The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club
"I'm investigating when a man died of natural causes," states aristocratic sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, "but it's beginning to look more interesting everyday." So it is in this impeccably mounted 1972 BBC miniseries, which would make Dorothy L. Sayers's peerless literary creation proud. Ian Carmichael stars in his signature role as the stylish, cultured, and erudite Wimsey, whose investigation into the death of General Fentiman is as irresistible as "poking sticks into a peaceful and mysterious-looking pond to see what was on the bottom." As the very British title suggests, this is not a crime thriller to set the pulse racing (the discovery of Fentiman's body is referred to as "something rather unpleasant"). But as the mystery unfolds over the course of 180 minutes, it is as captivating as a good late-night read. --Donald Liebenson
The Nine Tailors
Ian Carmichael stars in his signature role as the future aristocratic detective, who, as a young soldier en route to the battlefield, becomes embroiled in "a very distressing story." Someone has stolen "a king's ransom" in uninsured emeralds from the estate of Sir Charles (Desmond Llewelyn, better known to James Bond fans as "Q") on the night of his son's wedding. No mystery here: In this case, the butler really did do it. But that's only the beginning in a puzzler that will span 20 years, when Wimsey inadvertently returns to the scene of the crime and steps into some "damn bad business" involving a recently discovered mutilated body. He discovers at the bottom of a well and in a church tower baffling clues that harken back to that fateful robbery and the still-missing jewels. The nine tailors, by the way, refers to nine church bells and the arcane tradition of change ringing. This entry in the Wimsey series offers the usual pleasures of splendid acting, colorful characters, and intriguing story. We also get to see how Bunter became Wimsey's faithful manservant. Suffice to say, The Nine Tailors will really ring your bell. --Donald Liebenson
Murder Must Advertise
"There is something going on in the organization that is very undesirable and might lead to serious consequences," reads a note that the ill-fated Victor Dean wrote to his superior just before he took a fatal fall down the metal staircase at Pym's Publicity Ltd. These darned suspicious circumstances lead Pym to hire Lord Peter Wimsey to determine whether Dean's death was an accident or murder or eh, what? Ian Carmichael returns in his signature role as Dorothy L. Sayers's aristocratic sleuth in this characteristically impeccable 1973 BBC miniseries. The chaotic advertising agency is a ripe setting for intrigue (Sayers herself worked in a prominent London ad agency in the 1920s). Wimsey has a high time masquerading incognito as the firm's new copywriter, as well as the mysterious costumed Harlequin, a ruse he adopts to obtain information from the notorious socialite Dian de Momerie (Bridget Armstrong), whose lovers (Dean, among them) all come to bad ends, and whose den of iniquity is fronted by Major Milligan (Peter Bowles, of To the Manor Born), a drug dealer who corrupts bright young things. --Donald Liebenson
Five Red Herrings
Lord Peter Wimsey (Ian Carmichael) and his manservant, Bunter (Glyn Houston), take a holiday in Scotland, but instead of spending his time fishing and playing the odd round of golf, Wimsey soon finds himself traipsing through the bracken in pursuit of a killer. It's a thankless task, really, considering that no one in town is sorry the victim is dead; one villager describes him as "a bitterly unpopular man... with a permanent grudge against everybody." Six of the dead man's fellow artists have recently argued with him, and none has a satisfactory alibi. With the invaluable aid of Bunter--who somehow manages to do a considerable amount of sleuthing, win the heart of a local chambermaid, and still prepare a full dinner before his master's return each day--Wimsey must determine which five are red herrings, and which one is guilty. Carmichael easily slips from charming to cunning as the witty and quick-witted Wimsey; unfortunately, while both the acting and scenery are a pleasure to watch, the solution is ultimately disappointing--an anti-climactic conclusion to an otherwise enjoyable holiday in the world of Dorothy L. Sayers's creation. --Larisa Lomacky Moore
Clouds of Witness
Ah, there's nothing quite like settling in and getting cozy with a complicated British country-estate murder. In the BBC adaptation of Dorothy Sayers's detective novel, which also aired on PBS, the brilliant Lord Peter Wimsey brings his investigative talents to use close to home. His future brother-in-law is slain during a country retreat, and while there seems to be no shortage of possible suspects, the investigation quickly centers on Wimsey's brother Gerald, the Duke of Windsor. The four-hour adaptation takes its delicious time in delving deeper into the psyche of the unhappy circle around the deceased, as Wimsey tries to avert a full trial of a peer of the realm. Ian Carmichael shines as Wimsey, one of English detective fiction's most memorable heroes--more nimble than Miss Marple, more willful than Poirot, more upbeat than Adam Dalgliesh. All mystery fans need for a lovely and satisfying afternoon is this series and a couple of strong pots of tea. --Anne Hurley
LORD PETER WIMSEY The Complete Collection starring Ian Carmichael. "No crust has even been more upper, no sleuth more of a hoot." —Los Angeles Times The acclaimed BBC dramas seen on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre! Here at last are all five of the original BBC adaptations of Dorothy L. Sayers’ crime thrillers featuring Ian Carmichael as the brilliant aristocratic sleuth. Hailed by critics as one of the finest mystery series ever filmed, it was so successful on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre that it single-handedly inspired the spin-off Mystery! Running at least three hours each, these dramas do full justice to Sayers’ vivid characters and elegant 1920s settings. THE MYSTERIES: Clouds of Witness, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Murder Must Advertise, The Nine Tailors, Five Red Herrings DVD SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE exclusive Ian Carmichael interviews, filmographies, interactive trivia and Dorothy L. Sayers materials.
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