Chief Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard, young for his senior rank and suffering the effects of his own personal tragedy, wades through a complex web of desperation, revenge, blackmail and secret love to solve... more » a series of murders at a government forensic lab.Dalgliesh has been hunting a "back seat strangler" in London. When a young woman is found strangled, her body sprawled over the back seat of a car abandoned in a bleak country quarry, he is rushed to the scene. Convinced that this murder is not linked to his investigation, Dalgliesh returns to London only to be urgently recalled to investigate when a senior forensic scientist is found murdered at a government facility not far from the quarry. Dalgliesh has to break through the wall of fear surrounding the tight-knit ? and tight-lipped ? staff before he can bring the killer, or killers, to justice.« less
"Death of an Expert Witness was, I believe, the first Adam Dalgliesh book adapted for television. The novel, which appeared in 1976, made James famous in Great Britain and well known in the U.S. There are good reasons why this one, of them all, should have had such success: the brooding atmosphere of the Lab and the Fen country; the plot, complex but not ridiculously so; the essential care and fairness towards each character. Later mysteries often feature extended social statements and preaching by James, with Dalgliesh acting like the Angel of Judgment. This shows an earlier, more empathetic side of both author and detective. For those of you familiar with more recent P.D. James mysteries, this one bears some resemblance to "Devices and Desires", which I think of as a companion story. Please note that the editorial review contains a spoiler, so don't go back and reread it!
Now to the DVD-- At 295 minutes it is leisurely enough to do justice to the book. It features a rather long set up- it is nearly an hour and a quarter before murder strikes- but it rewards the wait. Filmed in 1983, it is sufficiently old that I have never seen it on American television. The video techniques are a bit more primitive than today's, but I was pleasantly surprised, after reading the editorial review above, at how good everything looked. The strong lighting and pale features of the cast tend to make all the characters look blotchy and not quite well-- but that's how people can look in real life as well. The performances are good. The success of this video led to all the subsequent Adam Dalgliesh mysteries, and one can see why. The combination of length and age mean that you are unlikely to find "Death of an Expert Witness" on television, or at the library, or at your local vidoe rental. This makes it a perfect dvd for you to buy, own, and view at your leisure. It can, of course, be purchased as part of an omnibus set including many, but not all, of the other P.D. James mysteries. One caveat: the back of the dvd case simply fell apart the day after I received it and is now held together with rubber bands. Be very gentle!"
A good one but not typical
E. Holmes | Seattle, WA USA | 03/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If this is the 1st ITV PD James adaptation that you see, keep in mind that it is a bit slower, a bit more 1980s-ish, a bit more choppy and the acting (excepting Marsden) a bit more caricature-ish than many of the others. So don't decide the Dagliesh series isn't for you just based on seeing this one. "Death of an Expert Witness" IS a great story and this does a good job with the story, but it definitely feels low budget relative to others.
My favorites among the other adaptations include "Shroud for a Nightengale" and "A Taste for Death" both of which include a bit faster pacing and some excellent acting by supporting cast members."
ONE OF MY FAVORITE OF THE SERIES
Elaine J. Campbell | Rancho Mirage, CA United States | 05/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"because the script is compact and keeps you guessing to the very end. Because the perfomances are top notch: notably, Brenda Blethyn, who has gained such success in recent years, Barry Foster, Geoffrey Palmer, and last but not least, Roy Marsden as Cmdr. Adam Dalgliesh. His is a taut and focused performance,and we even get a glimpse of Dalgliesh as a married man, albeit too briefly, as his wife and what appears to be his unborn child die suddenly. While not fully explained in this version, the reason for their deaths is well noted in other Dalgliesh novels and productions.
We have here a government scientific operation. And the setting takes place in the countryside. We have an initial murder, not related to the major case, which brings Dalgliesh briefly to the area. He must return when a major figure at the government house meets his demise. The intricacies of plot begin here, and the characters are more fully developed than in most mysteries, giving the viewer a rather in-depth look into their various relationships, all of which are interesting.
If one is a Dalgliesh fan, Death of an Expert Witness should satisfy. It certainly kept me on the edge of my seat, as well as Marsden's crisp and terse performance.
Good story--but a little long
vanhubris | Verona Beach, NY United States | 02/03/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First off-I'm a great fan of British detective stories. While this is not the "best"--it is a good story and despite it's length-nearly 5 hours--it remains interesting. Roy Marsden portrays Scotland Yard's Adam Dalgliesh-a rather droll investigator-not quite as likeable as John Nettles portrayal of Inspector Barnaby in Midsomer Murders but more pleasant than John Thaw's "Inspector Morse"-and this story involves his investigation into the murder of a Laboratory supervisor--that nearly everyone has reason to dislike and possibly wish dead. His unpopularity alone makes nearly everyone suspect--and at various times almost everyone seems like the likely killer.
I recommend this dvd strongly--although considering the cost-I would recommend "The Essential P. D. James" instead--this is a 12 disc set that contains all 7 of the Dalgliesh storys-and costs roughly the equivelant of two of the longer storys bought individually"
Maybe it's me
Richard B. Schwartz | Columbia, Missouri USA | 06/17/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It may just be me, but I found this excrutiatingly slow and very poorly directed. The plot is fine and the casting superb, but there is a low-budget feel to the direction that taints the overall effort. Dalgleish is investigating the murder of a forensics expert in a country-house lab. The interminable opening establishes that everyone in the cast is a plausible suspect. The cast includes such excellent actors as Brenda Blethyn and Barry Foster and Geoffrey Palmer plays the victim (who, by all accounts, deserved what he got). It all sounds good enough, but the lighting and the sound are wretched. In one crucial 'confession' scene, where lip and eye movement are essential, the characters are shot at a vast distance across a graveyard. When we finally come in and can actually see their faces, the laconic, pensive Dalgleish has turned away from the man to whom he is speaking. I get it that Dalgleish is a poet who has recently lost his wife, but he is also an investigator working amid a high body count situation. As others have noted, the result of the direction (and especially the fact that this is shot on tape, not film) is an appearance of utter amateurism on the part of gifted actors. At times the show looks like high school dramatics or small-town dinner theatre. That is a pity, given the quality of the novel on which the story is based. For me, this is a rental only."