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Simisola (1996) – DVD Review

simisola dvd cover


Written by: Alan Plater, based on the novel by Ruth Rendell
Directed by: Jim Goddard
Starring: George Baker, Christopher Ravenscroft & Jane Lapotaire


  • Cast biographies
  • Ruth Rendell bio

Released by: Lance Entertainment
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A; presented in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Unless you’re a huge Rendell fan, skip it.

Chief Inspector Wexford (Baker) thought he had a simple case. The daughter of a prominent Nigerian immigrant couple has gone missing after visiting a local job center. The investigation get more complicated when the woman who interviewed the daughter is found murdered in her flat. Then a black girl–not the daughter–is found beaten to death. She was seen at the job center and the last person to see her alive is also beaten within an inch of her life. Are these incidents connected? Does race factor into these crimes? Do any of us really care?

[ad#longpost]First off, I have not read any of Ruth Rendall’s books, so I cannot say how good Simisola is as an adaptation of the book it’s based on. I can only judge it on its merits as a TV program…which aren’t all that much. This production is bloodless, especially when compared to other British detective television series like in Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren, Touching Evil with Robson Green, or Cracker with Robbie Coltrane. The characters or the plot just don’t hold your interest. You never get a sense of the people involved as people, just messengers of clues and expositions or to appear so innocent they must be guilty.

And the plot, so important in mysteries, has no emotional impact. There’s no shock at finding a corpse or sense of satisfaction at learning the truth of whodunit. Even when the plot touches on race, a hot button topic even for England, Simisola never gets close to a boiling point.

simisola police briefing

The DVD isn’t all that hot either. Navigating the DVD was actually difficult and the menus were very counter-intuitive. And why can’t get someone with a little talent to write the actor bios they put on these discs? Include something about how the actor approaches acting, how he feels about the character, a funny anecdote or two. All we get is bare facts about what they’ve appeared in and that I can get from the Internet Movie Database. (In fact, a lot of bios get theirs straight out of the IMDB as well.) Skip Simisola and get one of the other three shows I mentioned above for a good modern British crime story.

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