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Place of Execution
Place of Execution
Actors: Juliet Stevenson, Greg Wise, Lee Ingleby
Director: David Percival
Genres: Drama, Television
NR     2009     2hr 30min

On a freezing December night in 1963, 13-year-old Alison Carter took her dog for a walk on the moors in Scardale, a secluded Derbyshire hamlet, and was never seen again. For newly-promoted Detective Inspector George Bennet...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Juliet Stevenson, Greg Wise, Lee Ingleby
Director: David Percival
Genres: Drama, Television
Sub-Genres: Drama, Drama
Studio: Pbs (Direct)
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 12/15/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 2hr 30min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Strong Performances, Suspenseful Enough
Stephanie DePue | Carolina Beach, NC USA | 11/10/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

""A Place of Execution," (2009), a new television series, is based upon the outstanding, award-winning book of the same name, by Val McDermid, a multiple prize-winning novelist who specializes in British mysteries/psychological thrillers/police procedurals, and is perhaps best-known today for her "Wire in the Blood," series, currently being filmed in the United Kingdom under that title. That series stars Robson Green, who has had a part in producing the TV series at hand, presumably for his employers at Britain's Independent Television stations (ITV). McDermid is considered a leading light in the writing school that has come to be known as tartan noir: and what's that when it's at home, you say? Penned by a Scot, (duh!), unusually dark, violent and bloody; and always lit - a bit--by that droll Scots sense of humor: its exemplars are McDermid, Ian Rankin, and Denise Mina. There is nothing in the least cosy about the village of Scardale, where McDermid has set her story; but some viewers may find themselves reminded of the plot ofAgatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, by that other even more internationally famed mystery-writing Scotswoman, Agatha Christie, who more or less invented the British crime novel,particularly the village cosy.

The series comes to us directly from its American debut on Public Broadcasting System (PBS), and is released directly by PBS. It is one disk, approximately 150 minutes long,with subtitles. It stars the acclaimed Juliet Stevenson (Bend It Like Beckham (Widescreen Edition)) as Catherine Heathcote, TV journalist, looking into a famous 45-year old case: the case that McDermid's source novel centers upon. That novel did also use a flashback and frame structure; and Heathcote, the female journo trying to explicate the case, though she was a print journalist in the book.

The case at the book's core opened in December, 1963, a freezing day in Scardale, isolated rural village in the White Peak, a place of forbidding limestone cliffs in the county Derbyshire, in the greater Manchester area, where the book's author previously worked as a journo, and now lives. Alison Carter, 13-year old extraordinarily beautiful daughter of recently rewed Ruth Hawkin, stepdaughter of Philip Hawkin, the village's new all-powerful squire, has gone out to walk the dog and disappeared. Detective Inspector George Bennett, just promoted and moved to the area, unluckily catches the case. Mind you, the mystery's wrap-up felt clumsy and tacked on, and perhaps showed the relative inexperience of author McDermid then.

In the new TV treatment, Heathcote, as in the earlier book, is making a true crime treatment of the old case, for TV this time. She gets the cooperation of the never-wed, now-retired George. However, he suddenly learns something that shocks him, withdraws from the program, and has a severe heart attack that may leave him brain-damaged.

So we've got Heathcote frantically driving all over the country, trying to figure out what's going on. And location photography is fine, particularly the shots standing in for Scardale. Acting is fine. But the filmmakers seemed to distrust the present-day pulling power of the old case, and so beefed up the contemporary material, so that the old case becomes mere backstory. The film has also eliminated several elements that I considered important to the underlying case; understandably, they must be given some creative leeway. But, in addition, Stevenson is known for her ability to play intense, and the script sure gives her intense. She is a "crap mother," with a difficult relationship with her daughter Sasha, played by Elizabeth Day; and her own novelist mother, played by Liz Moscrop. As the story she's working on disintegrates, she worries about her ability to make the segment, is harassed by her boss Keith (Danny Sapani), while her assistant Nicola (Zoe Telford) tries to steal the show. Meanwhile, she's getting good support from Greg Wise (The Moonstone),playing the easily disliked Philip Hawkin; Lee Ingleby (The Last Legion; George Gently: Series 1) as the young George Bennett, and the inimitable Philip Jackson (Chief Inspector Japp in "Agatha Christie's Poirot" series) as the older policeman. Tony Maudsley does well as the young Tommy Clough, cop on the beat; familiar-faced supporting player Dave Hill gives us an older Tommy, still full of beans. But did I care about Heathcote's relations with her mother and daughter, or her ability to get the segment on TV? No. I cared about the story that had been reduced to backstory, the original case. However,for those not familiar with the underlying novel, I imagine this TV treatment is suspenseful enough.
Quite different than the book
M&M | Seattle, WA USA | 11/12/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I watched A Place of Execution on Masterpiece because I had read and loved the book. For the most part, the movie version was well done. There was good casting and great performances throughout. Unfortunately, the script changed too many key elements from the book -- and these changes detracted rather than added to the story. I don't want to go into specific detail about these changes because I'd have to put in too many spoilers in order to describe them. You'll have to read the book and watch the movie for yourself to decide what you think. I suspect if I hadn't read the book first, I might have like the movie more. If you'd like to read my review of the book, it's under the Kindle version of the book (no spoilers)."
Loved the book...hated the television adaptation
S. CORNELL | Flemington, NJ USA | 01/14/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)

"Loved the book...hated the television adaptation. But what else is new, I usually hate a movie or television adaptation of a novel. When will I learn to stop watching them is a better question. This one really sucked. The characters and the whole tone of this production were completely unlike that of the novel. Such a disappointment. The producers of this trash decided to place more emphasis on a character that played a much smaller role in the second part of the novel, and decided to build the entire story around her pathetic and uninteresting life. Then they inserted additional characters that did not appear in the book and drastically changed the plot. The main character is now an unsympathetic twit of a woman who cares only about her career to the detriment of all else. The wonderful story has been a pretty woman who has a botched cosmetic surgical procedure and is now an ugly hag."
Strong Performances in a Combination Period/Modern Mystery.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 11/10/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Place of Execution" is based on the crime novel by Val McDermid about long-buried secrets in the English village of Scarsdale that come to light when a documentary filmmaker looks into the 40-year-old murder case that launched the career of a highly respected police officer. Catherine Heathcote (Juliet Stevenson) is nearly finished her documentary about the disappearance of 13-year-old Alison Carter in 1963, when the hero of the story, George Bennett (Philip Jackson), the Detective Inspector on the case, pulls out of the film, saying that it will "do more harm than good -mistakes were made." Wondering what could have prompted George's change of heart and in need of more information to complete her film, Catherine sets out to find out what went on in Scarsdale all those years ago.

The action shifts between 1963, as DI Bennett (Lee Ingleby) and DS Tommy Clough (Tony Maudsley) search for Alison, and the present day, as Catherine tries to get surviving members of the community to speak to her, while she copes with her producer and overwrought teenaged daughter. The period details add interest to the original investigation, and Lee Ingleby perfectly conveys the geekiness and determination of the detective while leaving the nuances of his motives mysterious. Greg Wise is terrifically arrogant and seductive as the accused, Alison's stepfather Philip Hawkin. Back in the present, in a supporting role, Zoe Telford makes Catherine's ambitious and unethical research assistant attractive yet detestable. The mystery itself is sensational and sordid, but attention to detail, shifting suspicions, and strong, nuanced performances make it enjoyable."