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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > British TV > Mrs. Bradley Mysteries - Series One

The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries – Series One


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C-     Series: B



Dame Diana Rigg, top Shakespearian actress and action icon, has hosted the PBS/WGBH hit series Mystery! for years now and it has been too long since she had revisited the genre in any way.  Finally, she returned for a long overdue reappearance as a detective.  The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries features Rigg as the Jazz-age, able-bodied stateswoman who travels around with her chauffer in a Rolls Royce and shows up for murder al the time.  Some dames have all the luck.


Fortunately, so do the viewers.  Many writers and theorists have gone out of their way to discuss the trajectory of fellow-Avenger alumni Joanna Lumley from Bond Girl, to New Avengers, to Absolutely Fabulous.  Few have done this with Rigg’s career, especially because most writers are just too in awe of her and her work to critically consider it.  Even the appropriately and highly celebrated Avengers work as Mrs. Peel, but not much after it.  As Mrs. Bradley, she comes full circle playing a long-standing series of women ahead of their time, but it is not that simple.


Rigg has made a career of playing exceptionally dignified, progressive, realistic, exceptionally well-rounded women like nothing the screen (TV or theatrical film) had seen before, and this does not even include her extremely substantial stage career, no matter what the material.  Mrs. Peel may have been sexy, but she could equal that in her physical self-defense abilities and scholarly knowledge.  As the self-destructive Tracy in Peter Hunt’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), she becomes Mrs. James Bond because her life experience and knowledge of the darker side of the real world early via her gangster father makes her a perfect match of 007, as the Native American gal who gets involved with George C. Scott in The Hospital (1971, a role Cher would have been thought for now, but not then) who is as off-center as the tumbling institution he works for is cleverly underplayed.  Even later as the target of everyone’s annoyance in Guy Hamilton’s film of Agatha Christie’s Evil Under The Sun (1982), she has to juggle a cast of exceptional actors, including verbal spars with Maggie Smith, one of the only actresses of her caliber in or out of her generation.


As Mrs. Beatrice Adele Lestrange Bradley, this history is so beyond established, that Rigg breaks the fourth wall in character and talks to the audience a few times per show.  She is a wise, experienced woman who is rarely impressed and does not suffer fools gladly.  One person she does constantly embrace is her partner-in-crime-by-default, her chauffer, George Moody (Neil Dudgeon) who does the driving around.  They make a great pair, with Moody echoing John Steed at times in being the good man our heroine travels down the road with.  They make an interesting team and each mystery is viable and fun, give or take the murder.  The initial shows are:


1)     Speedy Death (full length telefilm)

2)     Death At The Opera

3)     Rising Of The Moon

4)     Laurels Are Poison

5)     The Worsted Viper



The well-directed, well-cast shows never stop being interesting and yet another triumph in Rigg’s career.  Both the pilot at 1.33 X 1 and the rest of the shows in 16 X 9/1.78 X 1 letterboxed image from the later shows are equal, looking as though they were shot on HD and have some detail limits.  I wish the later episodes were anamorphically enhanced, because this is one of the best-looking, ongoing British TV productions we have seen in a while.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is well recorded on all installments, though there is a bit more surround information on the later episodes.  However, it is limited and the viewer will have to experiment to hear which playback mode they prefer.  Extras include weblinks, select cast list, cast filmographies, and text on Rigg on all three discs, plus trailers and audio descriptive services for the shows after the pilot on their respective discs.  Between the writing and its star, The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries is great viewing, a show that will endure for decades to come.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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