Monday, June 20, 2016

British detective movies

Summer’s here and you are probably spending a lot of time outside. However, on rainy or cold days you might want to stay inside, pop some popcorn, and watch a film.

Here are some British detective movie series you can borrow from the library. If you do not reside in Peter White Public Library’s service area, you can try inter-library loaning them through your home library.

The popular series Inspector Morse ran for 33 episodes from 1987-2000. The films are based on the novels by Colin Dexter who appears in a cameo role in all but three episodes. Morse, played by John Thaw, is a crusty and gruff upper-middle-class British snob who enjoys some of the finer things in life including good beer, his red 1960 Jaguar, opera, poetry and crossword puzzles. Morse is an example of the “gentleman detective” like Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes. He differs from these earlier detectives in that Morse is not always right. He is also romantic and sometimes flirts or asks out a coworker or suspect but never finds success in love. Morse uses only his surname. When asked what his first name is, he sometimes replies, “Detective.” He and his trusty partner and friend, Detective Sergeant Robert Lewis, solve murders around the university town of Oxford.
If, by the end of the series, you are hooked on Morse, you can also check out The Making of Morse, The Story of Morse, and Inspector Morse’s Oxford. These DVDs portray the actors and film crew, tour the city of Oxford, and provide the history behind filming this beloved series. We also have the book, The Oxford of Inspector Morse by Bill Leonard.
Colin Dexter so admired John Thaw’s portrayal of Morse that he decided there would be no more Morse stories after the end of the series. The executive producer of Endeavour spent several years convincing Dexter otherwise. Shaun Evans portrays a young Morse in the 1960s after he drops out of university, serves in the Royal Signal Corps, and begins his police career in Oxfordshire. Endeavour works with senior partner DI Fred Thursday. There are a lot of links to the original series, including the presence of John Thaw’s daughter who plays a reporter in the new series, and more Dexter cameo appearances. The prequel appeared in 2012. Seasons 1 and 2 followed in 2013 and 2014. Filming is ongoing.
Inspector Lewis is the welcome return of Morse's former partner, Robbie Lewis, played by Kevin Whately, in a series of his own. Set in Oxford five years after the Morse series concludes, and two years after his wife is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Lewis, now promoted to Detective Inspector, teams up with DS James Hathaway (played by Laurence Fox) to continue investigating Oxford’s intricate murders. Nine seasons were filmed from 2006-2015 at which time Whately announced his retirement after playing Lewis for almost 30 years. PBS has numbered the series a bit differently than the original broadcast. Season 9 will be broadcast this year on PBS as season 8.
For a change of pace, you can watch a female detective at work in the ongoing series Vera. DCI Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn) is tough, untidy, sharp tongued, and as solid as the rocky Northumberland hills in which this series is set. Vera flounders with relationships at work and in her personal life but is totally dedicated to solving murders. Her partner, family man DS Joe Ashworth (David Leon), gets frustrated by Vera’s moody and temperamental ways but deeply respects his boss. The pair is assisted by forensic pathologist Billy Cartwright and DC Kenny Lockhart who sure know how to rile Vera. This brilliantly written and casted series is inspired by Ann Cleeves’ mystery novels. BTW, some of these newer series are subtitled which helps with the various regional British accents.
Silent Witness is a long-running crime thriller (1996-present) featuring a team of forensic pathologists and scientists as they investigate murders. Until 2004, Dr. Samantha Ryan assisted the police in their investigations. Beginning in 2004, Dr. Nikki Alexander becomes the new female forensic pathologist. The first three seasons are set in Cambridge; then the show moves to London. While several characters appear regularly through much of the series, the supporting characters change from season to season. The series’ creator was a former detective on a murder squad. Only a few seasons are available in the United States at this time.
George Gently features Martin Shaw in the lead role of an old-fashioned inspector in Britain’s North-East. Formerly, Gently worked for Scotland Yard, but after the murder of his beloved wife, he moved north to solve one last case. His impulsive and impatient sergeant, John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby), constantly frustrates Gently. The chemistry between them, and the growth of their grudging respect for one another, is a pleasure to watch. Set in the 1960s, the extremely well written and humorous series deals with the social and political changes of the times. The on-going series is adapted from the Inspector Gently novels written by Alan Hunter.
In all of these series, it is not only the crime-solving but the development of the characters and their relationships that captivates viewers. The casting is spot-on and it is fun and sometimes startling to watch an actor play a “goodie” in one series and a “baddie” in an episode of another series. The library owns many movie series. Come on in and check us out.

--Cathy Seblonka, Collection Development Librarian


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