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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Anthology > British TV > Armchair Thriller – Set 1 (1978, 1980/Acorn Media DVD)

Armchair Thriller – Set 1 (1978, 1980/Acorn Media DVD)


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



Jumping around between its last two (and only) full-color seasons, Armchair Thriller is yet another high quality British mystery series that has been out of circulation for too long.  Done in multiple parts/episodes like a Dr. Who story, this set has four complete tales for you to figure out including:


Dying Day (1980) with Ian McKellan as a marked man who finds out about a murder plot against him through an audio tape he finds.  Michael Troughton and Anton Phillips also star.


The Limbo Connection (1978) has yet another drunken man (James Bolam) finding out he may have killed someone when he is out of his drunken haze, but is he begin set up?  It is much better than it sounds.


Rachel In Danger (1978) offers the 10-year-old of the title being picked up by a man who claims to be her father, but is not.  Then it turns out she is a pawn in a much larger, deadly plot.  Not bad.


The Victim (1980) has a teenaged daughter (Lorna Yabsley) of an industrialist (John Shrapnel) kidnapped, but it may be for something more than money.  Gerald Sim also stars, but this is the weakest of the four.



1978 was the second season, 1980, the third and final season.  The shows are well-done, yet there is some lag and more convention than I would have liked.  However, this is top rate production and ambitious at that.  Robert Tronson (Callan, Brian Clemens’ Thriller) directed the first two stories, with the second working out better.  Waris Hussein (Dr. Who, Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx) helmed Danger and John Bowen (The Wilde Alliance, who wrote the first and third installments) took on Victim.  Robert Banks Stewart, who has written for The Avengers, Callan, Jason King & Dr. Who (all reviewed elsewhere on this site) was story editor for the show and that is a big plus.  Each episode is about 25 minutes long.


Once again, it is amazing with all the digital effects and high definition, how much better these most analog-videotaped shows look better, are directed better, have better acting, have better scripts and better editing than many of their would-be motion picture successors.  There is true suspense and the intelligence of the audience is considered.  The great thing about mysteries is that they are a form of storytelling that expects the audience to be smart and work.  This is that kind of show.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot mostly in PAL analog video with some 16mm in spots (here off of the PAL video of the time, unfortunately; hope that footage survived) and you can see haloing and other color weakness, to say nothing of detail limits, but they look about as good as PAL tapings of this time can, so the transfers are decent.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is good for its age with some expected distortion, but it sounds better than it looks.  There are no extras.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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