'Father Brown - Set 2'
(Kenneth More, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / (1982) 2007 / Acorn Media)
Overview: Heaven help the murderer who crosses paths with G.K. Chesterton’s beloved detective, Father Brown. Seemingly distracted and even a bit dotty, the kindly priest always manages to confound criminals with his keen observations and inescapable logic. He prefers to go unnoticed, dismissed as irrelevant - until the moment of truth, when he unravels the most devious schemes.
DVD Verdict: With 'Father Brown: Set 2' we at long last have the final six episodes from the 13-episode series first shown in Britain in 1974. The quality of the sound and image is exactly as it is in the three disc Region 2 release. Which is to say, not high quality. Still, the main draw here is Kenneth More as Father Brown, and for More fans, more is always better than less.
Not much escapes Father Brown, a quiet Catholic priest in Twenties England. He saves souls and he catches murderers. In the stories by G. K. Chesterton, Father Brown uses his theology and quite a bit of metaphysics to come to conclusions about behavior, crime and people; Chesterton uses the device of Father Brown to be the reason for these discussions as crime is being solved. It's not a bad formula and many people are passionate fans of the humble English priest.
What we have is a series of mysteries that move a little too fast for their own good; a lot gets packed into each 50 minute episode. As in Set 1, while most of the mysteries are interesting there are a few clunkers...mysteries where the plot is simply unlikely or where only Father Brown could have possibly determined the villain. For those who enjoy philosophical disquisition on the ways of men and women, there's some of that, too. One drawback to the series is that there is no continuity except Kenneth More. Our priest simply pops up wherever a crime is being committed.
Occasionally we'll encounter an actor we know and like, such as Graham Crowden, Mel Martin, Oliver Ford Davis and Ronald Pickup in Set 1 and Bernard Lee, Rachel Gurney, Megs Jenkins, Frederick Treves and Charles Dance in Set 2. For the most part, the actors are competent and anonymous. All this may sound like faint praise, but, in my opinion, the Father Brown mysteries don't reach the same level of interest as any number of other British TV mystery series do. Still, the series has one great plus...and that is Kenneth More.
More was 60 when he played Father Brown. Those qualities that made him such a vivid and charismatic actor -- energy, confidence, charm -- aren't a perfect fit for Father Brown. His skill as an actor, however, carries him through. We're not watching Father Brown so much as Kenneth More playing Father Brown. That's not a bad thing.
For those who like the Father Brown stories, you may enjoy these mysteries. For those who admire Kenneth More, and I'm one of them, they're a good deal of fun. The DVD transfers in both sets are variable. The shows have sharp interiors and poor exteriors. Production values for their time (1974) I'm sure were satisfying, but look a bit stagy today. For the exterior scenes the picture can be faded and too soft.
Another take on the mystery-solving priest is provided by Alec Guinness in the 1954 movie, Father Brown (titled The Detective for the U.S. release). It's an amusing duel of wits and belief between Father Brown and that classy thief, Flambeau, played by Peter Finch, with Joan Greenwood in delectable support. This is a Full Screen Presentation (4:3) and comes with the Special Features of:
G.K. Chesterton Bio