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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Detective > Drama > Children > Crime > Literature > British > Thriller > Agatha Christie Marple – Complete Series 5 (2010/Acorn Blu-ray Set) + Unknown (2011/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)

Agatha Christie Marple – Complete Series 5 (2010/Acorn Blu-ray Set) + Unknown (2011/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)


Picture: B-/C+ & C     Sound: B-/B- & C+     Extras: B/C-     Episodes/Film: B/C-



At this point, it should be simple to do at least a coherent mystery tale without cheating and fudging, but apparently that is not so.  Big twists at the end have substituted for good writing and even potentially good mysteries go down the drain trying to be hip.  Here is a comparison and contrast of two opposites that should have been much closer than further.


Nobody in literature has sold more mysteries and has more influence than Agatha Christie.  The Queen Of Crime remains the best-selling mystery author, female author, British author and still holds many other such records decades after she left us.  I have been impressed with the new Marple series, even after changing actors to the charming and on-the-money Julia McKenzie, so the arrival of the Complete Series 5 on Blu-ray (the first Marple Blu-ray of any kind) sounded good to me.


However, something funny happened.  It has more than its DVD box equivalent.  When I covered that DVD set, it included The Mirror Crack’d From Side To Side with Joanna Lumley (beating the feature film to Blu-ray here), Secret Of Chimneys and Blue Geranium:





Not expecting any more tales for the year/season, the makers took the non Marple (and for that matter, non Poirot) novel The Pale Horse and rewrote it to be another McKenzie/Marple telefilm.  We just covered the DVD version here:





Like the DVD set, the Blu-ray here includes the older 1997 telefilm, but despite being low-def, looks much better (presented in 1.33 X 1 in the center of a 1.78 X 1 frame) than the DVD pressed years ago.  The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on the actual HD-shot episodes may show some flaws or limits that were on the DVD or less apparent there due to their low definition, but color range and warmness of the picture is superior to the DVDs, with Acorn once again delivering a solid Blu-ray release and some shots on each show exceed my rating and push into the demo department.  All presentations are in PCM 2.0 Stereo all outperform their lossy Dolby Digital DVD versions, with the new Marples having some better sonics than you might imagine, being as well recorded as they are.  Too bad they are not here in 5.1 mixes.  Extras are the same as the previous DVD box.


So that brings us to Jaume Collet-Serra’s Unknown, a thriller with the underrated Liam Neeson as a doctor on a trip with his wife (January Jones) when he is in a car crash and awakes to find he has no wife, she does not recognize him when he finds her and that other suspicious things are going on.  Diane Kruger, Aidan Quinn and Frank Langella also show up in what is a good cast in a poor film, sadly, that could have been good if the writers were not doing this in such a dumb, narrow way.  Langella plays to type, this never gets better despite hopes you have as you watch that it might and then the ending is so dumb, you can feel the writers and director just giving up, not knowing what they are doing.


It’s a shame because here is a potentially good mystery thriller with the budget, actors and some good elements, but all get wasted (even John Ottman’s score is not bad, but it can’t save this either) and we have seen too much of this before and recently.  The idea was to have another hit like Taken, but it was not a hit and the makers should have not gone the cheap formula route to imitate.  No wonder Neeson remains one of the most underrated actors around!


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image is more digital than I would have liked with more digital visual effects than a thriller like this should have, so playback disappoints and I don’t remember this looking exactly this way in the theater, but it is on the weak side, while the anamorphically enhanced DVD is really soft and weak.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mix on the Blu-ray has a good soundfield at times, but it is not consistent and also has more dialogue moments than you might expect, but that is no excuse for the mix to be more in the center channel than it has to be.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is a little weaker as expected.  Extras include Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, Liam Neeson: Known Action Hero and the Unknown: What Is Known? featurette.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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