From the "golden age" of the British mystery comes a hard-working Scotland Yard detective whose breeding and bearing give him unique access to the fashionable world in which these stories are set. Drawing on her love of th... more »eatre and art, New Zealand novelist Ngaio Marsh created elegant crime-puzzlers full of quirky characters with hidden agendas, all brought meticulously to life in this BBC series. The keen intelligence and subtle persistence of Chief Inspector Alleyn (Patrick Malahide, The Singing Detective) are complemented by the insights of his independent lady friend, artist Agatha Troy (Belinda Lang, To Serve Them All My Days), and the loyalty of his partner, Detective Inspector Fox (William Simons, Sergeant Cribb).« less
"Ngaio Marsh was one of the big three mystery writers who kicked off the genre for women writers in the 20th Century. She was a New Zealander who migrated to England around the time of WWII and who, along with Christie and Sayers, developed a version of the upper crust male protagonist dectective modeled on Sherlock Holmes.
Sadly, few of Marsh's stories were dramatized for PBS Mystery Theater, though I a number of them have been turned into "talking" books. I recall that there was some discussion at the time of the release of the PBS films about the suitability of Patrick Malahide for the part of Inspector Alleyn. I don't know if that was a factor in PBS not showing more episodes or not, but I think Malahide was just fine.
The first episodes of the Alleyn series cover his early days as an Inspector for Scotland Yard where he teams up with DI Fox (William Simons - Inspector Cribb) and meets his future wife, the artist Agatha Troy (Belinda Lang --To Serve Them All My Days). Troy is a suspect in a murder case Alleyn investigates involving a collection of artists one of whom is a victim of foul play.
Marsh was involved with the world of art including the theater and many of her books reflect her extensive knowledge of stage craft. Comparable to Christie with her poisons, Marsh relied on her background knowledge to shape her cunning plots.
Acorn can't get these mysteries released fast enough for me. I have read all Marsh's books, but unfortunately far to few of them were dramatized and fewer still are available on DVD.
Excellent and lots of fun + but one problem
TL | NY, NY | 06/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I cannot imagine what some of the people who wrote reviews here were watching. Of the four films, Death at the Bar and Final Curtain are brillaintly written and acted. A Man Lay Dead is a bit slow here or there and as is the Nursing Home Murders, but nevertheless I always enjoyed this series and was sorry they did not make more or them. A&E took over airing the series after the show was on PBS (A&E outbid PBS for a number of programs over the years) and A&E was so busy promoting things like Midsommer Murders that Allyen never got the exposure it deserved.
As for the Troy character she is played wonderfully here by Belinda Lang and there is real chemistry between her and Malahide. FYI to one of the reviewers, the characters never married in the series although Allyen proposes and Troy accepts in Dead Water.
2 out of 4 of these are five star films, the balance being 3/4 star but very enjoyable and well cast.
Let's hope the other 5 films come out as well.
ONE BIG PROBLEM:
Not knowing before hand, I bought this package and reviewed it without viewing it. They are edited!!! I have video tapes from the original airings on TV and they run 105 minutes as opposed to the 98 minutes here. Acorn Media should be commended for releasing them but shot for releasing inferior versions."
Less fun than Christie but very good of kind
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 01/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Consider all the detective series now available on DVDs: Lord Peter Wimsey, Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolfe, Foyle's War, Midsomer Murders, Philip Marlowe, and the like. The success of each one depends on the individuality of the sleuth himself rather than the mysteries. The first three on that list are real "characters" in the "eccentric" sense of the word, whereas the other three series seem to rely more on the settings rather than on the main character.
We can now add to this list, thanks to Acorn Media, the first set of the "Inspector Alleyn Mysteries" (AMP-7427), based on mystery novels by Ngaio Marsh, with Patrick Malahide in the title role. Here we have a time setting of post-WWII England and a place setting of old manor houses and remote fishing villages. Alleyn himself is a bit aristocratically stodgy in the first two episodes, a bit looser in the last two. One interesting gimmick is that his sidekick, Detective Inspector Fox (William Simons) is every bit as sharp as his boss, far from the Watson prototype (labeled by humorist Stephen Leacock "the poor nut").
"A Man Lay Dead" concerns priceless relics "liberated" during the war and now in the hands of collectors. "The Nursing Home Murder" reminds me of that classic British film "Green for Danger" in which a similar group of doctors and nurses fall under suspicion after a patient dies inexplicably during an operation.
"Final Curtain" is like the scherzo movement of this set, extremely funny until things turn nasty at the manor home of a once popular ham actor who brings a young bimbo into a home filled with relations who expect to inherit quite a bit. "Death at the Bar" revolves around a complex set of relationships and a dart-throwing expert who misses just once. Belinda Long appears in the first three episodes as the love interest in Alleyn's life and practically the star of the third episode. And as is true with most of these British mini-series, the supporting casts are very good to superb.
The only bonuses are the usual printed author biography and cast filmographies. Not as much fun as Wimsey or Poirot, but very good of its kind. Look for it towards the end of January 2005.
Not the best set from an otherwise good series
Daniel R. Rhodes | WI, USA | 04/12/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you haven't seen any of the Inspector Alleyn Mysteries before, I suggest you start with another set when they become available.
I saw some of the later episodes on a public broadcasting station a number of years ago and enjoyed them so much I read the books and watched all of the episodes available, even in reruns. Interestingly enough, I never saw the episodes from set 1 on T.V. I'm glad I didn't, or I probably wouldn't have watched any others or read the books. However, I know that I like later episodes and will be buying them as they become available.
I'm not a critic or very knowledgeable about entertainment, so my criticisms will seem vague. I think the best way to sum it up is with the word, "uneven". Some of the actors seemed most uninspired, even doing a "bad" job at times. I would guess that no one involved had an idea of how to present these stories. This makes this first set of episodes more like a dress rehearsal for the real thing.
In general for the series, I find Ngaio Marsh isn't a great mystery writer. Her Inspector Alleyn series is a very enjoyable read, however. The period setting and the "gentlemanly" way Inspector Alleyn handles his cases are what shine in this series. In later episodes of the T.V. series, Patrick Malahide does a good job of presenting Inspector Alleyn as a very nice contrast to the street detectives one usually sees. "
Vintage PBS Mystery
J. King | Harrisburg, NC USA | 03/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"We watched these when they originally ran on PBS's Mystery series. Finding them on DVD to enjoy again was quite a delight. Inspector Alleyn was one of our favorites. The combination of Patrick Malahide's aristocratic Inspector and William Simon's plodding but dependable Det. Insp. "Breir" Fox with a touch of Belinda Lang's eccentric artist Agatha Troy gave viewers a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable set of mysteries!
The only criticism I can offer of set 1 is that only two of the episodes include Miss Troy, and it is her interactions with Alleyn that produce some of the most entertaining moments."