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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Suspense > Literature > Comedy > Spy > TV > British > Ellery Queen Mysteries (1975 – 1976/Universal/E1 DVD Set) + The Piglet Files – The Complete First Series (1989/PAL/Region 2/Two/Network U.K./DVD Set)

Ellery Queen Mysteries (1975 – 1976/Universal/E1 DVD Set) + The Piglet Files – The Complete First Series (1989/PAL/Region 2/Two/Network U.K./DVD Set)

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-/D     Episodes: B/B-

 

 

PLEASE NOTE:  Ellery is a U.S. Region One DVD Set, while Piglet is only available in the U.K. from our friends at Network U.K. and can be ordered from them at the website address links provided below at the end of the review or at finer retailers.  This is in the Region Two/2/PAL format and can only be operated on machines capable of playing back Region 2/PAL discs.

 

 

Sometimes, exceptional TV series get lost in the shuffle because they only ran so long, yet they are fondly remembered by those who have seen them and it is always nice when they make it or make it back to DVD.  Two such shows are The Ellery Queen Mysteries with Jim Hutton and The Piglet Files with Nicholas Lyndhurst.

 

The Ellery Queen books have always been a staple of the Mystery genre, but are not always adapted to film.  A few feature film B movies were made in the mid- 1930s, then mid 1940s, followed later by TV series in the mid and late 1950s, but the last time was the early 1970s in a telefilm with Peter Lawford.  That may not have become a series, but the creators of Columbo decided they would like to see it happen as a series and it did.

 

Richard Levinson and William Link were so successful at Universal Television, that the studio backed their series version of the show with Tim Hutton as Ellery and David Wayne as his investigator father.  Unlike all the other (and many) detective shows being made at Universal, this one would take place in the past period of the books (the 1940s here) and the results are one of the best series from that prolific period.

 

Each of the episodes set up the cast, who gets murdered and asks you if you can figure it out the murder before Ellery can.  Because of the expense, only 22 episodes were made, not including the original TV movie Too Many Suspects with Hutton (and guest stars Ray Milland, Kim Hunter, John Larch and Monte Markham) which is also included here.  The rest of the actual episodes had titles that always began with The Adventures Of… in their title and here is the list with guest cast:

 

1)     …Auld Lang Syne with Joan Collins, David Doyle, Herb Edelman, Ray Walston, Barbara Rush and Guy Lombardo as himself.

2)     …The Lover’s Leap with Ida Lupino, Anne Francis, Don Ameche, Susan Strasberg, Craig Stevens, Jason Wingreen and Jack Kelly.

3)     …The Chinese Dog with Orson Bean, Murray Hamilton, Geraldine Brooks and Eugene Roche.

4)     …The Comic Book Crusader with Tom Bosley, Lynda Day George, Dee Wallace, Donald O’Connor and Eddie Firestone as Phil Collins (not the pop singer).

5)     …The 12th Floor Express with Pat Harrington, George Furth, Dina Merrill, Kip Niven and Paul Stewart.

6)     …Miss Aggie’s Farewell Performance with Eve Arden, Nan Martin, Betty White, John McGiver, Beatrice Colen, Paul Shenar and Bert Parks.

7)     …Colonel Nivin’s Memoirs with Rene Auberjonois, Lloyd Bochner, Robert Loggia, Pernell Roberts, Gretchen Corbett and Nina Van Pelt.

8)     …The Mad Tea Party with Jim Backus, Larry Hagman, Rhonda Fleming, Edward Andrews, Julius W. Harris, Patricia Smith, Juile Sommars, Olan Soule and Carmen Matthews.

9)     …Veronica’s Veils with Julie Adams, William Demerest, Jack Carter, Don Porter, Barbara Rhodes and a cameo by George Burns.

10)  …The Pharaoh’s Curse with June Lockhart, Ross Martin, Simon Oakland, John Larroquette and Nehemiah Persoff.

11)  …The Blunt Instrument with John Dehner, Eva Gabor, Richard Jaeckel, Joanna Barnes, Ellen Weston and Dean Stockwell.

12)  …The Black Falcon with Howard Duff, Tab Hunter, Roddy McDowell and Signe Hasso.

13)  …The Sunday Punch with Robert Alda, Lloyd Nolan, Dane Clark, Janet MacLachlan and Otis Young.

