I really enjoyed the first set of Armchair
that Acorn released last summer and was excited to see the second set
my doorstep. Like the first collection,
this set presents three stories from this serialized anthology program. Each story if 4 or 6 episodes long, each
running a little less than half an hour.
Presenting intriguing mysteries and captivating tales of
set is quite a fun to watch. The main
complaint is that Acorn does not present the shows in order, but rather
skips around taking stories from both seasons of the show.
The tales presented are:
Murders (six episodes; planned
for the second season but never broadcast):
The set starts out with an anomaly.
This six part story was written and filmed for the series, but
broadcast. I'm not sure why they
replaced this with two shows made by another production company (Dead Man's Kit and High Tide neither one
included in this set and it's unlikely
they'll be in future volumes since another company owns the rights) but
did. These six episodes were later
stitched together and broadcast in the UK as a feature movie.
The story, based on the novel of the same name by Lionel
Davidson, involves a serial killer stalking the town of Chelsea.
He's killed three without leaving a clue, and the police are
solve the crimes before the press realizes that the murders are related. Their first big break comes when a fourth
victim survives the attack. She even got
a good look at the killer. The only
problem is that he was wearing a clown mask and coat, and looks just
character in a student film. As the
police start following their leads, clues from the film, they start
that the killings are somehow related to literary figures that once
While watching this story I couldn't help but imagine that
the book would be better. The script was
fine and executed well, but it didn't build the tension as well as it
have. I was never totally engrossed in
the mystery the way a great novel can pull you in, although this story
the right elements.
The acting was fine for the most part, though some of the
actors (the film students for example) played their roles up a bit too
that almost made they seem campy. This
is one of those shows that works for the most part, but with just a
of tweaking could have been much better.
This set also includes the feature-length version of the
story, and that works a bit better. No
longer hampered by having to come up with a cliff hanger to end every
show, the story evolves a bit better, but still missed the mark
The Circle Complex
(six episodes; season two, story six): This
is the last story broadcast as half-hour episodes.
(The feature version of The Chelsea Murders
would air nearly a year after this serial started.)
Tom Forman (Trevor Martin) pulls off a daring crime and
steals a half a million British Pounds worth of jewels.
A policeman is killed during the robbery
however, and Tom is caught and sent to jail for a long time, but the
In jail Tom has therapy sessions with a psychiatrist, Ollie
Morton, who just happens to be having an affair with Tom's wife, Val. Ollie and Val come up with a plan to break
Tom out of jail so that he can lead them to the fortune in jewels that
hidden away. Tom's not stupid however,
and things don't go quite according to plan.
I really enjoyed this story.
The love triangle was nicely done and the ending (which I won't
worked particularly well. While the
story does drag just a bit in places and the synthesizer background
very dated, the plot is well constructed and develops nicely to a good
Quite as a Nun (six
episodes; season one, story four): The
only first season story in this collection is the highlight of this set.
When investigative reporter Jemima Shore
(Maria Aitken) finds out that an old friend has died, she decides to
it. She returns to her old school, The
Convent of the Blessed Eleanor, where her friend, a nun named Sister
lived. Digging into the death, Jemima
discovers that Miriam was actually a wealthy heiress, and owned a
amount of land in London,
as well as the grounds of the Convent itself.
There are whispers that Miriam was going to change her will and
her fortune to a group of radical leftists, which may have been enough
for her to be murdered. When another nun
turns up dead, Jemima is sure she's on to something.
This was a great story.
The show is filled with atmosphere and the medieval convent
across as a very creepy. The interiors
are dimly lit and filled with shadows that really add a lot to the
the show. The tales the children tell of
the Black Nun, a faceless woman who appears before each death, adds
chills, especially when Jemima climbs to the top of a tower one night
the faceless apparition.
While I did enjoy the show immensely, I will admit that some
aspects were overdone. The nuns were too
secretive and there were so many conspiracy plots flying around that
seemed to be guilty. The plot is also a
bit slower than current shows, but I didn't mind that at all. Though there were a couple of problems, this
was an excellent show.
Each of these three stories comes on its own DVD with the
movie version of The Chelsea Murders
getting its own disc too. The four discs
are housed in separate thinpak cases, and the set comes in a nice
The original mono audio track is provided on these shows,
and it does the job. The accents get a
bit heavy at times and can be hard to understand, but usually only for
characters. The audio isn't as crisp and
lacks the range of a recent show (most evident in the opening and
which isn't as full as it should be,) but the dialog is easy enough to
hear. There is a bit of background
hiss, but it's
These DVDs preserve the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio of the
show. The video is on par with other BBC
shows from the late 70's. It's a bit
soft, and the detail isn't the greatest but the image is fairly clear. The colors are a bit muted but it doesn't
distract from the show. The prints are
generally in good shape, though there are some spots and the occasional
horizontal line pops up once in a while.
There is one more thing to note about the transfer:
these shows all have cue dots included. These
are small squares that appear in the
upper right-hand side of the frame that are filled with moving diagonal
lines. This was a device used in Britain
the broadcasters that a commercial break was coming up.
While it is a bit distracting, it only
Though it's listed as a feature, there's also a
feature-length version of The Chelsea
Murders included in the set. That
particular story was never show during Armchair Thriller's two season
over a year after the last regular broadcast those six episodes were
together and broadcast as a movie. I
enjoyed this version a bit better and was glad that that Acorn included
These were excellent stories. Gripping,
intelligent, and often suspenseful Armchair Thriller Set
Two is a wonderful
set. I only wish that they had released
the shows in order, but that's a small complaint. Run
out and pick this one up. Highly