Gaudy Night (1987)
Review by HTQ4

Directed by Christopher Hodson
Written by Philip Broadley, based on the novel by Dorothy L. Sayers
Starring Harriet Walter, Edward Petherbridge, Richard Morant, Lavinia Bertram


Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format

My Advice: Rent it

Someone's been snooping around Harriet Vane's (Walter) undergraduate Alma Mater vandalizing the campus and scaring the senior faculty. Fearing a scandal should the police get involved, the faculty asks Ms. Vane, a mystery novelist, to come to the campus to try to discover the identity of this mysterious vandal. In order to figure out what's going on, Ms. Vane enlists the help of her close friend (and, perhaps, fiance) Lord Peter Wimsey (Petherbridge).

This is the third of the BBC's productions of Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries since Ian Carmichael portrayed Lord Peter Wimsey in 1975. Even though this is considered a "Lord Peter Wimsey" story, it follows the character of Harriet Vane more closely it does Wimsey. This is good since, well, frankly, Petherbridge is not really good as Wimsey. Walter, however, is immensely charming as Vane. My main problem with Petherbridge's performance is his use of his props and period costume. He seemed to be an actor playing with his monocle rather than a character using it to help him see more clearly. Ms. Walter, on the other hand, was nearly flawless. She seemed to get the story and how her character fit into it. Even though I really didn't believe Petherbridge's perfomance, based on Walter's performance, I really could see Vane struggling with her on-again-off-again romance with Wimsey...and you really couldn't see the actress through the character at all.

The production qualities were really lacking given the year that this production was done. The lighting was bad and the "special effects" were worse. It was quite obvious that the strength of the story and a powerful lead actress helped keep this one from being a completely lost cause.

Like many other BBC DVDs, this just doesn't have that any special features worth mentioning. The Who's Who section is a filmography (and in some cases, biography) of the principal actors; nothing more than a couple of pages of text on each one, I'm afraid. The trailers are for BBC America and Blue Planet.

These stories are good enough to leave you wanting some more background about Ms. Sayers and her life, but you'll just have to go and search the web for it on your own. Unfortunately, that's what's keeping it off the Own list and in the Rental bin. So do see it once, because these stories are really good, but take it back when you're done.

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