Koch Vision presents "P.D. JAMES: THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION" (1983-1997) (2075 mins/Color) -- Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, (born 3 August 1920) is an English author of crime fiction, under the name P. D. James, and is a life peer in the British House of Lords --- Hailed as Britain's "Queen of Crime" by critics and fans alike, P.D. James is one of the most celebrated mystery writers of all time --- Her first novel, "Cover her Face", introduced the world to the brilliant and poetic mind of Scotland Yard's Adam Dalgliesh --- Audiences have been captivated ever since
>From the diabolical to the macabre, this "essential collection" presents nine critically acclaimed P.D. James film adaptations - each starring Roy Marsden in a compelling Adam Dalgliesh Mystery.
Over 34 Hours of Heart-Stopping Suspense - Includes a collectible 19-Page Booklet, featuring an interview with P.D. James.
9 MYSTERIES ON 15 DVD'S AS FOLLOWS:
"Death of an Expert Witness" (8 April 1983)
It begins with the discovery of a murder of young girl --- However, this is not the focus of the novel, but rather is used as a method to introduce us to the staff of a forensic laboratory, the background of this mystery --- The actual murder of Dr. Lorrimer, an experienced expert witness, is only discovered in the second section of the book. It is quickly established that only people associated with the lab would have the opportunity or the knowledge to commit the crime, which allows the detectives to focus their attention.
"Shroud for a Nightingale" (9 March 1984)
Commander Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate the death of two student nurses at the hospital nursing school of Nightingale House --- The novel was adapted as a television miniseries by Anglia Television in 1984, with Roy Marsden as Dalgliesh and Joss Ackland as the surgeon, Stephen Courtney-Briggs.
"Cover Her Face" (17 February 1985)
It details the investigations by her poetry-writing detective Adam Dalgliesh into the death of a young, ambitious maid, surrounded by a family which has reasons to want her gone - or dead --- The title is taken from a passage from John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi: "Cover her face. Mine eyes dazzle; she died young."
"The Black Tower" (8 November 1985)
Adam Dalgliesh, convalescing after a severe illness, arrives at Toynton Grange (Dorset coast), the rest home for the young disabled, just too late to find out why his old friend Father Baddeley had sent for him --- The monk-robed Wilfred Anstey and his staff are an odd lot, as are the few patients, all in wheelchairs --- There's already been a suspicious suicide, and Dalgleish is not satisfied that the old priest's death was caused by myocarditis alone --- Handicapped by poor health, he finally manages to unearth the secret of the grange --- Unpleasant people, but good final scenes."
"A Taste for Death" (21 May 1992)
In the dingy vestry of St. Matthew's Church, Paddington, two bodies have been found with their throats slashed --- One is an alcoholic vagrant, whereas the other is Sir Paul Berowne, a baronet and recently resigned Minister of the Crown --- Poet and Commander Adam Dalgliesh investigates one of the most convoluted cases of his career.
"Devices and Desires" (4 January 1991)
Commander Adam Dalgliesh, having published his second volume of poetry, retreats to the remote Larksoken headland where his recently deceased aunt, Jane Dalgliesh, left him a converted windmill --- However, a psychopathic mass murderer, known as the Norfolk Whistler, is on the loose and seems to have arrived at Larksoken when Dalgliesh finds the body of the nearby nuclear power plant's Acting Administrative Officer during an evening stroll on the beach --- We then watch the effect a following series of interlocking plots have on each other, and on the lives of the books protagonists.
"Unnatural Causes" (13 January 1994)
Unnatural Causes is the title of a 1967 detective novel by P. D. James --- It features her detective Adam Dalgliesh, who happens to be visiting his aunt, Jane Dalgliesh, in Suffolk when the body of a detective novelist, Maurice Seton, is found washed ashore in his own small boat. The death is highly suspicious because his hands are missing, having been removed with a meat cleaver, just as Seton himself had described in a thriller he was beginning to write. However the cause of his death is mysterious; his hands were removed some time after his death --- The primary responsibility for the investigation falls on Inspector Reckless, but Dalgliesh conducts his own low-key investigation in support.
"A Mind to Murder" (2 January 1995)
Scotland Yard Commander Adam Dalgliesh has been on leave following the death on duty of a member of his team, DS Sarah Hillier --- His superiors order him back to work to investigate the murder of the Director of the Steen Clinic, which specializes in psychiatric cases --- Dalgliesh and his team can't quite figure out why they've been assigned to what seems to be a straightforward murder case but it's clear that his superiors want him to get in and out as quickly as possible --- There is any number of possible suspects and as Dalgliesh is fond to say, the motive for murder is inevitably greed or love.
"Original Sin" (9 January 1997)
The murder of Peverell Press's managing director, ambitious Gerard Etienne, seems to be the horrible end of a series of malicious pranks in the company headquarters --- When Adam Dalgliesh is called to the scene to solve the murder, he soon finds out that the killer does not intend to stop with Etienne.
the cast includes:
Roy Marsden ... Commander Adam Dalgliesh
1. Roy Marsden
Date of Birth: 25 June 1941 - Stepney, London, England, UK
Date of Death: Still Living
Special footnote, Roy Marsden (born on June 25, 1941 in Stepney, London) is a British actor, who is probably best known for his portrayal of Adam Dalgliesh in the Anglia Television dramatisations of P. D. James's detective novels.
Great job by Koch Vision --- looking forward to more high quality titles from the BBC Collection film market --- order your copy now from Amazon or Koch Vision where there are plenty of copies available on DVD, stay tuned once again for top notch releases --- where they are experts in releasing long forgotten films and treasures to the collector.
