Search - Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries - Strong Poison (The Lord Peter Wimsey-Harriet Vane Collection) on DVD

Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries - Strong Poison (The Lord Peter Wimsey-Harriet Vane Collection)
Dorothy L Sayers Mysteries - Strong Poison
The Lord Peter Wimsey-Harriet Vane Collection
Actors: Harriet Walter, Edward Petherbridge, Richard Morant, Paul Hastings, Derek Royle
Genres: Television, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2002     2hr 30min

In the first of Dorothy L. Sayers's famous Harriet Vane mystery series, amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey falls in love with mystery writer Harriet Vane as she stands in the dock of Old Bailey. Ms. Vane is on trial for t...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Harriet Walter, Edward Petherbridge, Richard Morant, Paul Hastings, Derek Royle
Genres: Television, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Television, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: BBC Warner
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 05/14/2002
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1987
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 2hr 30min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 10
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

"Except that the girl's innocent."
Themis-Athena | from somewhere between California and Germany | 06/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Things are not going well at Harriet Vane's trial for the murder of her former lover, Philip Boyd - hearing the judge's summation, only the most unrealistic of minds could conclude that she is not guilty as charged.

One such mind, however, is that of Lord Peter Wimsey - the same Lord Peter who, normally a beacon of logic, unfailingly unspins the web of every criminal intrigue to which he brings to bear his intellectual powers, but who now, epitome of a bachelor that he has heretofore been, without so much as ever having personally met Harriet, is dead-set on marrying her. So when he tells his old friend (and as readers of Dorothy Sayers's books know, soon-to-be brother in law) Chief Inspector Parker, who was in charge of the investigation, that Parker has made a mistake, the policeman is unsettled; despite the water-tight case he feels he has put together. "Where is the flaw?" he inquires gingerly. "There isn't one," Wimsey retorts. "Except that the girl's innocent."

Thus, the scene is set for the first entry in Sayers's Wimsey-Vane canon, whose first three installments are brought to the small screen in this delightful miniseries. (The other two installments, "Have His Carcase" and "Gaudy Night," have the sleuthing pair investigate a mysterious knife-inflicted death in a seaside resort, where Harriet has gone to regain her peace of mind after her acquittal; and a serious of poison-pen letters and vandalism directed at independent women, and particularly women in academia, at Harriet's Oxford college. As the movie rights to the fourth and last episode completed by Sayers herself, "Busman's Honeymoon," were sold by the author, the BBC was unable to also include that particular installment; unfortunately so, as their version would undoubtedly have been more faithful than 1940's "Haunted Honeymoon" starring Robert Montgomery and Constance Cummings).

So, while Harriet is pining away in prison, dreading a jury verdict which, she feels, can only be delayed, not avoided entirely, and not knowing how to deal with the sudden attentions of a well-known member of the nobility, Wimsey busies himself with the search for Boyd's true murderer; whom he eventually finds with the help of his confidante Miss Climpson (whose presence in the jury box, unbeknownst to Harriet, has already proved instrumental in producing a hung jury despite the judge's damning summation) and her assistant, Miss Murchison; both of which ladies, while perfectly honorable, do not shrink from unconvential methods when called for in the pursuit of justice.

What most distinguishes this miniseries is its faithfulness to Dorothy Sayers's books, as well as its superb cinematography, marvelously capturing the settings; from Old Bailey and pre-WWII London to sleepy and somewhat seedy seaside resorts and the timeless grace and high spirits of Oxford University. Unfortunately (particularly so in "Gaudy Night") a number of subplots were dropped, but the essence of Sayers's novels is maintained; and much of the dialogue is taken literally from those. Edward Petherbridge nails Lord Peter's tone and exalted mannerisms, as well as his hidden vulnerabilities, to a tee - fans of Ian Carmichael's more physical, over-the-top interpretation be reminded that Sayers herself, in "Strong Poison," describes Wimsey as of "slight" build, while giving a rather unexpected impression of "controlled power." (Granted, though, that, conceivably having endowed Lord Peter with much of her own preferences in men, Sayers would not have Harriet comment, as she does in the BBC's version of "Gaudy Night," that he is "not much to look at;" in fact, she has her heroine veritably pining over a sleeping Lord Peter's physiognomy during that very novel's famous punting trip.) - Harriet Walter, similarly, shares more than her first name with the stories' female protagonist; she is exactly the Harriet Vane one might image when reading the books (I certainly did). Richard Morant as Lord Peter's faithful manservant Bunter is about a knife's tip too much of a jack-of-all-trades for my tastes - I can well see him "insinuating" himself into a suspect's household at his master's behest or (as in "Have His Carcase") shadowing another suspect all across London, but not necessarily fretting, as he does in "Busman's Honeymoon," over the sake of a case of vintage port, packed in eiderdowns in the back of a car and in danger of being rattled (and rendered undrinkable for months, if not years to come) by Lord Peter's brisk driving habits. Still, overall this is an outstanding production; undoubtedly one of the BBC's finest ever, and long overdue to be revived in this format.

