The psychological crime dramas as seen on public television From cold, rock-strewn moors to comfortable suburban estates, award-winning writer Ruth Rendell explores the dark fissures between friends and family members that... more » motivate murder. Talented casts bring Rendell?s unforgettable characters to life in four complex stories of suspense. Master of the Moor?Since boyhood, Stephen Whalby (Colin Firth) has sought solitude on the wild, windy moor. But his taciturn ways and familiarity with the wilderness make him the prime suspect in a series of shocking murders. Approx. 154 min. Vanity Dies Hard?After her best friend mysteriously disappears, Alice Fielding (Eleanor David) begins to suspect foul play, perhaps even murder. And the killer may have targeted Alice herself as the next victim. Approx. 155 min. The Secret House of Death?Newly divorced Susan Townsend (Amanda Redman) makes a grisly discovery in her suburban neighborhood and soon becomes involved in a potentially deadly intrigue. Approx. 103 min. The Double?Two women, identical in appearance but totally different in personality, compete for the affections of one man. Which will lose love and perhaps her life? Approx. 103 min. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE Ruth Rendell biography and cast filmographies.« less
"I saw three of these productions on TV about ten years ago, and as adaptations of Rendell's novels they're disappointing. I expect any film version to take some liberties with the plot of a book, but in the ones I saw (I haven't seen "The Double") they changed characters and plot points for no apparent reason.
The films are OK considered on their own merits, but are generally below the level of most British TV imports, with a cheesiness you don't see in BBC productions.
Still, this set offers four films at a reasonable price, and if you don't know the books, you may find them enjoyable. If you're a Rendell fan, however, you'll want to wait for the three Barbara Vine adaptations (A Dark Adapted Eye, Gallowglass, A Fatal Inversion) which are so far the best adapatations of Rendell's work I've seen. There's a set on Region 2 DVD; hopefully it will be available on Region 1 at some point.
There are a couple of good Wexford adapatations on DVD (Simisola and Road Rage), with George Baker as the stalwart Inspector. Also, the French film Alias Betty is "The Tree of Hands", moved to France. Claude Chabrol's "The Bridesmaid" is another excellent French adaptation of a Rendell novel."
Good writing and strong acting, but you'll need to deal with
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 04/08/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"All to often the term "psychological mystery" can mean characters who are hard to like or at least easy to lose patience with, especially when their stories go on for two or three hours. There's also the ambiguity factor; you may need a high tolerance for ambiguity as the stories play out with interior conflicts, guilt-ridden angst or strange doings that may not be well clarified...was a murder committed after all, was that strange person real or imagined, are the tortured emotions justified or not? Three of the four mysteries in the Ruth Rendell Mysteries - Set 1 have ample quantities of ambiguity and quite a few hard-to-like characters. One, "The Secret House of Death," is a fine, disturbing story which, for me, has an unsatisfying conclusion. Getting there, however, was a nice excursion into the world of red herrings and false assumptions. "Vanity Dies Hard" is straight-forward...but, oh, those characters. They're all of the privileged class or from the class which serves them. The homes are gracious and the manners well-bred (and occasionally arrogant). What saves this story is that the motivations are satisfyingly nasty...jealousy, envy and sublimated love. The other two stories -- "Master of the Moor" and "The Double" -- are simply unsatisfying, with conclusions which are, in my view, nothing more than contrivances. "Master of the Moor," in particular, takes a long, long time to get to the resolution, and then it seems so unfair to one of the major characters.
On the plus side, and what makes these mysteries worth having, or at least renting, is that the writing is excellent and the acting is of a high standard. In particular. Colin Firth in "Master of the Moor" and Eleanor David in "Vanity Dies Hard" just about carry the whole dramatic weight of their two stories. Amanda Redman in "The Secret House of Death" not only plays one of the few really likable characters in the series, she is the mechanism by which we at last realize we all have been taken for a ride.
