Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tuesday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Television: INSPECTOR ALLEYN MYSTERIES (1990's) starring Patrick Malahide


Some long time readers of this blog may know that once, several years ago, I went on a Ngaio Marsh reading binge and read ALL her mysteries in one fell swoop. I get like that sometimes.

New Zealand born Ngaio Marsh wrote 32 novels all featuring her elegant, handsome and ultra suave detective, Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn of the C.I.D. (Metropolitan Police - London) and almost all featuring Alleyn's cohort, Inspector Fox (or B'rer Fox, as Alleyn refers to him).

Later in the series, Alleyn will marry (he meets his testy future wife, painter Agatha Troy, in the sixth Alleyn mystery, ARTISTS IN CRIME). Troy (as Alleyn calls her) will later feature in several of the books: her debut book of course (in which she seems remarkably unlikable and you wonder what Alleyn sees in her but Troy is an acquired taste and she grows on you), as well as in FINAL CURTAIN, A CLUTCH OF CONSTABLES and SPINSTERS IN JEOPARDY. There are probably a couple of others but I can't remember which ones at this particular moment.

At any rate, there will also be a son born to the Alleyns in due time, a charming loquacious boy who makes his especially memorable co-starring debut in SPINSTERS IN JEOPARDY, an odd sort of book which has become a favorite of mine - it's one of several Alleyn books I make a point to reread now and again.

To see a full list of all of Ngaio Marsh's books, please use this link to her Fantastic Fiction page.

Anyway, on to the main subject of today's post, the televised series of the Roderick Alleyn books:

For reasons that remain unexplained, Netflix currently only has six of the nine episodes available for streaming under Season One and Season Two. The remaining three episodes have gone missing for ages now and I've given up hope of ever seeing them anywhere. There also seems to be a pilot episode (1990) starring the more conventionally handsome (not that there's anything wrong with that) Simon Williams (from UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS) as Alleyn, which I've never seen.

Available for viewing now:

A MAN LAY DEAD
THE NURSING HOME MURDER
FINAL CURTAIN
 -and-
DEATH IN A WHITE TIE
HAND IN GLOVE
SCALES OF JUSTICE


The casting, as in most British television programs is brilliant and quirky. Chief Inspector Alleyn who is described in Marsh's books as remarkably handsome is played by the not so remarkably handsome but still remarkably intriguing Patrick Malahide. He is oddly handsome and gently persuasive plus he looks wonderful in his elegant tailored suits and spiffy homburg hat. At least I think it is a homburg. There is something about Malahide (who is best known for playing smarmy bad guys) that is both appealing and menacing. Not the usual sort of casting at all. I like him very much.

Here he is called upon to play an upper class snoot with a slightly mysterious past (he is obviously of the moneyed class and has a titled brother in government) who is devoted to his job, brooks no malfeasance and yet remains likable. Somehow it all works.

Patrick Malahide and Belinda Lang

Malahide even manages to appear hapless when dealing with his lady-love Agatha Troy (the prickly Belinda Lang, another bit of great casting - she is just as I imagined her from the books).

I never did get used to William Simon as B'rer Fox, but that's probably my failing and not his.

The stand-out episode for me, though the entire six are each wonderful in their own way, is HAND IN GLOVE because it co-stars Sir John Gielgud who is one of my all time favorite actors. No one can play 'fussy' and snobby while remaining likable as well as Gielgud does. He is such a pleasure to watch. Here is a man who was one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of any generation and yet he never seemed to mind doing television. Thank goodness.

In HAND IN GLOVE we also have Geoffrey Palmer. The rubbery, gruff faced actor who is well known to many aficionados (myself included) as the unlikely leading man in the British romantic comedy television series, AS TIME GOES BY, opposite Judy Dench. In HAND IN GLOVE he plays the murder victim, a gruff (Palmer makes a specialty of this), pompous and rather nasty individual with a liking for upsetting people.

But all six episodes are worth a good look since besides being unusually faithful adaptations of Marsh's books, they also feature the sorts of wonderful British character actors who seem to grow by the bushel full in merrrie olde England. It is Anglophile heaven for those of us who like to indulge in that sort of thing.


Reminder: Since it's Tuesday, don't forget to check in at Todd Mason's blog, Sweet Freedom, to see what other Forgotten or Overlooked Films, Television and/or other Audio Visuals other bloggers are talking about today. We're an exceptional bunch.

20 comments:

  1. Yvette, the books you recommend always sound entertaining, yet I can't always sit right down to read the books I want to catch up with! Your review of INSPECTOR ALLEYN sound enjoyable, especially since they seem to be kinda offbeat! Excellent review, my friend, as always! :-D

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  2. I do love these....I thought they were particularly well done.

