Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The 'Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries: Complete Collection' Offers Pleasant Escapism

From PopMatters:  The 'Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries: Complete Collection' Offers Pleasant Escapism

Lord Peter Wimsey, an invention of Dorothy Sayers, is one of the more memorable detective characters of the 20th century. He’s a classic English gentleman detective, enjoying his inherited good life and assisting the police in murder cases, which he solves through a combination of intuition and cerebration. Wimsey’s world, of posh city clubs and grand country houses, is a pleasant place to escape to for a few hours, without any need to worry too much about whether it bears more than a passing resemblance to any historical reality.

Ian Carmichael created a memorable Wimsey in a series of five BBC mini-series in the ‘70s, despite being about 20 years too old for the part. Carmichael mastered the art of appearing perpetually surprised (his modern-day heir in that department is Robert Downey, Jr.), while being able to switch effortlessly into know-it-all Sherlock Holmes mode. There’s just a touch of Bertie Wooster, another role Carmichael played to great effect, in his portrayal of Wimsey, but he keeps it sufficiently under control so you never fear that Wimsey will descend to the level of being a silly ass.

Wimsey’s most important relationship is with his butler, Mervyn Bunter, who assists Wimsey in his work while also being the perfect gentleman’s gentleman. It seems a bit odd today that so able a person should be content, based on an accident of birth, to serve another of no greater intelligence or accomplishment, but these stories are absolutely products of their time (the first Wimsey novel was published in 1923). Within their world, the English class system is a fact of life, a hierarchy that functions smoothly by having a place for everyone, with everyone in his or her place. Working within these boundaries, Glyn Houston creates the definitive Bunter in the “The Nine Tailors”, “Clouds of Witness”, and “Five Red Herrings”, while Derek Newark is adequate, but less memorable, in “The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club” (Bunter does not appear in “Murder Must Advertise”).

The five Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries are substantial mini-series, consisting of four 52-minute episodes each, with “Clouds of Witness” weighing in at five episodes. The good news is that they never seem rushed, while the bad news is that they sometimes feel a bit slow. The two liveliest are “The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club” and “Murder Must Advertise”. The title of the former, in a case of classic British understatement, refers to the death of an aged club member who passed away in his favorite chair before the fire, and wasn’t discovered for some time—as the old joke goes, how could they tell? However, it becomes critical to establish the time of his death, because his sister died the same day, at home, and the terms of a will rest on the order of their deaths. John Quentin steals the show as George Fentiman, a shell-shocked World War I veteran.

In “Murder Must Advertise” Wimsley goes undercover to work in an advertising firm, passing himself off as just another bright young thing. Carmichael’s age-inappropriateness is most obvious here—he must be the oldest junior copywriter in the history of the world, and when holding the slingshot (or “catapault” in the script) that plays a key role in this story, he looks like an old perv who’d probably like to dress up in knickers and have his behind paddled. Other than that objection, “Murder Must Advertise” is great fun, informed by Sayers’s years of experience in the advertising trade (she developed the Guinness “zoo” ads and the Colman’s “Mustard Club” promotions).

Bells figure prominently in “The Nine Tailors”—the title refers to the nine peals rung to announce that a man has died, and change ringing also plays a key role in the story’s central mystery. The bells theme also supplies a plum role for Donald Eccles as a vicar who is really, really into change ringing. “The Nine Tailors” also provides the backstory for Wimsey and Bunter’s relationship, which dates back to their mutual service in World War I.

In “The Five Red Herrings”, Wimsey takes on the case of an unpopular painter who is found dead at the base of a cliff. There are six suspects, all painters, but, as the title suggests, five are red herrings. The story is set in Galloway, Scotland, and makes the most of the potential for local color, but feels the slowest of all the series on these disks. “Clouds of Witness” also feels slow, with Wimsey investigating the murder of his sister’s caddish fiancĂ©, for which his brother is the chief suspect.

The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries were originally broadcast between 1972 and 1975, and the picture quality is about what you would expect—frequently soft and sometimes washed out, although the indoor scenes have generally have lasted better than those shot outdoors. 

The extras package includes a 2000 interview with Ian Carmichael (about 30 min. total, split into four segments), in which he discusses his work in musical revues and comedies and shares his thoughts on Sayers’ novels and the Wimsey character (he says Wimsey was the “ideal man” for himself as well as for Sayers). There are also text biographies of Ian Carmichael and Dorothy Sayers, and text production notes in the form of a Q & A between Acorn and Ian Carmichael; among other points of interest, these notes explain the logic behind the order in which the mini-series were filmed, and how Carmichael came to play Wimsey despite being somewhat too experienced, shall we say, to match the character’s age in Sayers’ novels.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Take your blood pressure medication!

