'Midsomer Murders: Set 15'
(John Nettles, Jason Hughes, et al / 4-Disc DVD / NR / 2010 / Acorn Media)
Overview: The cozy villages of Midsomer County reveal their most sinister secrets in these contemporary British television mysteries. Inspired by the novels of Caroline Graham, modern master of the English village mystery, the series stars John Nettles (Bergerac) as the unflappable Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby, with Jason Hughes (This Life) as his earnest, efficient protégé, Detective Sergeant Ben Jones.
DVD: For the record, and starting on the right foot re: the big reveal for all Midsomer fans, this Set 15 (within the US) is actually Part 1 of Series 11 in the UK! Yes, yes, I can hear you all now: 'Why do they do this to us? Why can't we have the whole series in one lovely box-set?' Come on now, I think we all know the reason why companies keep putting out Part One, Volume One box-sets, but that aside, let's get into this one in particular, shall we.
'Blood Wedding' kicks everything off, when a series of bizarre murders at an upper-class wedding leave Barnaby distracted from his main weekend plans ... his own daughter Cully’s wedding day! The episode begins in 1971 with the birth of an unwanted baby, before leaping into the here and now. This episode shows us the huge difference found in classes, still existing within the UK, and if you remember the show 'Upstairs, Downstairs,' well, you'll instantly get the picture.
Also, as we progress, Barnaby has a VERY near death experience, one that still can't manage to get him into a rant or a flap, and yet one that would have had me soiling my underwear in seconds flat! And, for the first time that I can recall, Jones has a digital camera, taking snaps all over the place! As for Cully's big day, Barnaby is still catching the bad guys all the way up to the alter! It's actually the last time we ever get to see Cully, as after 40 episodes she bows out in this one.
'Shot at Dawn' features two of Britain’s finest actors - George Cole (Minder) and Donald Sinden (Two's Company) - and they play off each other in fine style. In it, a long-standing family feud erupts into violence after a disgraced soldier’s name is placed on a World War I memorial. The episode begins in 1916, black and white war scenes, and well played out they are too. True, the tale itself starts to unravel about half an hour in, the slow pace of the story becoming more methodical as we progress, but that's just to lull you in - for the big ending, the huge reveal is the BEST I have ever encountered within the murky depths of any Midsomer mystery!
Finally, episode wise, we get 'Left for Dead,' a tale of a young boy, left for dead by his 'friends,' back some 19 years prior. Indeed, Barnaby discovers a potential link between a double murder and this decades-old disappearance in the sleepy Midsomer town of Dunstan. Not only that, but all these 'friends' are also friends of DC Jones! Now, this episode also brings us another first, for me, as we have a double murder within the first three minutes of the show - before even the opening credits have run!
And, as the tale unfolds, unfortunately it side-steps off into one of property developers buying up land, old houses and wanting to knock them down, but the residents put up a human shield, etc. And that theme runs alongside the main theme for the entire episode, bogging it down along the way. But, we get another murder some 20 minutes in, so at least we're kept on our toes here!
This episode features the lovely, oh so lovely Maggie Steed (Pie In The Sky), but here, in this 62 episode of the 82 run that John Nettles as Barnaby will play before retirement from the role, he looks older, slower, and doesn't feature as much as usual. Also, the central aspect of the plot is clearly evident from 15 minutes in so there are no surprises when the big reveal comes, sorry!
The 'bonus disc' with “Super Sleuths: Midsomer Murders” on it is nothing more than a 47 minute parade of everyone backslapping creator Caroline Graham, high-fiving the woman's novels and murderous creativity from minute one to minute 47, sorry. Personally, I would much rather have had another murder/mystery to solve from the comfort of my sofa!
But, that said, and aside from what has just been mentioned weighing this disc down (I mean, come on, why couldn't this 'special feature' have been added to a disc that had a full episode already one it ie: killing two birds with one stone?!), it does reveal some wonderful tidbits.
Did you know that Michael Williams was chosen for the role of Barnaby, but thought to be too old soon thereafter? Did you know Nettles was then chosen because of his 10 years in the role prior of another detective, Bergerac? Did you know that in the first episode, March, 1997, that there were four murders and three suicides?! And did you know the whole cast agree with you re: Midsomer ... in that there's a death there every week so why don't people flee the area as quickly as possible?!
But no revealed fact is more INCREDIBLE than how the opening title music, 'The Midsomer Waltz' was actually created/played! And trust me, you have to see the woman performing the piece on her "instrument" to believe it! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.66:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
'Super Sleuths' Featurette
Cully Barnaby Photo Gallery
Caroline Graham Biography