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P.D. James - The Black Tower
PD James - The Black Tower
Actors: Roy Marsden, Pauline Collins, Martin Jarvis, Rachel Kempson, John Franklyn-Robbins
Genres: Indie & Art House, Television, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2003     4hr 47min

Three mysterious murders... two suspicious suicides... one deadly secret and the only witness, a brooding black tower at the top of a cliff. It all adds up to a diabolical case that may threaten detective Dalgliesh's own l...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Roy Marsden, Pauline Collins, Martin Jarvis, Rachel Kempson, John Franklyn-Robbins
Genres: Indie & Art House, Television, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Television, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Lance Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 04/15/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 4hr 47min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

The best......
Dianne Foster | USA | 04/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"P.D. James is unequaled among contemporary mystery writers, an anachronism, a member of an older order that has sadly passed away. Like her counterpart-Dorothy Sayers-James not only provides an entertaining story filled with compelling characters and a well formulated plot, she is a realist who presents the world as it is-filled with moral ambiguity. Fortunately, the BBC dramatization of THE BLACK TOWER is faithful to James' book, and Lance Entertainment has been faithful to the BBC production-all 287 minutes. I have purchased the majority of the BBC-PBS Mystery productions and find the quality of this DVD a 10. THE BLACK TOWER may have been the first P.D. James mystery filmed (1985?) but it is certainly one of James' better tales. She uses the country house setting-in this case Toyton Grange, a nursing home in East Anglia on the North Sea owned and run by a middle-aged man who may have been cured of MS on a visit to Lourdes. Typical of James, there is little bloodshed-her victims more frequently succumb to poison or smothering, leaving suicide as well as homicide a possible cause of death. By the end of the story, six people are dead and a more than a few have come close to the edge.BBC television productions from the 1980s are akin to the U.S. staged television productions of the late 1960s and 1970s. The BLACK TOWER is a classic example of the era when stagecraft was more important than "special effects." The actors in this production include the wonderful Pauline Collins who played `Shirley Valentine' in the film and on Broadway where she won a Tony Award, and who was a member of the `Upstairs-Downstairs' cast. Other actors include Art Malik and Rachel Kempson from the "Jewel in the Crown" series. Roy Marsden is his usual quizzical self. I like the video as well as the audio effects in the BLACK TOWER. Modern film makers use `fuzzy' mikes that drown out much of the background noise, which they then augment with synthetic sound. This `sound editing' is supposed to enhance the viewer's audio experience (mood altering, etc.), but what a treat to "hear" a film made before these modern advances. While it is true many of the shots where made on a sound stage, more than a few were filmed outside. The verisimilitude of the natural environment provides one with a sense of "being there" where a real breeze can be heard and it's effects seen, and real birds chirp in the bushes and trees."
"The Black Tower (1995) ... Roy Marsden ... Koch Vision (200
J. Lovins | Missouri-USA | 07/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Koch Vision presents "THE BLACK TOWER" (2005) (287 mins/Color) -- the 1995 detective novel is the fifth book in the Commander Adam Dalgliesh series by P. D. James --- Unsettled by a brush with death and disenchanted with his job in the Force, Commander Adam Dalgliesh (Roy Marsden) responds to an invitation to visit an old family friend, the chaplain at a private home for the disabled in Dorset --- On arrival he discovers that his host has died suddenly --- Commander Adam Dalgliesh is knee deep into a another series of mysterious deaths in this miniseries based on the popular novel --- When three seemingly disparate murders and two bizarre suicides plague Toynton Grange, where Dalgliesh has gone on vacation, he won't rest until the mystery has been solved.

Under the production staff of:
Ronald Wilson - Director
William Humble - Screenwriter
P.D. James - Novel
John Rosenberg - Producer
Richard Harvey - Original Score
Kevin Waters - Film Editor

The story line deals with Adam Dalgliesh (Roy Marsden), convalescing after a severe illness, arrives at Toynton Grange (Dorset coast), the rest home for the young disabled, just too late to find out why his old friend Father Baddeley (Maurice Denham) had sent for him --- The monk-robed Wilfred Anstey (Martin Jarvis) and his staff are an odd lot, as are the few patients, all in wheelchairs --- There's already been a suspicious suicide, and Dalgleish is not satisfied that the old priest's death was caused by myocarditis alone --- Handicapped by poor health, he finally manages to unearth the secret of the grange --- Unpleasant people, but good final scenes.

