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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Anthology > Drama > Stage > Literature > Mystery > British TV > Diana Rigg At The BBC (2011 Compilation/BBC DVD Set)

Diana Rigg At The BBC (2011 Compilation/BBC DVD Set)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Main Programs: A-



Some people have so much talent, you never really get to see it, especially if you are as talented as actress Diana Rigg.  Now Dame Diana Rigg for many years, she is one of the best Shakespearian actresses (or actors if you prefer) around and ever, but she is best known internationally to this day as Mrs. Emma Peel on the British TV Spy classic The Avengers.  However, her additional work on stage, the big screen and television is massive and highly diverse.  Now, the new 5-DVD set Diana Rigg At The BBC has been issued directly by BBC Video and it shows that she is as diverse as Tracey Ullman, yet as talented as Judy Dench, Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep.



The set starts with her underrated, short-lived comedy anthology series Three Piece Suite, which would have three different stories in a space of just over a half-hour by three different writers with different sets of characters.  Rigg would therefore play three different women a week.  It is some of her most underrated work and it alone merits a strong recommendation.  Mrs. Rigg also introduced the stories at the top of the hour, six in all.


Unexplained Laughter (1989, DVD 2) has Rigg co-starring with Joanna David in what is essentially a sort of road movie with subtle comedy and character study that I had also seen a while ago and is also long overdue for rediscovery.  The ladies have very amusing chemistry together and this telefilm is based on the Alice Thomas Ellis book.  Always interesting, I liked the pacing and it made for another pleasant surprise in this set.  Rigg is a reporter trying to deal with her own personal life and it is nice to see this side of journalism, a profession under more attack than ever.  Jon Finch, Elaine Paige and Robert Gwilym also star and Gareth Davies directed.


Ibsen’s Little Eyolf (1982, DVD 3) has Rigg and Anthony Hopkins as the parents of a child with a physical impairment who they love and do their best to take care of.  One day, when they are being visited by a couple (Charles Dance included), tragedy strikes and the rest of the play is about the profound fallout.  Excellent version of underseen play with top rate talent, you will be very impressed.


Genghis Cohn (1994, also DVD 3) is a dark satire of the Nazis and fascism set in WWII as the Jewish comedian of the title (Anthony Sher) who a lead Nazi (Robert Lindsay) decides should be executed.  Strange, bizarre and ambitious, you will find it an odd work and some might find it too unusual considering the subject is in part about The Holocaust, but I thought it not bad at all even if it did not always work.  Daniel Craig also shows up among the large cast.


The last two DVDs offer episodes of Rigg’s most recent series, the Mrs. Bradley Mysteries, which we reviewed the first season of on DVD at this link:




The first three episodes of the show are included here and they are 1) Speedy Death (full length telefilm), 2) Death At The Opera and 3) Rising Of The Moon.  I like the show very much and am happy to see how well it holds up.  I hope BBC or WGBH (who issued the original set in the U.S.) issues it on Blu-ray because it deserves that treatment and a larger audience.



The programs are all in the 1.33 X 1 frame (shot on film, on PAL videotape or a combination of both), save later Bradley episodes that are 1.78 X 1 anamorphically enhanced and look about as good as can be expected in this format.  Unexplained Laughter and Genghis Cohn are shot on film and look about as good as they are going to here, save their own possible Blu-ray release.  The videotaped shows are very colorful and in good shape for their age.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound is monophonic in most cases, but stereo on Cohn and Bradley.  Little Eyolf can sometimes show its age more than expected in both respects, but is fine otherwise.


Extras include an illustrated booklet inside the DigiPak book with heavy text on the set and the shows, while the final DVD has the other bonus goodies: Rigg’s great appearance on the classic Morecambe & Wise series and a new insightful interview with Rigg about her work at the BBC and the shows presented here.


Diana Rigg At The BBC is one of the best treasuries of the year!



For more Rigg, try these links:


The Avengers – A Celebration book



On Her Majesty’s Secret Service DVD set




-   Nicholas Sheffo


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