer a chance to compete with "Harriet" and "Peter" in solving the puzzle.

When you see GAUDY NIGHT, you may or may not feel some sympathy for the obviously mentally ill perpetrator. Personally, I found I could not. The family history certainly constituted a source of the grievance against women academics, but could by no means justify the indiscriminate, murderous physical assaults, and the nasty poisonous letters strewn around the college. BBC, once the person is exposed, gives that person quite a long harangue, obviously intended to arouse sympathy. Did the BBC writers have a bias against female academics too? If so, this is outrageous!

Well, my feelings about the BBC's GAUDY NIGHT are not all negative. We have some marvelous characterisations of the "dramatis personae", especially Harriet Walter and Edward Petherbridge as the principals. And all that "mood photography" that I objected to earlier is not bad of itself. If you aren't all that interested in the puzzle, you may find that "film noir" approach rather fun. And there is the Latin element, not emphasised much here except in one of the assaults. A heavy bolster, with an academic gown wrapped around it was swung against "Harriet", knocking her down violently. Attached to it was a placard with a quotation from Virgil's "Aeneid". I tried to append this for you, but the data base's spell checker persisted in interpreting the Latin as misspellings and would not accept the entry. Sometimes there is too much technology! One of the "dons" in the movie translated the Latin extempore, as did "Harriet" in the novel, but if there are any Latin scholars out there, get a copy of Dorothy's novel and have a go at translating it yourself. It's a doozy!
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Gaudy Night spoiled
Barbara-49 February 2003
It is difficult to give an unbiased opinion of this show, for as an adaptation of Gaudy Night, it stinks. There is none of the subtlety or wit of Dorothy Sayers' dialog, and much of the plot is a shambles. Does it make good tv if one hasn't read the book - I couldn't say.

Well, what are the problems? First, the opening. We hear voices upraised in anger, the sound of a shot, then someone's coffin lowered into the ground. There's no establishing time period, no nothing. It could be the day before the events that are to come, for all we know. No grieving people shown over the coffin (from a suitable distance so we wouldn't recognize anyone), nothing to make us care who this person might have been, or what it has got to do with the rest of the story.

Then there's the bloopers. The Warden of the college wants to ask Harriet Vane to come investigate the happenings in college, so she gathers together all the dons and asks their opinion! And yet a little later on Harriet is asking questions and pretending that she's merely there to help Miss Lydgate with her research. (In the book, it is to the students alone that she pretends to be other than what she is).

Wimsey as played by Edward Petherbridge is quite good, if a little old for the part (in closeups at least) and he's given a quite gratuitous scene on a train going into Germany. If they must give him more screen time, why not more screen time in Oxford?

The actress who played Harriet didn't catch my fancy, and she wasn't given much to do in investigating the crimes. Sayers' dialog was replaced in most cases by bad dialog from the scriptwriter.

I'll check the other videos out from the library - thank goodness I didn't have to buy this one!
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Tremendously disappointing
judyoz21 August 2007
I've loved the book of Gaudy Night for years, so when I discovered there was a filmed version I was very enthusiastic and bought it on eBay. Bad mistake. It didn't cost me much but boy did I waste my money. The script is deadly, much of the acting is wooden and a lot of the casting is completely wrong. Peter Wimsey has the right look and dress style but instead of foppish he comes across as camp, while Harriet Vane doesn't appear to be a strong, dependable woman but someone very self-doubting and almost timid. I saw no chemistry between them whatsoever. The actor playing Bunter looks completely wrong and lacks the essential hauteur. While some of the female dons are portrayed well, many of the small parts are attacked with skills reminiscent of The Art of Coarse Acting. And where, oh where is all of DL Sayers's sparkle and wit? The scriptwriter pulls the odd chunk of text verbatim from the book, then proceeds to drown it in long, turgid scenes jammed with his own dialogue. This would be fine if it did any good, but much of what I saw was unnecessary to the plot and wasted good scenes and story lines in the process. So much of this seemed to be going through the motions. It was very sad to see and tremendously disappointing. Perhaps someone will take Gaudy Night on again one day and do a better job??? To be frank, I made it less than halfway through the 150 minutes. I just couldn't bear to watch it any longer.
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In Their Place
tedg23 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Sayers is something of a giant in the mystery business. She was the first to take the fairly complicated beast in the direction of an inner dialog. The detective mystery is a struggle among reader, writer and detective to invent the story.

Sayers expanded the struggle to one between two damaged but brilliant people: one a mystery writer herself. The book is a wonderful dance for control over the greater environment of truth with lots of dialog about controlling the lesser environment. All this and sex too.

Unfortunately, this TeeVee production starches all that out, substituting an ordinary `mystery' that superficially resembles the book, with some dialog that superficially resembles something intelligent.

Ted's evaluation: 2 of 4: has some interesting elements.
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Good if you have not read the book.
dimandreas16 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"Gaudy Night" is different from the other Dorothy Sayers mysteries in that Lord Peter Wimsey is much less in evidence -he actually appears mostly in the third part of the book , as a deus ex machina. It is a long novel,in which the "mystery" part is secondary to other elements.

The adaptation has taken a hatchet to the novel and chopped off large and significant parts of it. The deletion of characters like Lord Peter's nephew and of Mr. Jones" and -inexcusably- of the element of the ivory chessmen diminishes -for me at least- a lot of the charm of the original. What remains is a mystery story, nothing special, with lots of atmosphere. Very little remains of the original, extremely well-done development of the characters, nothing which explains why at the end Harriet decides to marry Peter. If you have read the book, don't see the movie.

If, however, you have not read the book, the movie is worth seeing.Edward Petherbridge is excellent as Wimsey, better than Ian Carmichael. Harriet Walter is also first-rate as Harriet Vane. Richard Morant does not quite fit the role of Bunter. The film is made with the usual BBC care for detail and you will pass some enjoyable hours. THEN read the book and think what this film could have been.
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