Also recommended:
Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries (The Lord Peter Wimsey-Harriet Vane Collection - Strong Poison / Have His Carcass / Gaudy Night)
Strong Poison
Have His Carcase
Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery)
Busman's Honeymoon
Are Women Human?"
"Oh that was strong poison, Lord Rendal, my son"
Marc Ruby? | Warren, MI USA | 06/29/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I have been rereading Dorothy Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey novels of late. A friend drew my attention to the availability of the Edward Petherbridge BBC performances of three of the novels that turn on Lord Peter's relationship with Harriet Vane, and I decided to purchase them. I never quite liked Ian Carmichael's styling of Wimsey on Masterpiece Theater, which always felt a bit out of character to me. Thus, I thought this would be an interesting change.And a good change it is. Petherbridge's Wimsey is much more like Sayer's character, right down to the irritating bits as well as the admirable one's. And Harriet Walters playing of Harriet Vane is spot on. She is exactly as I imagined her. As we watch the tale of Wimsey's intense efforts to save Harriet from being found guilty of poisoning her ex-lover unfold, it is easy to imagine them eventual lovers. Despite shortness of the screenplay some of the brittle, the bits of sparkling dialogue which makes them a success on paper come through.I am less comfortable with Richard Morant's version of Bunter, Wimsey's man. He acts well, but is too young by a decade or so. As the result, some of the books camaraderie between the two feels more like borderline insolence, which the real Bunter would never have done. Shirley Cain's Miss Climpson is spectacular, however, the perfect agent for Lord Peter's schemes. In addition, the comic relief scene at Blindfold Bill Rumm's is done to perfection. The old safecracker reborn as a hymn singing lay minister is another of Sayer's tiny masterpieces of caricature.It is unfortunate that the screenwriters, having managed to navigate the plot until almost the very end with nothing to quibble about, should suddenly decide to deviate entirely from Sayer's own ending. And, in doing so, made Wimsey look sappy and Harriet rather cruel. Whether out of bad romantic taste or a criminal need to shave thirty seconds off the length of the screenplay, it will provide some distress to those of us who have read the book. Hence, a four star rating where I would normally have given a five."
One of THE BEST TV Series Ever Made!!
Jeeves | 06/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Edward Petherbridge is brilliant!!I recently acquired these DVD's (Strong Poison/Have His Carcass/Gaudy Night) and they are now my most treasured set. The performances by Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter are flawless! This series is a MUST HAVE for all mystery buffs (especially Dorothy Sayer's fans!) For those who were disappointed in the Ian Carmichael series produced 10 years earlier, take heart--you have now found the answer to your prayers!My only criticism is that there were no more titles produced in this series. I can't understand why they did not continue to make more of these wonderful productions. And furthermore, I can't understand why the BBC took so long to release this series onto Video/DVD. If I had known of the existance of this series sooner, I would have launched a campaign to demand that they make more episodes. Oh well...I guess we will just have to make do with the three gems that were made. (In fact you should probably buy two sets of these, as you may wear out your original DVD's from watching them over and over and over and ...ahem...oh yes back to the review...)The first two films, Strong Poison and Have His Carcass, are faithful to the books and each is truly a pleasure to watch. The third, Gaudy Night (or "Gaudy Lite" as I have seen it referred to) skimps a bit in comparison to the novel. However, the extraordinary acting on the part of Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter more than makes up for this, ensuring that this version of Gaudy Night is a highly entertaining one. This series should have segued into "Busman's Honeymoon." However BBC dropped the ball on obtaining the rites and left us all hanging.Perhaps it isn't too late for a continuation of this series after all. It has ONLY been 16 years since the last episode. Surely if Ian Carmichael could have the audacity to play Lord Peter Wimsey at his age, Edward Petherbridge could pull it off for at least another 20 years or so (and do it brilliantly I might add!)Needless to say, I have become an instant fan of Mr. Petherbridge and can only hope I may find more of his work on film. (This is a daunting task since this distinguished stage performer seems to shy away from the camera. Something about acting for the love of the thing and not the money. Oh these serious actors!! By the way, isn't he WAY OVERDUE for some sort of Knighthood or something ...hmm??!!)WARNING: Ordinary television will seem even more unsatisfactory after viewing these DVD's. As I said before, you'd better get at least two copies of each of these DVD's (or to be on the safe side, you'd better make it three!!)(NOTE: It seems that the UK version of the DVD's contain an interview with Edward Petherbridge as a bonus feature. Unfortunately for me, the American version does not. You lucky Brits!!)Enjoy!"
Lord Peter Wimsey, better than ever!
laurinrose | Vancouver, WA | 02/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In this series, starring Edward Petherbridge, we are introduced to the supremely aristocratic Lord Peter Wimsey, the talented and strongminded Harriet Vane and the fascinatingly resourceful Bunter.

In my mind's eye, these characters are brought to life with a degree of affection and charm, with a sharp eye to authenticity and mannerisms of the class and time.

Having watched this series the first time round, it was well worth the wait to finally purchase this series (and Amazon was cheaper than Powell's, PBS, and Barnes & Noble)."