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The Singing Detective
The Singing Detective
Actors: Michael Gambon, Patrick Malahide, Joanne Whalley, David Ryall, Gerard Horan
Director: Jon Amiel
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television, Musicals & Performing Arts, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2003     6hr 55min

A gripping murder mystery. A lavish musical. An intense psychological thriller. A warped romance. Dennis Potter's legendary, award-winning mini-series is all this and more. Hailed by the Chicago Sun Times as "The greatest ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Michael Gambon, Patrick Malahide, Joanne Whalley, David Ryall, Gerard Horan
Director: Jon Amiel
Creator: Dennis Potter
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television, Musicals & Performing Arts, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Period Piece, All Made-for-TV Movies, Musicals, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: BBC Warner
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 04/15/2003
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1986
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 6hr 55min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaDVD Credits: 3
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 11
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
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Member Movie Reviews

Reviewed on 9/20/2011...
This is a very entertaining mix of wit and dark humor tinged with sadness as only the Brits know how to mix these elements into an absorbing tale. Michael Gambon is great.

Movie Reviews

The play's the thing....
Dianne Foster | USA | 05/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"THE SINGING DETECTIVE is a compelling, funny, and heart wrenching mystery starring Michael Gambon as Phillip Marlowe: writer, protagonist, and hospital patient. Patrick Malahyde (Middlemarch) flawlessly plays Marlowe's nemesis (nemeses)-three different characters with three different British accents. The cast also includes Janet Suzman as wife, lover and vamp; Alison Steadman (Mrs. Bennet in the recent production of `Pride and Prejudice') as wife, mother, lover, and vamp (Marlene Dietrich lookalike), Joanne Whalley (ex-Kilmer) as nurse, etc.; and the housekeeper from the BBC television series `As Time Goes By' as the school teacher from your worst nightmare. In addition to the superb cast and wonderful settings filled with vintage WWII elements, one can watch `The Singing Detective' for the pure entertainment provided by a convoluted plot, quirky characters, musical segments, and many humourous moments. One of my favorite scenes occurs when Marlowe responds to the ministrations of a group of Christians who attempt to impose their musical doctrine on the hapless ward patients. Another angle for viewing this film is provided by the drama of Marlowe's medical condition. Is it mental, physical or both? Will he improve or not? Will the psychiatrist be able to break through his defenses or is he defenseless? A third avenue for exploring the film is the depiction of the creative writing process. How do Marlowe's characters take form? What is the source of his plot elements? How much does he remember and how much does he imagine? Can one find the line between fiction and nonfiction.Probably the most interesting angle from my perspective is the parallel between the Singing Detective and Shakespeare's Hamlet: the play within a play within a play (the play's the thing); the dead Ophelia floating in the Thames (who is she anyway-at least three different women turn up as the same corpse); the different `ghosts' who haunt the protagonist; unfaithful and spurned lovers; and two nameless hit men who try to assassinate the hero over and over from the beginning to the end of the story. I believe this BBC production (1986) must have inspired many of the deconstructed and now classic plays and films produced in the 1990s including `L.A. Confidential'; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead'; `Pulp Fiction'; Reservoir Dogs'; `The Spanish Prisoner'; `Mulholland Drive'; and others."
Absolutely brilliant
Slim Pickens | 10/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective is, quite simply, the greatest
work in film or television ever. Every scene is fascinating in its
own right, and as you see more of the series earlier moments take on
new significances as it is learned how they relate to the series as a
whole. The Singing Detective deals with a hospital-bound mystery
writer who is suffering from a crippling skin disease. In addition to
the often horribly funny scenes involving his current plight, we see
flashbacks of his childhood, fantasies about his estranged wife, and
episodes from one of his novels. The stories all gradually start to
connect with each other.... Potter constantly alters chronology, and
yet does so in such a masterful way that everything always makes
sense. And oh yes, there are musical numbers. Many aspects of this
series have been appropriated by later films such as Pulp Fiction
(with its time-shuffling) and Dancer in the Dark (with its imagined
musical productions), but compared to The Singing Detective these
works are crap. ...Do yourself a favor and buy it already.
An Absolutely Brilliant Adaptation Of Potter's Screenplay!
Jon G. Jackson | Santa Rosa, CA | 07/08/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I'm hesitant to call this a musical, though that's precisely what it is. Dennis Potter wrote several musicals over the years, using different eras of music. This one is, by far, the best! The music here is from the 1940s. The drama, however, is actually a contemporary one. A (failed?) mystery writer named Philip Marlowe is hospitalized with a severe case of psoriasis...more corrrectly, psoriatic arthropathy (which Potter also suffered from). He has this one great novel in his past, though..."The Singing Detective." Marlowe's illness is terribly severe, and throughout the film we join his delirium as he relives events from his childhood, falls into a fascinating fantasy based on his novel, and comes back (from time to time) to the events currently happening in the hospital. These three streams are brilliantly intertwined, and the resulting story is absolutely THE BEST THING *EVER* TO HIT TELEVISION! This is *not* hype or exaggeration! The other reviewers are completely correct in making this same claim. If you've never seen this one...well, it's your loss....Dennis Potter died a few years ago from pancreatic cancer. He was simply a GREAT writer. He wrote *many* screenplays...dramas for both TV and film, as well as the "musicals" noted above. He also wrote novels. His best, I think, are brilliantly detailed studies of a mind either gradually breaking down, or gradually coming back from some kind of breakdown. "The Singing Detective" falls into the latter category. That alone would be enough to recommend this video...but the fact that it's *also* a "musical" is what makes it utterly remarkable! I honestly don't think I have the words to be able to say just how it transcends to the level of something almost divinely inspired. At the risk of saying it one too many times, folks, this one is TRULY GREAT!If you're able to find it, there's an interview with Dennis Potter that was originally broadcast on the Bravo channel shortly before his death. He was quite sick at the time, and he took occasional sips from his flask of pain medication during the interview. He talks some therein of "The Singing Detective." Yes, Marlowe shares the diagnosis of psoriatic arthropathy...but, he's an entirely different personality than Potter himself. Based on truth...expanding into the realm of the literary. It's an interesting insight into the brilliance of Potter as a writer. Meanwhile, "The Singing Detective" is something you really *must* see! *VERY* HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!"