The DVD transfers look very good. The four stories are on three discs. Master and Vanity run slightly over two-and-a-half hours each; Secret House runs nearly two hours; The Double, not quite an hour. Extras include a Ruth Rendell biography and cast filmographies for a few of the actors."
4 by Rendell
Tom S. | New York City | 04/24/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a lifelong fan of Ruth Rendell's books, I agree with some of the other reviewers here--these 4 TV adaptations are a mixed bag. The best by far is MASTER OF THE MOOR, with (chubby!) Colin Firth's chilling portrayal of the weird central character, and a lot of good location filming on actual Yorkshire moors. 2 of the others, VANITY DIES HARD and THE SECRET HOUSE OF DEATH, are okay, though nowhere nearly as good as the books on which they're based. And the last, THE DOUBLE, is a very odd, rather pointless entry based on one of Rendell's less effective short stories, made even odder by weak casting in the crucial double role at the center of the story. The girl is pretty, but not much of an actress. Still, these are a good intro to the wonderful world of Ruth Rendell, and the best they can do is make you read her books. You won't regret it."
Strong Suspense from a Mistress of the Genre
Stephanie DePue | Carolina Beach, NC USA | 08/25/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, Series 1," begins the long-awaited release on DVD of the popular British television psychological crime dramas based on the best-selling work of Ruth Rendell, surely one of the queens of current-day suspense/thrillers/mysteries/police procedurals. The series, which was made by the British TV firm Granada for Britain's Independent Television (ITV) debuted in Britain in 1987. It appeared in the United States in syndication on various public broadcasting stations in the late 1990's. The series at hand, a three-volume boxed set, gives us two full-length mysteries, and features Colin Firth in the first of them. They are:
1. "Master of the Moor." Since boyhood, Stephen Whalby (Colin Firth, Mamma Mia! The Movie ; Pride and Prejudice - The Special Edition ) has taken refuge on the village of Vangmoor's wild, windy, spacious moor, a landscape of rocks, heather and bogs, in order to escape trouble at home. But, trouble follows him there in his adulthood, as a series of women turn up brutally murdered. Based upon his intimate knowledge of the landscape, he is naturally the prime suspect. Firth ably carries this full-length thriller. 2. "Vanity Dies Hard." In the town of Salstead, the happy marriage of wealthy, aging heiress Alice Fielding (Eleanor David, The Last Detective: Complete Collection), to a much younger man destroys the heiress's friendship with a local florist, Nesta Drage, whose business fails, and who then disappears. The bride goes looking for her old friend. Also features Peter Egan, (Perfect Spy (3pc) [VHS]) and Leslie Phillips, (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ). Full-length. 3. "The Secret House of Death." Susan Townsend (Amanda Redman, Suspicion), a newly divorced single mother and working writer, prefers to remain aloof from the gossipy housewives of her upper-crust suburban subdivision. But when she discovers the bodies of adulterous lovers next door, her quiet life vanishes. About an hour and a half long. 4. "The Double." A shorter production (less than an hour long) and a less powerful one. Lovely, naïve young Lisa (Camilla Power) believes the old superstition that if a person's double appears, it signals the person's coming death. And suddenly Zoe, her apparent double appears, to make a play for Lisa's boyfriend Peter Milton (Jason Flemyng, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels ). What's going on, who is Zoe, and can Lisa survive?
The first three episodes are strong, and have staying power. I discover I've held them in passive memory since I saw them on a local PBS station. The last, "The Double," is sadly forgettable. But, finally, it wouldn't be me reviewing this boxed set if I didn't now give you the subtitle report. And, unfortunately there are none, while all of the author's well-bred characters speak softly. So some of us may have to struggle for comprehension. It's worth it though. "
Not my cup of tea
D. Gelman | New York | 05/10/2010
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Perhaps a younger generation (I'm past 65) would find the stories interesting, but I did not; they seemed contrived and pointless. The acting was, of course, superlative. The Ruth Rendell Mysteries will prove very disappointing to anyone who appreciates Foyle's War, Morse, Midsomer Murders, and Inspector Lewis. "