Wanda B. Red | Boston, MA | 04/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Well yes, the music and cinematography seem embarrassingly dated and low budget today in 2006 (these episodes aired in 1989). But these are wonderful miniseries adaptations of Dick Francis's entertaining novels -- In the Frame, Blood Sport, and Twice Shy -- each episode like a full-length movie, filmed chiefly in Britain and Canada.
Ian McShane is an inspired choice for the sleuth character, David Cleveland. He is incapable of uttering a line that does not have a substratum of irony lying beneath it. And these admirably smart TV dramas not only give McShane the scope to develop his talent but permit the lean jockey character, his boss, his babes, the bad guys, and even the horses all to have their place. I'm so glad I purchased these, and plan to watch them multiple times."
Not even McShane can make a silk purse out of this sow's ear
jammer | Laramie, Wyoming United States | 05/19/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"The three novels used for these adaptations are considered as among Francis' weakest (see Dick Francis webring). Serious Francis mystery jocks are strongly advised to skip these heats (and even the books). THESE ARE NOT MYSTERIES but nearer sitcoms.
In the "Blood Sport" adaptation, the novel's protagonist Gene Hawkins, spy screener extraordinaire, becomes Dave Cleveland, racetrack security consultant. Francis' awkward structure is like two glued-together novellas: In the first half, Gene's boss wants him to recover a costly stolen stallion for an owner-friend. After an attempted murder of this friend, the reluctant Gene is convinced there is more here than meets the eye. Leads suggest two other written-off stallions stolen from this friend years previously might still be recoverable. In the second half, attempts to recover these two stallions also explain the earlier attempted murder. The TV adaptation collapses these two halves into one, focusing efforts on the first stallion with key second-half events grafted on. Gone are the book's gripping opening chapters of a treacherous Thames lock system, the vicious undercurrents negotiated with punts greatly facilitating the obscure attempted murder that almost succeeds killing both Gene and the friend. Substituted is a placid Canadian lake with speed boat. And instead of a daring, almost fatal rescue from drowning with life-threatening injuries, the non-swimming friend jumps into the placid water and is routinely rescued by Dave. Gene's imaginative midnight flight with the stallion over treacherous Teton (Wyoming) passes is also mucked-up, location- and event-wise, with unrecognizable events from the novel's second half stitched in. Annoyingly Walt, the savvy insurance investigator helping Gene, is converted into a fat, dumb comic relief character always stuffing his face with donuts.
In the "Twice Shy" adaptation (strongest of these episodes, weakest of the novels), protagonist Jonathon Derry, physics teacher and Olympic marksman, becomes Dave Cleveland, racetrack security consultant. Were this the first Dick Francis book this reviewer had read, it would also have been the last. Francis is a bit computer-challenged, corrected in the TV adaptation. Excepting one colossal blunder, the adaptation is superior, collapsing the awkward two-part novel (separated by 15 years) into one brief period. In the book, Peter is killed early-on in his boat's fuel-line fumes explosion, and despite suspicious timing the police determine it was an accident, not murder. In the adaptation's opening scene, PETER IS MURDERED, his safety line cut during a solo climb by someone he knows but is surprised to see. (Viewers see only hands, knife, boots, climbing gear, Peter's reaction). Incredibly, THIS MURDER IS LEFT UNRESOLVED! Ted Pitt, Peter's old climbing buddy and computer colleague (with adjacent office), is stucking Peter's wife Donna. (In the book, Ted and Peter/Donna never met, Ted being a math teacher colleague whose involvement occurs later helping Jonathan.) Peter was commissioned by bad guys Liam and Ed to develop computer software from notes they stole from a race-betting genius' widow. Peter employed a moonlighting Ted to develop the software. Ted surreptitiously modified a copy of the completed program discs to lower the success rate from 65% to less than 50%, then returned the modified copy to Peter, thence to Liam who got really PO-ed when he found out. In the book, Angelo (TV's Liam) and Eddy are crude and dumb blunderers with no computer savvy whatever. Their TV replacements are intelligent, computer-savvy and credible sociopaths who know very much what they are doing.
In the "In the Frame" adaptation (weakest of the three episodes), protagonist Charles Todd, painter, becomes Dave Cleveland, racetrack security consultant. Having only read a plot synopsis of the book, this reviewer can only imagine the liberties taken!
The problem with such TV adaptations (even with marginal novels like these) is that collective compromises in the interests of time and budget destroy the originals' ambiance, becoming like run-of-the-mill sit-coms. TV picture-sound (from video tape) is adequate, excepting video artifacts in "Blood Sport" by rolling VHS distortion bands. If you want real craftsmanship, spend your bucks on the recently-released Rex-Stout-created Nero Wolfe TV series, a brilliantly original near-masterpiece of adaptation, everything this one isn't, and worth every penny! And they would make great gifts.
20YrTrader | USA | 09/07/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"If you are a fan of quality British Mysteries (Inspector Morse, Inspector Frost, Touching Evil,Wire in the Blood, Last Detective, etc) and think you might be getting something like that with this series because of McShane of Lovejoy fame think again. This is an American made for TV movie with second rate American actors, terrible script and dialouge. To add insult to injury the Inspectors name in one of the films was Frost! Very cheesy America early 80's style TV B movies.