'Murder Most English - Set 1'
(Anton Rodgers, Christopher Timothy, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2009 / Acorn Media)
Overview: Clad in tweed and puffing on a pipe, Detective Inspector Purbright (Anton Rodgers, Lillie, May to December) pursues the evildoers of Flaxborough with a doggedness that belies his polite conversation and mild manner. And a good thing, too. For although the quiet country town appears all gentility, beneath the surface lies a darker world of deception, intrigue, treachery, and infidelity. These forces can upset the harmony of the most staid of small communities … and ignite passions that erupt into violence.
DVD Verdict: 'Murder Most English,' a show created by the late Colin Watson - a British writer most famous for the twelve 'Flaxborough' novels - features the wonderful, pipe-puffing Inspector Walter Purbright, a role sublimely undertaken by stage and television star Anton Rodgers, who unfortunately died just a few years ago.
Come the first episode, 'Hopjoy Was Here,' and after the cute, '70s style animated opening, its first part sets the scene for us to get to know the partnership between the Inspector (a slim, stealth-like Rodgers) and his Sergeant, played by a very young, Christopher Timothy. Shot in single frames with one camera (for the most part) the show is a 45 minute two-parter Dinner Theatre-style presentation.
Filmed live, slurps of tea (so much drunk tea!), coughs, raspy returns and even unintentional background noises are the norm, but the acting powers on regardless. The homes, although internally sets for filming, are all obviously based on real '70s homes. And so to see, in one suspects bathroom cabinet a classic aftershave called 'Man On The Move' is just pure brilliance!
But the real tour de force is the forensic man, a gent clad in tweed who calls everyone Squire, his indepth explanations are beyond anything that Grissom (CSI) could have dreamt of back in the '70s! Man, this dude goes to town, thriving on his found evidence, carrying it all around with him in little glass vessels in his open top briefcase! The second part drifts a little, scenes seem to run longer, but we get there; and discover the little double twist at its core ... and then we're straight into the second tale!
This one, 'Lonely Hearts 4122' revolves around a Dating Agency-style plot, where women are being buried in someone's back yard after having been to this agency. The premise plays out slowly, the build taking time, but come the secondary final part, the police duo are smart, knowledgable, and figuring it out. And come the final twist, and yes, it is a REAL twist (especially for this era), you'll be gagging to get the 2nd disc out - for the third episode to present itself.
Indeed, the third episode, 'The Flaxborough Crab' starts off well enough, kinda allows you to semi-guess the possible outcome early on, but after a red herring is thrown into the ring, well, a little more thought is once again called upon. Mind you, a near 10 minute, single camera Coroner's Inquiry is a complete drag and could have done with being cut down, but that's by-the-by. And as we quietly make our way to the end of part one, we find another twist awaiting us there. But the trouble I have with that 'twist' is that the 'twist' is wearing exactly the same clothes as the 'twist' had on in the previous episode!!!
Anyhoo, a slow beginning stretches the story needlessly - inclusive of a mysterious so-called beer drinking 'Monk' - before a couple of red herrings are thrown about. Come the final turn of the cards a good twist is revealed though. And the last episode, 'Coffin, Scarcely Used' has a great spot-the-star church yard opening, with lots of UK TV stars showing up as younger players.
The episode builds well, interestingly allowing us to follow it down a path that we honestly don't know too well, and with a voice over that introduces us to the second part (which was something new) it's the final reveal that really makes you impressed with the writers. Chewing real sandwiches, drinking real cups of tea, smoking real pipes, Inspector Purbright is already someone I miss from my TV screen! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, but (unfortunately) does not come with any Special Features.