"I'm investigating when a man died of natural causes," states aristocratic sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, "but it's beginning to look more interesting everyday." So it is in this impeccably mounted 1972 BBC miniseries, which wo... more »uld make Dorothy L. Sayers's peerless literary creation proud. Ian Carmichael stars in his signature role as the stylish, cultured, and erudite Wimsey, whose investigation into the death of General Fentiman is as irresistible as "poking sticks into a peaceful and mysterious-looking pond to see what was on the bottom." Fentiman died in his favorite chair at the staid Bellona Club. Oddly enough, his sister died the same day. Wimsey agrees to try and determine when Fentiman died ("I shall enjoy it," he exults). In a nutshell, as one character states (which is always helpful in increasingly complicated cases like this), dispersion of the inheritance will become "uncommonly awkward" depending on who died first. The "whendunit" becomes a whodunit when it is revealed that the general was poisoned. The unflappable Wimsey has a colorful gallery of suspects to consider, including the increasingly unhinged George, one of the general's grandsons (why is he smashing a bottle of digitalis?), and Ann Dorland, who stands to benefit most if the general died first (what's the deal with the books on chemistry and poisons she has recently purchased?). Other memorable characters further enliven the proceedings, among them the Munns, George's bickering (and at one point blackmailing) landlords. As the very British title suggests, this is not a crime thriller to set the pulse racing (the discovery of Fentiman's body is referred to as "something rather unpleasant"). But as the mystery unfolds over the course of 180 minutes (and 4 volumes), it is as captivating as a good late-night read. --Donald Liebenson« less
"As many of us that were eternally grateful to Acorn Media for reissuing after too many decades the Lord Peter Wismey "Clouds of Witness," just so many and perhaps more can welcome back with the incomparable Ian Carmichael whose idea it was to film the series in the first place and who almost did not get the part! Like the other four in this series, this is a low budget, shot mostly in the studio, affair; but it is impeccably "period" in décor, dress, and even idiom. The plot involves at first not a "who done it?" but a "when was it done?" Since the vast inheritance depends on the timing of the deaths of an elderly brother and sister, the hour if not the very minute of the former's demise is the Big Question. Surprisingly, that mystery is revealed half way through the story; but by then we have a murderer to find and...well, I will not spoil things for you and urge you to see for yourself. Carmichael's Wimsey is ever the aristocrat, here ready to quote W.S. Gilbert and W. Shakespeare (though not nearly as frequently as Rumpole will quote his favorite poets), even though he must apologize now and then for being over the heads of some of his less well-educated acquaintances. In this story the grinding poverty of one of the interested parties is shown in striking contrast to Wimsey's luxurious accommodations and ability to be very generous with his money (which after all was never earned by any workaday sweat of his brow exept when he posed as an employee of an advertizing agency). As with all of this series, the minor characters are extremely well drawn, right down to a patron of a tea shop who becomes all flustered in meeting "a lord." While the two opposing lawyers might border on the Dickensian, they are both shown to be intelligent and honestly working for the good of their clients. And even the villain is basically a very Good Person in all other respects! But such is the universe created by Dorothy Sayers and it is treated with respect and intelligence in this fine series. Now we can only hope that Acorn Media will accelerate the releases of "Murder Must Advertise," "Five Red Herrings," and "The Nine Tailors." Oh by the way, they are releasing at the same time some of the Poirots that have been butchered by A&E to make room for their insultingly frequent and overlong piggyback commercials. See the webpages for those. And by the way again, a comparison of Poirot and Wimsey would make a fascinating study."
Solid entertainment for anglophiles and sleuths....
Dianne Foster | USA | 02/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Okay these are tapes, and I prefer DVDs and usually I will not give a VHS recording five stars but THE UNPLEASANTNESS AT THE BALLONA CLUB is excellent. I read the book and enjoyed it enormously and was pleased to see this dramatization. Dorothy Sayer's plot is clever and the characters well developed and the actors and staging are surpurb. This BBC film version was made in the "olden days" (early 1970s) when live tv was more the norm than not and shown on PBS Mystery series. I have an idea the original enactment was recorded before a live audience. Ian Carmichael plays Lord Peter Wimsey, Sayers upper crust sleuth, graduate of Oxford and friend of copper "Parkerbird" who works for Scotland Yard. But Wimsey is no lightweight Bertie Wooster (not that I don't love Bertie too!!). He's a returned veteran from WWI, as are several of the other characters in this story. Bunter, Wimsey's man-servent was his sergeant during the war, and many of the members of the Bellona club are ex-military, some of whom experienced years in the trenches and madness. General Fentiman, found dead in his favorite easy chair by the fire place, is also a war veteran, though his war was the Boer War. When George Fentimen, the hapless grandson of the deceased goes "bonkers" after the General is found dead, Wimsey understands. He too had a nervous breakdown and Bunter nursed him back to health. Wimsey knows George spent many nights and days living in the trenches and saw his best friend hung up on barbwire and mowed down by the enemy. George is not unlike the sad veteran in another tale about life in England after WWI--MRS DALLOWAY.A major clue to the events surrounding the General's death (was it murder?) is tied to the day the General's body is discovered, Armistice Day 1922. Many old timers will "get" this clue, but some younger folks may not "have a clue" about its significance. Never mind, this is a great way to learn more about "war to end all wars." The film is a wonderful period piece and if you love faithfully recreated history like BRAMWELL (with a tad more sophisticated humor) you will enjoy this film.Emma Thompson fans will get a special treat. Emma's mother Phillida Law plays Wimsey's special female friend (he had not yet met Harriet Vane in this book). You may recall that an older Phillida played Emma's mother in THE WINTER GUEST."
The best transfer yet!
David Drake | Santa Cruz, CA | 07/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This has got to be the best transfer to DVD yet for the Carmichael Wimsey series. It is very crisp and clean. All you Wimsey will be thrilled! Buy it now, you will be pleased!"
J. Russell | Seattle, WA United States | 08/14/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"An excellent entry in the Peter Whimsey series with all of the clever dialogue, twists and turns on expects from a Sayers yarn. I only knock off a star because the sound is a bit dodgy in places and I had to keep the remote at hand to continually adjust the volume up and down. It's also a bit pricey for the lenght; it could just as easily have been fit on to two videos instead of four and sold for half the price."
Well made, highly entertaining detective fare.
Russell Fanelli | Longmeadow, MA USA | 05/27/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lord Peter Wimsey's hobby is solving mysteries and here he is called into service to help ascertain the death of a "member of the Bellona Club." Initially, foul play is not suspected, but Lord Peter's eye for detail immediately helps him discover inconsistencies about the death of old General Fentiman that can't be explained. From this point on Wimsey and his servant Bunter begin an investigation which leads to the solution of the mystery of the "Unpleasantness of the Bellona Club." Few TV films can match the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series for quality and care in the production of these programs which are genuinely entertaining for a literate adult audience. Let's hope that all the Wimsey mysteries are released soon. Some, like "The Nine Tailors," are true classics."