Ranking alongside Agatha
Christie as one of the all-time great writers of detective fiction, the French
author Georges Simenon wrote no fewer than 84 novels and 18 short stories
featuring Chief Inspector Maigret of the Paris police. His work has seen a
number of film and television treatments in several languages, not least of
which was a British television series by Granada Productions in 1992-1993
starring Michael Gambon as Maigret.
The twelve episodes of The
Maigret Collection have their own distinctive flavor in plot,
characterization, and overall tone. It's interesting to compare Maigret to, for
instance, other famous detectives like Poirot, Peter Wimsey, or Sherlock
Holmes, in which the private detective is very much an independent operator,
whereas Maigret is very much part of a team, albeit a senior member; his fellow
police officers make definite contributions to solving the case and are far
more than Hastings or Watson figures. The stories develop quite differently as
well in terms of narrative; in the Poirot stories, we know that he's putting
the pieces together but we don't see the process until the very end, when he
lays all the cards on the table and reveals the solution to the mystery, but
with Maigret, we observe as the case is put together bit by bit, so while the
ending might hold a surprising reversal or unexpected revelation, we can see
immediately how it fits into the story as it's developed so far.
Characterization and tone is
also quite distinctive in the Maigret stories. Chief Inspector Maigret has
clearly chosen to work on the side of the law, and he clearly feels a great
responsibility to carry out his work to the best of his ability, but there's
never a sense that he's judging the criminals whom he works so diligently to catch.
Maigret realizes that in order for society to run smoothly for the benefit of
most, those who break the laws must be punished, but that doesn't make them
necessarily evil. In all the stories, Maigret shows a great insight into the
human psyche that gives the series additional depth and substance.
Maigret is presented
realistically, but without the "rub the viewer's face in the violence and
degradation of the street" approach that can be seen in some U.S. crime
dramas. The various characters, both criminals and non-criminals, who make
their way through the stories are presented as fully-rounded individuals. Not
all those who are innocent are likeable; some of the criminals are seemingly
decent people. Here we can see Simenon's own background and attitude expressed
in the stories he chose to tell: he himself nearly drifted into a life of
crime, and he recognized that between the criminal and the police officer
there's far less of a divide than one might think.
The Maigret episodes are set in
an almost-timeless early- to mid-20th century setting. The episodes are set
primarily in Paris, with some taking place in other locales of France; to my
very great pleasure, none of the actors attempt to fake French accents. In a
production like this, the unstated assumption is that we are hearing a
"translation" of dialogue that would really have been in French, and
so there would be no "foreign" accents involved; the actors' normal
British accents are completely natural in this context, and accurately
represent the ordinary, non-exotic setting of Simenon's stories in the
The series doesn't draw
attention to itself as a period setting, which is fairly appropriate, given
that the Maigret stories and novels were written over the course of many years,
from the 1920s to the 1970s. The majority of the episodes are based on novels
written in the 1950s, though some are taken from novels as early as 1932 or as
late as 1970. The series' writers have done an excellent job of adapting the
novels, so the filmed versions feel very well-paced.
The Maigret Collection
offers all twelve episodes of the series: "The Patience of Maigret,"
"Maigret and the Burglar's Wife," "Maigret Goes to School,"
"Maigret and the Mad Woman," "Maigret on Home Ground,"
"Maigret Sets a Trap," "Maigret and the Nightclub Dancer,"
"Maigret on the Defensive," "Maigret and the Minister,"
"Maigret and the Hotel Majestic," "Maigret's Boyhood
Friend," and "Maigret and the Maid." All are based on novels;
all are fifty minutes long except for the first one, "The Patience of
The Maigret Collection
is presented on DVD in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. It has a satisfactory
image quality, with a some noise and a little bit of edge enhancement being the
only real detractors. Colors and contrast are acceptable; colors are slightly
muted but not excessively so, and contrast is not as good as it could be, but
again, it's quite reasonable. I noticed a slight blurring effect at times, such
as in the credits, that's most likely attributable to the PAL to NTSC
conversion of this British series. On the whole, the Maigret episodes are quite
watchable, with natural-looking skin tones, good detail in the image, and a
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack for The
Maigret Collection is quite good, sounding clean and natural throughout.
The sound is well-balanced between the dialogue and other elements of the
track, and the actor's voices are always nicely clear. The theme music is quite
charming and is woven unobtrusively into the episodes.
The four DVDs of The Maigret
Collection are packaged in a single four-disc case. At about an inch and a
half wide, it could have been a bit slimmer, but in any case it takes up less
shelf space than a boxed set of four individual keepcases would have, and is
The set is short on special
features. There's a set of cast biographies, and some web links; also touted as
a "special feature" are episode synopses. These appear in the menu
page when the viewer is selecting to play the chosen episode, and are really an
"anti-special feature": I don't want to read a summary of an episode
I haven't seen yet! At least it's easier to avoid reading text spoilers than it
is to avoid seeing spoiler images, but in any case it's a rather odd thing to
The only other extra is an
insert with information about Georges Simenon and Michael Gambon; I'm not
normally an enthusiast of inserts-as-special-features, but in this case it
provides a very interesting overview of Simenon's life that gives us some
insight into the Maigret stories, and it's well worth reading.
The Maigret Collection
is a fairly sure bet for any fan of mysteries: the twelve episodes in this set
are very enjoyable, with interesting plots and three-dimensional characters.
The non-judgmental Maigret makes for a very interesting protagonist, and the
overall tone of the series, with its focus on the human side of the mysteries
he investigates, makes for a pleasingly distinctive tone for the series. The
DVD transfer could have been better, but it's satisfactory and doesn't detract
from the overall experience. It's recommended.