the cast includes:
Roy Marsden ... Commander Adam Dalgliesh
Pauline Collins ... Maggie Hewson
Martin Jarvis ... Wilfred Anstey
Maurice Denham ... Father Michael Baddeley
Rachel Kempson ... Grace Willison
Norman Eshley ... Victor Holroyd
John Franklyn-Robbins ... Henry Carwardine
Carol Gillies ... Dot Moxon
Richard Heffer ... Dr. Eric Hewson
Harriet Bagnall ... Ursula Hollis
Andrew Hawkins ... Steve Hollis
Valerie Whittington ... Jennie Pegram
Sheila Ruskin ... Harriet
Antony Carrick ... Assistant Commissioner Parker
Valerie Holliman ... Alice

1. Roy Marsden
Date of Birth: 25 June 1941 - Stepney, London, England, UK
Date of Death: Still Living

Special footnote, Roy Marsden (born on June 25, 1941 in Stepney, London) is a British actor, who is probably best known for his portrayal of Adam Dalgliesh in the Anglia Television dramatisations of P. D. James's detective novels.

Great job by Koch Vision --- looking forward to more high quality titles from the BBC Collection film market --- order your copy now from Amazon or Koch Vision where there are plenty of copies available on DVD, stay tuned once again for top notch releases --- where they are experts in releasing long forgotten films and treasures to the collector.

Total Time: 287 mins on DVD ~ Koch Vision KOCV-6610 ~ (8/05/2008)"
Great mystery!
Lois Epstein | syracuse, new york United States | 01/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Roy Marsden was great as usual in the lead role. This was another great PD James mystery - very absorbing and leaves you guessing. This is an intricate mystery, very well written and acted which takes place in a hauntingly beautiful coastal setting. Mystery fans all over will love it."
Stars for P.D. James, not the film
Richard B. Schwartz | Columbia, Missouri USA | 11/01/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)

"So here's the deal: a priest friend of Dalgliesh invites him to visit him in his place near the Dorset coast. The priest is connected to a stately home/rest/medical facility whose staff wear monk's robes, though they're not monks. They may be murderers, arsonists, pornography readers, adulterers and drug dealers, but they're not monks. Dalgliesh arrives to find his friend dead and soon other bodies begin to pile up. Dalgliesh-on-holiday investigates, assessing the possible guilt of a relatively strong cast, including Pauline Collins and Art Malik.

Unfortunately, the resulting film/mini-series is quite disappointing. I say this from the perspective of a viewer who has become accustomed to the quality of such shows as Morse, Inspector Lewis, Midsomer Murders, Frost, Pie in the Sky, The Last Detective and the incomparable Foyle's War. The Black Tower is at least twice as long as it needs to be. It is tediously talky; the acting is stilted and the production values poor. In one scene we hear two of the characters talking. They approach a house and the next shot is taken from the house's interior. They are still outside, but since they are on the other side of the door and windows the volume of their voices is diminished and we can't hear them clearly. In the final scene Dalgliesh runs to a phone to call the local constabulary, but the phone has been disconnected. A few minutes later another character uses the phone and the cavalry arrive promptly.

Sound and continuity errors might be overlooked, but not when they affect major plot points. Similarly, a certain amount of talkiness might be expected in an English mystery set in a hothouse environment with a collection of snarky characters, but much of the talk is dull and the acting which accompanies it is surprisingly amateurish. Here, the actors sometimes perform as if they're on stage and need to indulge in exaggerated physical actions to hold the attention of the audience in the upper balcony, but film actors (as Michael Caine has taught us) act with their eyes (or should). Here, there is additional awkwardness. One of the characters has a bad leg and walks with a cane. Sometimes he appears to be misshapen and in pain, sometimes he seems normal.

I don't want to spoil the story, but the crime turns on an action that involves a behavior that occurs only once a year and a criminal implement insufficient to accomplish anything beyond a relatively modest level of crime. It is, in short, preposterous, particularly in light of the number of people who have been sacrificed to protect the criminal activity.

Rent this for a long evening's viewing when everything else is unavailable."