Based on the best-selling novel by Fergus Hume. Melbourne, 1886. Two gentlemen climb into a hansom cab late one night. One man climbs out, the other travels on to St Kilda. On arrival, the driver finds the second man dead. The murder sends shock waves through the young city. Written by
The Mystery of a Hansom Cab is an emotive Australian crime drama, with an outstanding cast and lavish sets and detail. It is a telemovie of Fergus Hume's book, first published in Australia in 1886. Set in Melbourne, it brings to vivid life the privilege and struggle of the upper and lower classes of Melbournian life from the 1800s.
The plot centers around an engaged couple whose marriage is left in limbo when the groom is held on charges of murdering an odious blackmailer to the Bride's affluent Father. It has an almost Wildean sense of society and emotion, and in true crime tradition, the viewer is left pondering the guilty right to the end.
The all Australian cast has a strong gravitas. Sometimes the period's drab and flowing attire causes a little confusion of who is who, but eventually faces stick to characters, and the viewer connects to the intriguing plot. The two detectives have dissimilar, but striking charms. "Kenny"'s Shane Jacobson is a little out of his depth as the main prosecutor; but plays an entertaining role, while Felix Williamson is devilishly suave as Shane's sharply-cut adversary in law. Jessica De Gouw is lovable as the bride-to-be, and together with the groom, Brian Fitzgerald, they make a charming couple whose drama fills the movie. Michael Carman plays a lovely characterised villain. John Waters as the family patriarch , and Marco Chiappi as his friend and barrister, have strong and grounding presences.
Sets are beautiful and graphic; though not as lavish as overseas productions. And on occasion, prominent Melbourne locations are shot with CGI backdrops of the olden town. The back-street dens have a glamour and seediness that brings them to vivid life (similarly to "The Harp in the South"), and the splendor of the mansions is convincing, though shot on a smallish budget.
Mention should also be made of the smooth but engaging score. and production on the whole is creditable.
Mystery of a Hansom Cab is a period drama that the BBC churn-out - with more polish, but less charm - but that Australian cinema does not achieve so often. This lovely but sometimes-confusing movie is definitely worth a second viewing.
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