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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, Set 2
Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, Set 2
Acorn Media // Unrated // February 7, 2006
List Price: $59.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted February 18, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

For those who like their detectives to be stylish, suave, and - of course - British, the BBC adaptation of Ngaio Marsh's novels in Inspector Alleyn Mysteries will fit the bill nicely. Set shortly after World War II, these stories place the titular Chief Inspector Alleyn (Patrick Malahide) in the midst of various high-society crimes.

The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries strike a reasonable balance between a "period" and a "modern" feel. The stories are set close enough to our own time that Alleyn can have a fairly modern approach to solving crimes without feeling out of place; at the same time, the period setting adds a touch of glamor to both the plots and the hero. Alleyn is still the somewhat heroic detective figure, but he's more on the realistic side of the spectrum, without the dramatic flair and emphasis on intuition of a Poirot.

The four stories presented here take on a nice variety of topics; murder is a recurring theme, but the circumstances and motives are distinct in each. In "Death in a White Tie," blackmail is causing a stir among the women in London's high-class social scene, and murder isn't far behind. "Hand in Glove" is a fairly traditional murder-mystery piece, as Alleyn investigates the case of a dead body found in a seemingly peaceful and quaint village. (If we believed everything we saw on British mystery shows, we'd have to conclude that the most dangerous places to live in England are small villages with "Green" in the name.) In "Scales of Justice," a World War I veteran's memoirs seem to be the cause of murder; someone doesn't want them published. Finally, "Dead Water" takes Alleyn to a Scottish island where a power struggle is going on between the landowner and a would-be entrepreneur who wants to capitalize on the supposed healing properties of the local water. Not surprisingly, a death ensues, but there may be more motives at work than appear at first sight.

The episodes are handled reasonably well overall, with interesting plots, decently written dialogue, and solid acting across the board. A few things kept the show from being as interesting as it could have been, though. For one thing, I wasn't particularly impressed by the romantic sub-plot of Alleyn and his lady friend Troy (Belinda Lang). It's probably an important part of the novels, but I felt that here it was usually a distraction from the more interesting mystery plot. It's rare that a mystery series manages to make the detective's personal life feel truly relevant to the story, and I don't think that this is one of those instances.

The other drawback I see to the Inspector Alleyn Mysteries is the pacing, which is on the too-slow side. At almost 100 minutes apiece, the episodes take quite a while to get going, and feel that they run a bit too long. The actual plots are interesting, but I think they'd have been more effective if they'd been more tightly edited.

Set 2 includes four episodes: the final episode from Season 1 in 1993 ("Death in a White Tie") and the three episodes from Season 2 in 1994. Oddly, though, the discs are out of order in the set. The original broadcast order is "Death in a White Tie" (Disc 1), "Hand in Glove" (Disc 2), "Dead Water" (Disc 4), and "Scales of Justice" (Disc 3).

The DVD

Inspector Alleyn Mysteries is a four-DVD set, with each disc in its own plastic keepcase inside a glossy paperboard slipcase.

Video

The episodes appear here in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The print is clean, but the episodes are a bit soft-looking, with some grain and edge enhancement present. Contrast is sometimes a bit too heavy, and there's a slight brownish tint to the picture overall. The overall effect is better than it sounds from the description; overall, it's watchable but unremarkable.

Audio

The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is satisfactory, presenting the dialogue in a clear and clean manner.

Extras

On Disc 1, we get a text biography and booklist for author Ngaio Marsh. All four discs include cast filmographies.

Final Thoughts

Set 2 of Inspector Alleyn Mysteries finishes up the run of the BBC mystery show based on Ngaio Marsh's novels. Fans of the first set will find the dapper Chief Inspector Alleyn in charge of four more reasonably interesting mysteries, and will doubtless want to pick this up. Although it didn't really hook me, I found the series to be well done, and likely to please viewers who enjoy British mysteries. I'll give it a mild "recommended" rating.

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