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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > British TV > The Racing Game (Dick Francis/Mystery TV Series/1979-80/Acorn Media DVD)

The Racing Game (Dick Francis/Mystery TV Series/1979-80/Acorn Media DVD)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: C-     Episodes: C+



Dick Francis is one of the most successful Mystery writers of his generation and has delved into motion picture and TV production a few times.  After Dead Cert (1974), he tried to see his works become TV shows twice.  A 1989 set of TV movies did not work out and neither did this 1979 TV series coming out around the final wave of such Action/Detective/Police shows at the time like Return Of The Saint, The Professionals and other such shows.  For starters, here is our look at the 1989 show:





This version offered an hour-long show, but was cut short more quickly than the Paramount/William Conrad Nero Wolfe series.  However, as compared to the telefilms a decade later, these are tighter storytelling that works to the shows advantage, which has a budget if no big names.  The one big behind the scenes name is writer Terence Feely, whose long career of great writing for British TV includes The Avengers, The Saint, The Prisoner, UFO, The Persuaders, The Protectors, Brian Clemens’ Thriller, Space: 1999, The New Avengers and Return Of The Saint, (all pretty much reviewed elsewhere on this site) gives this an edge the later show did not have.


Jockey Sid Halley (Mike Gwilym) is a champion rider who has a fatal injury that hurts his arm for good and worse is on the way as he finds himself caught up in investigating murder and more.  Putting his energies into his new found calling, he and his Judo/tough guy friend Chico Barnes (Mick Ford) find themselves a team unraveling deadly plots and the like.  The six shows that did get made include:


Odds Against


Gambling Lady

Horses For Courses





The problem is that the show lacks panache, though it has some edge, but that makes it more like a police procedural than a Mystery series reaching its greatest potential.  Too bad because this is done in a first rate manner and all Mystery fans should see the series at least once.  Good to have it back on DVD.


The case warns that the materials are a little weak and despite being filmed, the 1.33 X 1 color image is softer than it should be, whether it was shot in 16mm or 35mm.  Where are the original film prints?  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also a little weaker than expected, so expect some playback limits.  Extras are weaker with only a text bio of Francis, but a featurette would have been nice.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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