11 March 2015 | mkramer-693-816493
Superb Drama and Mystery from the BBC
Nobody knows mystery and drama better than the British, and this 1983 miniseries is first-rate British drama. As a fan of BBC drama/mystery (but unfamiliar with author PD James), I was completely unaware of the plot when I first watched this, which made it all the more riveting. From the start, the viewer is plunged into an interconnecting plot with lots of clues, suspects, red herrings, forensics, and all the usual stuff that mystery lovers love!
Roy Marsden is superbly natural as detective Adam Dalgliesh, portraying a man who is both charming and hardcore (a little like Sherlock Holmes, and his assistant, played by John Vine, as a kind of Watson). The supporting cast features such familiar BBC players as Geoffrey Palmer, Brenda Blethyn (long before her Academy Award nomination), and wonderful Barry Foster (who still impresses me with his incomparable performance of Kaiser Wilhelm in Fall of Eagles). The rest of the characters are well played (ignore the reviews that say otherwise; this is British mystery, remember, and a little theatrics is expected). Since juvenile actors are never mentioned in reviews, another minor but featured supporting player is Annabelle Lanyon, a terrific child actress who appeared in a bunch of BBC shows around this time (a notable performance being the Marchioness in The Old Curiosity Shop; she is still recognized today in the cult classic arena for playing Oona the fairy in Ridley Scott's Legend).
Remember that this was filmed in the early 80s, so it is shot on video rather than film, which gives it a little less visual style. But this was true of most of the BBC shows of the time, and once the story gets moving, you forget all about camera techniques and find yourself fully engrossed in the twisting, turning plot.
A great experience for mystery and drama fans, and especially for fans of classic BBC productions, which, granted, were thin on action and technique, but big on acting, characters, dialogue, and plot!