Julian Fellowes Presents “A Most Mysterious
Sound: B- Extras: C+ Episodes: B
Julian Fellowes received an Academy Award for his
screenplay of Robert Altman’s Gosford Park, which this critic thinks is
Altman’s worst film and its ideas about deconstructing the detective and
mystery story are a mess. Altman was
better off with his underrated The Gingerbread Man, based on an
unpublished story by John Grisham. When
I heard he would do a TV series, I was skeptical, but A Most Mysterious
Murder is a very interesting True Crime series. That is especially because all the murders take place during WWII
or before. The cases are:
The Case of Charles Bravo: In 1876, the new husband of a woman with a
scandalous past dies in agony from antimony poisoning.
The Case of Rose Harsent: In 1902, an unmarried,
pregnant servant girl is stabbed to death in the village of Peasenhall.
The Case of George Harry Storrs: In
1909, a wealthy industrialist meets an untimely death that is cause for alarm.
The Case of the Croydon Poisonings: In
1929, the third person in a respectable middle-class family in Croydon dies
after a short illness, raising fears of a serial killer.
The Case of the Earl of Erroll: In
1941, an aristocrat living the high life in Kenya is shot dead one evening on
his way home from the Colonial Muthaiga Club.
Each show runs about an hour and offers dramatic
reenactments of the known facts with extrapolations to recreate them. What is amusing is that out of nowhere, give
or take the occasional voice over, Fellowes pops up on the set the
dramatizations take place ala Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone. However, these moments run from so awkward
to unintentionally funny that if Benny Hill were alive, he’d be making a
regular skit out of them. Fellowes is
trying to be the James Ellroy of British TV and the sketch of him smacks of the
famous Alfred Hitchcock profile.
However, unlike the sleazy Film Noir type True Crime you
would get from Ellroy and others in the “pulp fiction” vein, leave it to the
British to do an upscale version of the sub genre like nothing seen on TV
before. In that, Fellowes has stuck
gold enough top come up with something original in a field of often tired,
formulaic police procedurals and mystery stories that have no mystery to
them. If anything, it reminds one of
the better episodes of Leonard Nimoy’s classic hit TV show In Search Of…
from the 1970s in its constant series of facts and examinations.
The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image was shot on video
and though it was likely digital High Definition, Video Black is an issue
within some shots, though not on the actual discs. That suggests a flaw in the material or source. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo has good Pro
Logic surrounds and is more in keeping with a new production. Extras include text case notes, stills, text
bio on Fellowes and a half-hour making of featurette. A Most Mysterious Murder is something newer in a sea of
unambitious TV from both sides of the sea.
Catch it soon.
- Nicholas Sheffo