4 August 2000 | behrens-2
Welcome back after 27 years!
It took only a quarter century to catch up with Lord Peter Wimsey: Murder Must Advertise and I am eternally grateful to Acorn Media for making it available, along with "Clouds of Witness" and "The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club." Yes, "Five Red Herrings" and "The Nine Tailors" are due soon.
Having read the book several times, I can say that the dramatization is not only faithful to the plot but also to the comic tone of the original. Sayers herself did work in an advertising agency and she perfectly catches the chaos, the frustrations, and the high spirits that pervade such an establishment.
Even more on video than in the novel is each character fully realized. When Wimsey (working under an alias) first enters the secretaries' room, the more flamboyant of the women (played by Fiona Walker) is found coffee cup high in the air and sheet of advertising copy low in hand, thereby establishing her character perfectly. She can also quote Latin tags and Shakespeare with colloquial ease. The stuffy head of the firm, Mr. Pym, is played by Peter Pratt, well known to Gilbert & Sullivan buffs as the comic lead at the D'Oyly Carte several generations ago.
The ubiquitous Peter Bowles plays the villainous Major Milligan as a dope dealer to the "bright young things" who still knows when to apologize for rudeness. Mark Eden continues his role as Chief Inspector Parker, now Wimsey's brother-in-law since marrying into the family after the "Clouds of Witness" case. If I cannot warm up to Lady Mary (Rachel Herbert), it is perhaps because of her smugness that tries to be charming but (for me) just misses.
Possibly the best realized character is Bridget Armstrong's Dian de Momerie, the fading sexpot who knows she is doomed by her associates, her drug taking, and the ravages of time. Armstrong turns what could have been an utterly cliched role into a sympathetic and believable one.
And of course, Ian Carmichael is the same bubbling amateur sleuth of the first two mysteries, always ready to apologize for forgetting he has advantages over most of the others.
The plot combines a simple whodunit with a complex howsitdun; and if you pay close attention to the most seemingly inconsequential lines in the first episodes, you will appreciate all the more the solution in the last one. I will reveal none of the plot here, except to say it is a lot of fun.
The production budget is below that of the Poirot series, but the period feel is just as good. By the way, when Wimsey (in disguise) is compared with Bertie Wooster, the script writer might be indulging in an inside joke: Ian Carmichael did play Wooster in a series on British TV and that association nearly cost him getting Wimsey after he himself suggested it to the powers that be!