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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > British TV > Lord Peter Wimsey - The Complete Collection (British TV)

Lord Peter Wimsey – The Complete Collection (British TV)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Episodes: B



Though not as remembered as much as Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot or Jane Marple, Lord Peter Wimsey is one of the great early successes of detective literature.  Writer/creator Dorothy Sayers first appeared way back in 1923 in the book Whose Body? and it is amazing how little the character has appeared on screen in any way shape or form.  There were eventually 16 original books in all and five were broken down starting back in 1972 into multiple-episode adaptations.   Lord Peter Wimsey – The Complete Collection offers all of the, with Ian Carmichael in the title role.


The mysteries are:


1)     The Unpleasantness At The Bellona Club (originally published in 1928; Book 4/ first aired 1973) [Adaptation by John Bowen/Directed by Ronald Wilson]

2)     The Nine Tailors (1934; Book 11/1974) [Anthony Steven/Raymond Menmuir]

3)     Murder Must Advertise (1933; Book 9/1973; considered one of the classic books) [Bill Craig/Rodney Bennett]

4)     Five Red Herrings (aka Suspicious Characters; 1931; Book 7/1974) [Bill Craig/Rodney Bennett]

5)     Clouds Of Witness (1926; Book 2/1972) [Anthony Steven/Hugh David]



Carmichael brings the character to life in a believable way that revived the character and (as the big box the 10 DVDs come in) convinced PBS to launch the showcase series Mystery!  That show still is with us today, featuring hosts like Vincent Price and Diana Rigg.  The cast is always up to the challenge and the production design is impressive, from a golden period in British TV like no other.  Yes, this is where some of the cliché of the dead body turning up where it should not (in the houses and halls of the rich and well-off, where they were supposed too civilized and well-mannered for such a thing to happen happened) was established, but then you see why the butler was always being scapegoated.  Wimsey’s cases always showed otherwise and the motivation, when it was greed, was universal enough for audiences of all classes to identify with.  No wonder they were hits.  This is done so well, one can see why no one has tried again to adapt more of the books since.


The 1.33 X 1 image was show on the professional analog PAL video format with the film-like outdoors shots so common to such productions.  These copies hold up very well, and even with their visually technical limits, have the look and feel of both the 1920s and Mystery genre.  That these shows actually have better form than many feature films (and digitally shot HD works) I have seen recently says something about how lame productions have become today.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 takes the original monophonic television sound and boosts it very effectively to a simple stereo that is particularly important here for the way the clues and conversations are laid out.  The score by Herbert Chappell, including the theme, are just right.  Acorn and the BBC have done great justice to this landmark television.


Extras include a good interview with Carmichael from 12/4/2000 and running 7:42, some text pages on Sayers and the Wimsey books, filmographies for all the actors for each of the multi-part mysteries and fun trivia games we recommend you try out after watching each mystery completely.  The bibliography of Wimsey books on all DVDs misses the 1937 release Busman’s Holiday, but this was probably excluded because it was set on the stage, as noted in her four-page text biography section.  The 1972 book Striding Folly is also known as “Talboys” and is the only other tale besides #4 above with two titles, a British/U.S. publishing difference.  Otherwise, this is a decent supplement section.


Like Bulldog Drummond, Lord Wimsey was washed away more than he should have been by World War II and new cycles of heroes and detectives.  In Wimsey’s case, he was further stereotyped as an effeminate lightweight who was only in circles of wealth and privilege who happened to solve murders.  This was partly due to the arrival of the Gumshoe Private Eye and Film Noir movement.  As good as those Noirs are, that is wrong.  Even when certain aspects of the stories show their age, though the TV producers have retained some of this on purpose to avoid too much contemporary revision, this is as important as any of those works.  Wimsey is an early example of how detective literature arrived and does not always carry the conventions of the genre in its later years.  Some would argue it helped build it, even if it did not completely have all the genre markings.  Lord Peter Wimsey – The Complete Collection is a key part of this legacy, one all Mystery fans will want to get.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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