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Inspector Alleyn Mysteries Set One (1990) – DVD Review

Inspector Alleyn Mysteries Set 1 DVD


Series Created by George Gallaccio, based on the novels by Ngaio Marsh
Starring Patrick Malahide, William Simons, and Belinda Lang


  • Four episodes
  • Cast biographies
  • Marsh biography and booklist

Released by: Acorn Media.
Rating: NR
Region: 1
Anamorphic: N/A; episodes appear in their original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Read the books instead.

[ad#longpost]When investigating certain types of crimes, sometimes you need a specialist. So when Scotland Yard comes across foul play among the upper classes of England, they call on Chief Inspector Alleyn. He’s a gentleman by birth and manner, but when duty and justice call, he is all policeman. That’s why when someone is murdered in a country estate, a famous actor is poisoned, or the Home Secretary meets foul play, Inspector Alleyn is on the case.

First off, I have not read any of Ms. Marsh’s books, so I can only go by what’s on the screen. I can deduce that because she’s had such a successful career, those books must be better than what is on the screen. For this type of very British mystery to work, the detective must have a strong character, because he or she is the prime mover of the story. For instance, Lord Peter Wimsey in Sayers’ novels and of course Poirot and Ms. Marple with Agatha Christie’s work set the standard. But Alleyn, as portrayed by Malahide, comes off as colorless.

I think the main problem is that, at least in this set, it’s never explained why “a man of quality” like Alleyn is a policeman. Is it a sense of duty, a way to relieve the boredom, or a need for money? Any of these motivations would have added to the character. But there’s really nothing to him. Of course, the accomplished guest stars on screen with him don’t help. They make Alleyn look even blander. You have Julian Glover (The Empire Strikes Back, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), Judy Parfitt (Dolores Claiborne, Ever After), Graham Crowden (Waiting For God, Out of Africa), and David Calder (Bramwell, Dangerous Lady) to name a few. But not even their talents can enlighten the rather pedestrian scripts. It’s always a sign of a bad adaptation when you’re in danger of falling through the gap caused by the excision of a good portion of the source material’s content.

The extras are somewhat spare. On the first disc there is a decent biography of the author. And all discs have a filmography of the major players involved. Like I said, anemic. Very much like the show itself. While this show hasn’t really done anything, it does very little right. There are better examples of this genre out there. Rent them instead.

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  • don’t agree at all with this critique. You should read the books. Certainly it shouldn’t be necessary to do so but you haven’t caught Malahide’s excellent understatement – exactly as Ms Marsh would have wanted him. She, and Malahide caught this perfectly, had no love for the facetious so it was rather a word LESS than more. Lord peter was an amusing joke, Malahide’s Alleyn was perfect. Why though the change of pronunciation of his surname??