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Under the Hammer

Richard Wilson , Jan Francis    DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Ben Glazier (Richard Wilson, One Foot in the Grave) and Maggie Perowne (Jan Francis, Just Good Friends) head the paintings department at Klinsky’s, a well-regarded auction house. Ben can’t resist a good mystery, whether it’s identifying a potential Titian masterpiece, tracking down a lost Dickens manuscript, or pondering how to catch Maggie’s attention. Maggie, meanwhile, dabbles in her own workplace intrigue—in the form of dashing-yet-dodgy wine expert Nick Roper (Michael Siberry, The Grand).

Ben and Maggie share a profound passion for the art they put under the hammer, even if the job means contending with professional competition, a cash-mad boss, and the ever-present threat of fraud. One part art caper, one part slow-burn romance, Under the Hammer provides a revealing glimpse into a world that celebrates profit nearly as much as artistic genius.

Written by John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole of the Bailey, the series also features superb guest stars, including John Gielgud (Arthur), Emily Mortimer (Match Point), Rosemary Harris (Spider-Man), Hermione Norris (Cold Feet), and Ian Carmichael (The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries).

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars John Mortimer fans enjoy July 16 2011
By Marcia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I bought this set because i've read mortimer and own Rumpole of the Bailey set of DVD's. im a fan. i even bought a sweatshirt from Acorn that reads "She who must be obeyed", so naturally, i tried this set. the sense of humour displayed by Ben, (wilson) who states he has "IJB. inappropriate joke behaviour" works well w/ the character, but i still prefer Rumpole because of the mysteries. this set of 50 minute episodes has mysteries more like "Lovejoy" than Rumpole and as a fan of British mysteries this is where i find this series lacking. the acting is definitely top drawer, the character's likable and the stories intriguing. this is British drama, not British mystery. if you are a fan of drama, read 5 star.

DVD: 7 episodes on 2 discs in average size plastic case. approx 357 min. Bonus. Biography of john mortimer.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  51 reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Drama, Mystery, Passion at the auction house=90s masterpiece May 2 2011
By Harold Wolf - Published on Amazon.com
Great writing (John Mortimer- Rumpole fame) and more British acting stars than Van Gogh had colors. This is a feast for the entertainment eyes, and family friendly. It's a look behind the scenes of Klinsky's Auction House, and the mysteries behind the priceless sale items, or fakes. The department heads of the firm also have a good bit of sideline romance that goes well beyond the water cooler. Plenty of sexy friction as well as drama. Also plenty of laughs. A very solid 5-stars in British Drama.

Cast is led by Maggie (Jan Francis-`Just Good Friends' `Anne of Green Gables, Avonlea') head of Old Masters dept. who's desired by painting expert Ben (Richard Wilson-`One Foot in the Grave' but never says "I can't be-lieve it!"). Maggie is hot for wine dept head Nick (Michael Siberry-`The Grand'). Klinsky's London office Lord Bernard `Chairman' (Robert Lang) cheats with office gal Camilla (Marsha Fitzalan), & then Annabelle (Kate McKenzie-`Endgame'). Shrimsley (Stephen Boxer-`Garrows Law' `Prime Suspect') is too busy counting the company beans to get female-frisky. Receptionist Lucy (Rose Keegan-`Lilies' `Harry Potter') dizzily dreams of acting.

And then the GUEST STARS begin to appear profusely in each episode. Many stars are not even recognized as such on the box or in the credits, just listed as a cast member. Many are noted below in the episode details (without spoilers).
7 Episodes, about 51 minutes each, all with SUBTITLES provided.
Bonus is a text bio of Mortimer, the AMAZING writer.
Rated perhaps PG (?) with plenty of adultery and bed shots but everyone covered. General family entertainment, but content likely more young adult and older.

THE FATAL ATTRIBUTION== A suspicious but potential Bronzino (1500s) oil gets the Old Masters dept thrilled and off to solving the mystery behind the art brought by Sarah Napper (Susan Wooldridge). Another expert, Hugo (John Gielgud-`Six Centuries of Verse' `Brideshead Revisited') is called to help. Romantic subplots also go up for bid at London Klinsky's.

WONDERS IN THE DEEP== Lord Bertie's wine cases are tossed into the lake by his tea-total wife. Valuable bottles offered for sale at Klinsky's leaves Ben suspect of love-rival Nick's find. Wine and a silver antique get the mystery investigation moving. Are the old items for real? In-house hormones rage on.

THE VIRGIN OF VITEBSK== Potential for a Moscow Klinsky's office is the exploratory trip reason by Ben & Maggie. Is this Ben's romantic opportunity to hit on Maggie? A resurfaced icon and a tour guide create a Russian block. Angela (Emily Mortimer-`Coming Home' `A Dance to the Music of Time' & writer Mortimer's daughter) is traveling in Moscow chaperoned by Batty (Judy Cornwell-`Keeping up Appearances'). A Russian gallery lady, Olga (Rosalie Crutchley-`Anglo Saxon Attitudes') knows something about the icon art piece.

THE JOLLY JOKER== Chairman of Klinsky's may have been taken when he purchased from a modern artist. Ben and Maggie find clues to a fraud plot as well as true romantic spark between themselves. Ned (Keith Barron-`Where the Heart Is') flings modern paint. Liz Hardcastle (Phyllida Law-Emma Thompson's ma) sings in a pub.

AFTER TITIAN== A Klinsky's NY bidder drops dead. Is Ben right in associating the Titian oil to the event? A conflict twixt conscience & career. Scot art buyer, Flecknow (Dan O'Herlihy)want Scot Ben's opinion. Klinsky's NY office head, Whiteside (Michael J. Shannon-`We'll Meet Again' `Superman II') who flirts with Maggie-& she with he.