14)  …The Eccentric Engineer with Arthur Godfrey, Dorothy Malone, David Hedison, Bobby Sherman, Dick Van Patten and Ed McMahon.

15)  …The Wary Witness with Michael Constantine, Dwayne Hickman, Sal Mineo, Tricia O’Neil, Cesar Romero, Michael Parks, Katharine Woodville and Dick Sargent.

16)  …The Judas Tree with Dana Andrews, Bill Dana, Clu Gulager, George Maharis, Jack Kruschen, Diana Muldaur, Ted Gehring, Michael Pataki and James Shigeta.

17)  …The Sinister Scenario with Noah Berry, Carole Cook, Vincent Price, Don DeFore, Troy Donahue, James B. Sikking and Barbara Rush.

18)  …The Two-Faced Woman with Theodore Bikel, Victor Buono, Vera Miles, Edward Mulhare, Forrest Tucker, Alfred Ryder, Woodrow Parfrey and Dr. Joyce Brothers.

19)  …The Tyrant Of Tin Pan Alley with Polly Bergen, Ken Berry, Michael Callan, Norman Fell, Albert Salmi, Brad David and Rudy Vallee,

20)  …Caesar’s Last Sleep with Edward Albert, Jan Murray, Michael Gazzo, Kevin Tighe, Bibi Besch, Timothy Carey, Stanley Ralph Ross, Erica Hagen, Timothy Carey and Stuart Whitman.

21)  …The Hardheaded Huckster with Bob Crane, Eddie Bracken, Herb Edelman, Carolyn Jones, Fred Beir and Juliet Mills.

22)  …The Disappearing Dagger with Ronny Cox, Gary Burghoff, Mel Ferrer, Walter Pidgeon, R.G. Armstrong and Dana Wynter.

 

 

Tom Reese played Sgt. Velie in all the episodes, John Hillerman was cleverly cast as a mystery radio show host named Simon Brimmer in eight shows, Ken Swafford played Frank Flannigan in some of the shows and Arch Johnson played the Deputy Commissioner in some of the shows.  I especially liked Hillerman’s character and they should have had him around more often.

 

Each mystery is among the most well laid out of any TV mystery show ever made and the additional twist here is to know the era in which the murders take place, which adds an extra twist.  I wish it had run even longer.  This show took a while to arrive on DVD, but was worth the wait.  This is a key must-own set for any serious mystery DVD collection.

 

Then comes the hilarious spy comedy The Piglet Files, which ran for a few years on British TV and never got its due in the U.S. for whatever reason.  Maybe it was too subversive or smart, but Canada’s BFI had issued it a few years ago and here is my coverage of that first set:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/773/Piglet+Files+-+Set+One+(British+TV+S

 

 

Network U.K. has issued The Complete First Series and it is the same exact seven shows well worth your time.  I forgot just how funny this all was, but it is great to have the show back in print.  Lyndhurst’s Peter Chapman drives his boss (played so well here by Clive Francis) nuts as they try to pull off the toughest cases.  I got new laughs out of this when I started to compare it to the Edward Woodward TV spy classic Callan, which I only got to really see all of since I last saw Piglet.  I hope people rediscover this gem soon.

 

 

The 1.33 X 1 image on both sets look good for their age and the formats they were produced in.  Ellery is shot on 35mm film and looks great, though the image can be a little soft here and there, the prints look great and so much so that I bet a Blu-ray would bring out much more of the money on screen.  On DVD, I can’t image this looking much better.  Piglet was shot in the analog PAL format and these transfers look to be the exact same copies used for the older BFS set, but now on a PAL DVD.

 

The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono in both cases are very good with the sound showing its age sometimes, but other times sounding pretty good, especially as compared to other TV shows, but Ellery has the slight sonic edge overall being more professionally recorded and with more of a budget.  Piglet is still pretty good, but can have more spots of compression and other slight issues.

Extras are only on Ellery and include the Too Many Suspects telefilm pilot, interview with series writer/co-creator William Link and great booklet inside the case with essays and episode guide summaries.

 

 

Ellery is available in the U.S. market (and Australian fans can get a Region 4 set from Madman Entertainment) and as noted above, you can order The Piglet Files DVD import exclusively from Network U.K. at:

 

http://www.networkdvd.net/

 

or

 

www.networkdvd.co.uk

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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