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  3. Yvette,

    Netflix now seems to have eight episodes: four for each season.

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    1. I just checked, Fred. I only see three and three. Where are you looking? I'm confused.

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  4. Been wondering about these. Will try one.

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    1. Why not? Give them a look, Patti. They're very well done.

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  5. Thanks, Dorian. This is a very enjoyable series of mysteries. Great for a nice Fall evening. :)

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  6. Yvette,

    I don't know if this will work, but following is a link to the Netflix listings.

    Season 1--four discs, unfortunately they are in the SAVED category
    Season 2--four discs, more or less available now.

    http://tinyurl.com/kdg4zfk

    Just thought of something--did you search for streaming or for the DVDs? I only get the DVDs and am not set up for streaming. That weirdly enough may make a difference as many films are available only on DVD and not for streaming.

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  7. I was just thinking about this actually as I just read a Marsh (I'm afraid I didn't go for it much Yvette, sorry - review up at the weekend) and I have the original DVD set of the BBC series (but that doesn't include ARTISTS IN CRIME though that has now been released on DVD in the UK too). I watched ARTISTS when it was first screened and Williams was probably a better (more conventional) fit as Malahide is usually more clearly suited to villainous roles but I thought he did well. This was a follow-up by BBC to its MISS MARPLE series with much of the same crew - it didn't do as well sadly but I must watch them again - I know I have a recording from TV of ARTISTS somewhere ... Thanks Yvette, after my disappointment with the novel I need to remember that I rather enjoyed the TV version.

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    1. But which Marsh novel disappointed you, Sergio? Not all of them are great, for sure, but if I can steer you in the right direction to her better books, I should be happy to do so. :)

      Malahide grew on me. Most especially because he can look so hapless when dealing with Troy. :)

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    2. I'll be posting my review of FALSE SCENT on Sunday, but let's say that is definitely a book of two halves ... I have WHITE TIE, ENTER A MURDERER and LAST DITCH on my shelves at home

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    3. Well, except for DEATH IN WHITE TIE and LAST DITCH, I'm not keen on those other titles either, Sergio.. As usual for a long time prolific author, Marsh had a few books that didn't live up to expectations. Here are the ones I most definitely recommend: DIED IN THE WOOL, SPINSTERS IN JEOPARDY (in which, I think, she was in a satirical mood), OVERTURE TO DEATH, DEATH OF A PEER aka A Surfeit of Lampreys (this is deemed to her best book - for me it's in the top ten), NIGHT AT THE VULCAN, SINGING IN THE SHROUDS, KILLER DOLPHIN, CLUTCH OF CONSTABLES, ARTISTS IN CRIMES and a few more I can't remember at the moment.

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    4. Thanks for that Yvette, though i suspect it might have been better if I;d just asked you to list the few you don't like all that much!! :) review is now up - don't hate me ...

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  8. The series has been shown on daytime TV - I think more than 6 episodes were shown. I can't remember which channel though I'm afraid - maybe Alibi or Drama? I have seen the pilot too but many years ago - probably when it was first shown - so I can't remember much about the story I'm afraid.
    Inspector Allyn was on a boating holiday, he sees Troy painting and moves over to speak to her, obviously likes her. he then gets called back urgently to a case and Troy ends up driving him in that battered old van of hers to where he can meet a waiting car.
    I can't recall at the moment which murder story it is but Troy is in some way connected so they meet again. Then Allyn has some kind of melt down (PTSO related to the war?) and she goes to his mothers rather grand house to see how he is. I wish I could remember more as it was good - and different at the time.

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    1. Ooooh, it sounds wonderful, Jenny. I've found out that the pilot is available as an 'extra' in the DVD package. But you have to buy it. Maybe I'll do that at some point.

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  9. Yvette, I haven't read any of Ngaio Marsh's novels. So I'll probably get round to this mystery series, provided I can trace it, after reading a couple of her books. Thanks for the review, Yvette.

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    1. I think you'd like the Marsh books, Prashant. If you're looking for a good British mystery. I really do love them. :)

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  10. I've read all the Marsh books, Yvette - many more than once - and I really do enjoy her books. And, yes, I'm partial to the ones in which Troy appears - I find her a fascinating character and, frequently, more likeable than Alleyn himself. Pity they don't seem to have done "Death of a Peer" in the TV series, as that's one of my favorites.

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    1. One of the more ghoulish ones. :) I'm surprised that more of the books haven't been filmed as well. For me, it seems a natural - the entire series, I mean.

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