THE SPECTER AT THE FEAST== Rare finds are always questioned-including an unpublished Charles Dickens manuscript. When it is stolen, Ben gets the blame. Did he do it? A host of guest stars make up the client's family. Dame Thora Hird (Hallelujah!' `Last of the Summer Wine') plays Nanny to the Bovington clan. Ma Hester (Rosemary Harris-`Holocaust' `Being Julia'); her son Hector (Martin Clunes-`Doc Martin'); son Mike (Richard Huw''Van der Valk' `Murder Investigation Team'); in-law Authea (Hermoine Norris-`Berkeley Sq.' `MI-5') make up the Bovington family. Annabelle (Kate McKenzie) appears at the London office to double up on the adultery for Klinsky's Bernard. Fun episode.

TREASURE TROVE== Maggie's personal life and company relations take a bit of a hit. Decisions must be made. Calpurnia (Susan Fleetwood-`Persuasion'), head in Antiquities dept, causes issues too. Sad because there is no more "UNDER THE HAMMER."

See, that's a lot of stars in one series.
TRULY FUN MYSTERY, ROMANCE, DRAMA, HUMOR MIX. Not just a DVD for the art lovers. All lovers will like this one.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Bidding June 25 2011
By author of Not a Ghost of a Chance - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I eagerly purchased this series after reading the glowing reviews. Even though I often enjoy British TV, this series was not to my taste. The major problem, for me, was the under use of investigative research, both academic and scientific, about the art and characters that did not engage my interest.

Richard Wilson's attempt at portraying a sophisticated Ben came off more as just an unpleasantly snide man. I could not like the character or root for him, in his attempts to romance a much younger woman.

To me, the series would be greatly improved by an almost police procedural approach to investigating the art. Very little analysis was shown. If this was meant to be a comedy, it was just not funny enough. As a mystery, the series is only passable. I find that I much prefer "New Tricks" in a similar TV series category.

However, the cameos, by the likes of John Gielgud, were really wonderful. To me, the guest star performances only served to accentuate what was lacking in the rest of the episode. More engaging characterizations and a more interesting treasure hunt would have been just my cup of tea.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As much fun as "Rumpole of the Bailey" June 26 2011
By GEORGE RANNIE - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
If one has enjoyed the writings of John Mortimer in "Rumpole of the Bailey" one will certainly enjoy "Under the Hammer" which was also written by John Mortimer. I really enjoyed this seven (7) episode series on two discs. We get a peak "behind the scenes" at a British Auction House for fine (high end and expensive) art in London in the early 1990s. What intrigues, drama and sexual "goings on" there are.

Besides some wonderfully humorous dialog for the viewer to enjoy, there are good mysteries to be solved by the team of Ben (played greatly by Richard Wilson) and Maggie (played wonderfully by Jan Francis) heading up the "Fine Arts" team and are always questioning "is it real or fake" uncovering extreme efforts by many characters (played by some famous British actors such as Sir John Gielgud--he's fabulous plus there are many, many more "guests") to "pass off" fakes or to just "pull one over" on the experts. In addition to the "Art Intrigues", there are delicious sub-plots involving the "sexual affairs " of Maggie and the wine Department head of the Auction House, Nick and the ongoing affair of the chairman and his "office gal" that he's not married to along with his many efforts to"hide" her. Added to the aforesaid, Ben is secretly in love with Maggie and is very jealous of she and Nick,

All in all, I derived hours of pleasure from viewing "Under the Hammer" and highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys wonderfully written, directed and acted British "mysteries".
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty and fast paced series that is very entertaining July 20 2011
By Bruce Miller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I watched this series during a long transit from Hawaii to Port Townsend, Washington sparingly viewing an episode or two each evening. It was well done, fast paced, witty, and not at all predictable. Very modern and contemporary presentation. I did have a little trouble with some of the English accents, but I think even the English would have incurred the same issues due to the fast paced dialogue. I may have to watch it again to see how many subtleties that I missed. I am hoping for some follow up episodes and will be watching Amazon for new releases. I don't know much about acorn media, but they really do hit a lot of home runs with their video presentations. I haven't encountered a disappointing series and that is why I have become such a fan.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Series with Interesting Backdrop July 11 2011
By Happy Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Enter the high-toned art world via Klinsky's auction house, home officed in London (compare to Sotheby's). The chief protagonists are Maggie and Ben, Old Master painting experts on the Klinsky payroll. They work together a lot, and the fun part of the series concerns the nefarious dealings that can take place in the rarified "fine" art world, including a forged 1500's painting, a real newly discovered Dicken's manuscript, and an illegally imported Roman statuette.

I also like most of the interplay between Maggie and Ben. Ben has a caustic wit and very Scottish outlook on life. Maggie is the "reasonable" foil to his comments. What I didn't like was the romancing between the two, mostly on Ben's part. He's too old compared to her, and it was not believable to me. It would have worked better if they just stayed colleagues, arguing and laughing together as old and loyal friends.

Overall, this series is moderately well written, and overall enjoyable. It is not as good as the "Lovejoy" series, which takes you into the world of antique dealers, which has equal opportunities for questionable practices.

I bought this DVD set sight unseen, based on the fact that it's based on writings by John Mortimer. I loved the TV series of Mortimer's "Rumpole of the Bailey". Maybe there wasn't as much to work with. Mortimer only published one book about Kinsky's, titled "Under the Hammer". Now out of print, it was a compilation of short stories about the fictional Klinsky art auction world.
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