Total Time: 2075 mins on DVD ~ Koch Vision KOCV-6565 ~ (8/05/2008)
on January 23, 2004
Death of an Expert Witness (295 minutes- originally aired 1985)
Shroud for a Nightingale (251 minutes - 1986)
Cover Her Face (291 minutes - 1987)
The Black Tower (287 minutes - 1988)
A Taste for Death (291 minutes - 1990)
Unnatural Causes (120 minutes - 1994)
Original Sin (151 minutes - 1997)
This reviewer has never read P. D. James' works; comments are based on these TV productions. James created these largely (witty and tense) dialog-driven, convoluted plots with a large cast of suspects, on whom she lavishes character developments like their idiosyncrasies, motivations, interactions, and sexual preferences. From the running times, the presentation of these seven episodes is mostly faithful to the originals.
Unlike Agatha Christie's work, where one is kept abreast of facts as they are uncovered and the murder(s)' resolution is a logical re-ordering and summation, James withholds information from the viewer that is already known to Scotland Yard's Adam Dalgliesh. She also has a penchant for springing critical information and new suspects out of nowhere, late in the proceedings amongst a "cast of thousands", when the only forewarning, if any, is a vague and thoroughly buried name reference in an earlier scene. Days, weeks or even months can occur between consecutive scenes; one must surmise time's passage based on background detail or conversation. At the end, lesser loose ends abound, perhaps concessions to the inevitable filming process for even a PBS Mystery! production. There are red herrings and murders galore, to be expected in any good mystery. But this reviewer feels that James engages in unfair tactics for a mystery writer.
Story quality varies, this reviewer watching them in order presented (generally recommended as there is a continuing thread), and found quality improved from episodes 1 through 4. Episode 1 had little action, rather mostly detective musings and talking head exchanges, with endlessly dry, he-said-she-said suspect interviews, an unfortunate characteristic of episodes 1, 2, 3, and (to a lesser extent) 5, where events are talked, rather than shown. The high point was episode 4, a thriller-adventure mystery, where Dalgliesh, sustaining gun-shot wounds in an opening scene drug bust, goes on recovery leave when both physical and mental wounds won't heal. He visits his old friend to recuperate and hopefully relax.... The last two (much shorter) episodes are far better presented and directed (show as opposed to tell). "Original Sin" is a close 2nd to "Black Tower" quality-wise, with production cleverness likely not in the James original.
Major concentration is required. Replaying Part 1 and even Part 2 (three parts per first five episodes) before proceeding further helped to clarify the morass of detailed relationships and indecipherable conversations (see below). After enjoying the clever banter and nuances of a Holmes-Watson-LeStrad-Hudson or a Poirot-Hastings-Japp-Lemon relationship, which so enriches those stories and enhances their re-viewing, the Dalgliesh characterization is a shock. In the early episodes, Dalgliesh (well acted by Roy Marsden, likely as portrayed by James) is an authoritarian, cold-blooded, distant, and unsympathetic investigator; a loner with a brusque and banter-free sidekick. As the episodes proceed, Marsden's characterization softens markedly; in the last episode his is an almost likeable character.
The acting of the supporting cast ranges from good to excellent, the suspects (in their multitudes) more than sufficiently devious, suspicious and conniving, including such as Wendy Hiller, James Wilby, and Ian Bannen. An exception is detective sidekick Massingham (the stiff-acting John Vine) who only appears in the first three productions.
Wellspring's-Lance Entertainment's overall packaging deserves comment. This monumental grouping (28 plus hours) is contained in one nicely slip-cased 14-"page", central-spine "book" (no awful fold-outs!) containing 12 single-sided discs, each page mounting a single disc. No DVD contains more than parts of one episode and related material like still-images, (some redundantly between discs), Marsden's and James' biographies, a James bibliography, and credits. The inner front cover "page" mounts a summary brochure with original airing dates, one-line synopses, chapter breakdowns (there are legion), and other credits. Would that other such collections were so efficiently and conveniently packaged!
Picture quality, while a bit fuzzy with muted color, is generally good if one understands that the source is likely the original color video tape, with rare minor picture glitches not worth mentioning. The stereo DVD sound is another matter. This reviewer speculates the soundtrack for at least the first five episodes was recorded simultaneously with picture with no subsequent studio re-dubbing: What sounds like low frequency wind blowing over an open microphone together with incessant background traffic noises, footsteps, twittering birds, banging pots, boat and plane motors blurs, obscures and distorts almost all conversation. (Emphasizing treble over base helps, but results in harshness.) Likely this is an original production artifact reaching a pinnacle of awfulness in "A Taste for Death. (The sound track of the last two episodes is much improved, perhaps because of better technology and sound management.) When struggling to deal with English accents, unclear diction, rapid-fire speech, and convoluted inter-relationships of characters and storyline, this added obstacle made it impossible for this reviewer to understand at least 50% of goings-on in first viewings, necessitating backups, replays and annoying "what-did-he-she-say" asides to a co-viewer. Given the nature of mysteries, especially James', where such dialog is always crucial, this is truly a major deficiency! For this reason alone, this reviewer has docked this offering one star. What a pity!
Another star is docked because of James' writing tactics and her work lacking the crispness of a Doyle or a Christie; other viewers may disagree. One-half star is added back for the packaging and Roy Marsden's performance. THIS PACKAGE IS FOR MYSTERY AFICIONADOS ONLY. For such, this collection may be "essential." Qualified thanks are due to Wellspring and Lance Entertainment!