Spent most of yesterday in the hospital, where my mother was admitted. Her doctor had changed her blood pressure medication a couple of weeks ago, it wasn't doing the job. Unfortunately her doctor was out of town and a home therapist said we should take her to the Emergency Room.

Bad idea, as far as I'm concerned. Put her back on her old medication which was working, just causing her to cough.

Instead we brought her to the emergency room, and since she's old and deaf, this got her more stressed out and scared than ever, because they were all gathered around her shouting questions and wanting to run tests and I'm sure she thought she was dying or something, which sent her blood pressure even higher.

She spent the night there, and is still in today for more tests, which I don't think she needs but I guess since they've got her in there they want to get their money's worth out of our insurance...  she's in a private room which must be costing a fortune....

The reason for my headline... she was about 40 when she was first diagnosed with high blood pressure...took pills for a couple of days but didn't like how they made her feel....so she stopped taking them and tried to do the "natural remedy" thing.

Result, 20 years later she had congestive heart failure, and now instead of taking 1 pill a day she has to take 4. And has to go into the hospital periodically on occasions like these.

Moral of the story - go get your blood pressure checked, and if you have high blood pressure make sure you take your meds, otherwise believe me you'll wish you had, when it is too late...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Never get involved in a land war in Asia

and never agree to transcribe 20 hours of meetings from an Australian business meeting.

That's what I've been doing for the last 4 days...utter nightmare. Could NOT understand their accents. Making it worse were the bad audio levels and the fact that a lot of the people preesnt insisted on talking over each other from all around the room except in front of the microphone... I will never transcribe ANYTHING every again.

Anyway, so sorry to be MIA from my blogs.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

My Favorite Dorothy Sayers Quote

From Patheos: My Favorite Dorothy Sayers Quote
The Quote: “The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore – on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him ‘meek and mile,’ and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.”
The Source: Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957), renowned English crime writer, poet, play-write, essayist, translator, and Christian. She is best known for her mysteries, novels and short stories.
The Wow: From the first time I heard a fellow Christian minister and church leader cite this quote, I have drawn so much from reflecting on it. It challenges me to the truth that not only is my “God too small”, my Christ is often too small in my mind

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Murder at the British Library

From the Spectator:  Murder at the British Library

John Gielgud is an unexpected star of the British Library's small but perfectly formed exhibition on crime writing, 'Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction'. Image: Getty.
John Gielgud is an unexpected star of the British Library's small but perfectly formed exhibition on crime writing, 'Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction'. Image: Getty.
If you happen to be passing through King’s Cross and can spare 10 minutes, drop by the British Library to see Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction, a small but perfectly formed exhibition about crime writing. The exhibits range from first editions of famous classics, such as a copy of Dorothy L Sayers’ The Nine Tailors that has been loved a little too well or the crispy pages of a 1926 issue of The Sketch magazine, the first to feature Miss Marple; to brief thematic studies on subjects like the development of the female detective over 150 years or the true crime sub-genre; to memorabilia such as private photographs of John Gielgud, who devoured trashy detective novels, revelling on the set of Morse or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s immaculate manuscript for The Adventure of the Retired Colourman (what a gift to be able to write so well without need of emendation!).
This show is not a history of crime writing; rather, it is a selection of revealing curiosities designed to surprise even crime devotees. It is successful in this aim. I did not know, for instance, that high-quality jigsaw puzzles forming part of a detective novel’s narrative were manufactured between the wars as after-dinner entertainment. Seeing one in the flesh puts fresh gloss on the tired ‘murder mystery party’: the technicoloured pieces still glistening like wet blood 80 years on. And, although I knew that Dennis Wheatley had, in the early 1930s, designed the ‘crime dossier’ (a box of clues) with which readers were to solve a mystery, I had never seen one before, such is their rarity. The dossier looked engrossing; I wanted to touch it. Today’s publishers would probably fail if they tried a similar gimmick online because I don’t see how it would work without being able to turn the contents over in your hands.
These detours away from dust jackets and foxed copies produced so many pleasant surprises. I have always imagined that John Gielgud’s eccentricity was not mere play acting, so it was delightful to find his script for Murder on the Orient Express (1974) decorated with sprawling, Dali-esque doodles: testament to the persistence of boredom on a film set. The script was also pocked-marked by his professional foibles. He copied out his lines in the adjacent margin, in handwriting that must have been easily legible only to him, and he marked the tricks of his characterisation in imperative capitals. ‘SPECTACLES ON,’ he demands of himself on one page.
The exhibition is made by such weird and wonderful artefacts. Each one speaks of the simple joys that the genre has brought. They remind you that people both large and small have been thrilled by crime writing, a great leveller. Murder in the Library made me smile on an otherwise bleak midwinter day.


Thursday, January 24, 2013


Never realized I hadn't posted in over 2 weeks!

Sorry, folks

Things have just gotten away from me the last week and a half...posting should be back on schedule starting this weekend.