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A Murder of Quality (1991) – DVD Review


Written by John Le Carré, based on his novel
Directed by Gavin Millar
Starring Denholm Elliott, Joss Ackland, Glenda Jackson, Billie Whitelaw, David Threlfall, and Christian Bale


  • Biographies and filmographies of selected cast
  • John Le Carré’s biography and bibliography

Released by: A&E Home Video
Rating: NR (some violence)
Region: 1
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: At the very least rent it. Hard core anglophiles will want to add it to their collection

George Smiley (Elliott) has been asked to look into a letter received by a friend of his. The letter is from a Mrs. Rode who states that she is afraid that her husband is trying to kill her. However, the first phone call looking into the issue discovers the fact that she’s dead. So, Smiley and his friend Ailsa Brimley (Jackson) are off to Carne to investigate. It just so happens that the headmaster of the Carne school, Terence Fielding (Ackland), is the brother of a dead war buddy of Smiley and Brimley’s. As the investigation continues, the murders keep happening. So it’s up to Smiley, Brimley and the local constabulatory to solve the mystery.

As is the case nine times out of ten, this BBC production is filled with some amazing performances and some incredible writing. The most unfortunate part of this whole affair is that this was one of Elliott’s last performances. A quick check of IMDB shows he was active in his career up until the very end. He and Jackson play off each other very well and create a very deep relationship. Ackland is creepy as always, but he’s more than just creepy this time. He creates a rather sympathetic character with more going on that’s revealed at first. Bale is as moody as you’d expect from his work in earlier roles and he is very good with the relatively small role that he was given. Just to be clear, he’s crucial to the story, but his role is written to be rather vague on purpose.

It is also rather unfortunate that the DVD is not better than it is. The biographies provided are text-based only. Seeing as how this is a TV movie and they’re not exactly known for being laiden with bonus bits–rather, we’re just glad they’re even available–I shan’t beat A&E up too much for this. Of course, some sort of focus featurette on Elliott would have been nice, or even more information on Le Carré and adaptations of his work would have been nice. But ah well.

However, if you are looking for a good murder mystery and are into the whole British TV thing (and who isn’t?), you will definitely want to pick this one up.

Buy it from Amazon.
Buy the book from Amazon.

1 comment

  • This was not a BBC production, but from the commercial TV company Thames. The fact you thought it was BBC indicates its high standard.