DVD roundup – Lewis Complete Boxset, The Killing (US), The Fall 2, The Missing

Lewis series 8, and complete 1-8 series

DVD ★★½
Special features ★★★★
Kevin Whately, Laurence Fox

Here, in all its glory, is the complete boxset of Lewis, the Inspector Morse spin-off that has ably carried on the classy production and intricate storylines set in crime-ridden Oxford since 2006. Lewis and Hathaway are developed nicely across the whole eight series, with Lewis coming out of retirement in the most recent series to assist his one-time sidekick. Devotees will enjoy looking out for Morse/Lewis creator Colin Dexter’s Hitchcockian cameos in several episodes. A ninth series will be shown this year, but Kevin Whately has already said that could be his last. It’s been a hugely popular staple in the ITV schedules – and around the world – and will be sorely missed. Special features in the complete collection include the original pilot episode, behind-the-scenes and cast interviews.
DVD Series 8 RRP £19.99. Series 1-8 £109.99

The Killing (US)

DVD ★★★
Special features ★★★★
Mireille Enos, Joel Kinnaman
Best not to fixate on how this US reboot compares with the brilliant Danish original, starring Sofie Gråbøl. This American version shadows the original closely in the opening episodes but then develops into its own show, with a nice atmosphere of frosty menace. Mireille Enos is good as Sarah Linden, the homicide cop on the trail of 17-year-old Rosie Larsen’s killer. Special bits include an extended finale to season one, deleted scenes and a gag reel.
DVD Seasons 2, 3 RRP £29.99. Seasons 1-3 boxset £69.99

The Fall 2

DVD ★★★
Special features ★★★★
Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan
DSI Stella Gibson and serial killer Paul Spector continued their psychological warfare as the Belfast police closed the net on him in this second season. The build-up to the finale was again gripping, but there was a feeling that the last episode was a little disappointing, with Gibson’s character veering a bit too far on the hard-to-fathom side. But again, the series featured fine performances throughout, and the door is definitely ajar for a third outing. Special features include a behind-the-scenes report with cast and crew.
DVD RRP £19.99. Blu-ray RRP £24.99

The Missing

DVD ★★★½

Special features ★★★★
James Nesbitt, Frances O’Connor, Tcheky Karyo, Ken Stott
A powerful series that easily made CrimeTimePreview’s top shows of the year list. It sounds like a really downbeat drama, about a couple whose five-year-old son is abducted while they are on holiday in France. It is certainly harrowing at times, but it is a truthful, sensitive and beautifully performed piece of storytelling that is gripping throughout. Special features include eight mini-features, including cast and crew interviews.
DVD RRP £24.99. Blu-ray RRP £24.99

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Crime series releases on DVD – autumn 2014

AUTUMN SEES a glut of popular TV series, old and new, making their way onto DVD and Blu-ray.

Vera: series 1-4

All four series of ITV’s Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn and David Leon, are released today, 29 September. Based on the novels of award-winning crime author Ann Cleeves and set in Northumberland, the police procedurals have became a mainstay of the ITV schedules (a fifth series is going into production this autumn for broadcast in 2015). The box set of eight disks is comprehensive, including all 16 episodes so far, but there are no extra features. It’s available on Amazon for £36.

Chasing Shadows: series 1

Chasing Shadows, the recent four-parter starring Reece Shearsmith as a socially inept detective chasing serial killers with the help of Alex Kingston and Noel Clarke, is also out today. Must admit, while Chasing Shadows had an interesting premise and a good cast, it didn’t click with me. This one costs £10.25 from Amazon.

The Professionals series 2 on Blu-ray

Going further back through the TV vaults, Network is releasing a digitally restored second season of the The Professionals, with Bodie, Doyle, Ford Capri, tight jeans and all. It does look wonderfully fresh here, a fascinating glimpse of late 1970s London that is sharp and vibrant. There is also the fun aspect of seeing Martin Shaw in his youthful heyday, and young up-and-comers such as Pamela Stephenson, here playing a dolly bird. Lewis Collins, who sadly died of cancer aged 67 last November, certainly looked the real deal as the former SAS man Bodie. The Professionals, which ran on ITV from 1977-83, specialised in all-action stories that were flimsy on character and plausibility, but it is a pleasure to watch some of them again. There are also out-takes and behind-the-scenes footage among the special features.

The Hour of the Lynx on DVD

Fans of The Killing may interested in this slice of Nordic Noir. This feature-length thriller reunites Sofie Gråbøl and Soren Malling for the first time since The Killing series 1, and it’s a fairly dark affair. A 45-year-old priest, Helen, is approached by scientist Lisbeth in a plea for help. A young man, who has been sent to a high-security psychiatric ward after killing an elderly couple, has attempted suicide while rambling about God. The twist is that he has been the subject of an experiment to ‘humanise’ inmates… The DVD is released on 6 October.

Inspector De Luca DVD Review

DVD: ★★★½

EXTRAS: 0

In our recent poll pitching Inspector De Luca against his modern Italian contemporary Inspector Montalbano, it was Montalbano who emerged as most popular by three to one. But Montalbano has had longer to develop a following, and De Luca has already won over a small dedicated following.
This release contains the four adventures of the detective who operates in pre-war Fascist Italy, and was seen recently on BBC4. While the character is probably not as well developed as Montalbano, these early stories are stylishly done, with a good mix of intrigue, romance and cynicism about the Italian way of corruption in high places. De Luca, played by Alessandro Preziosi, always gets to the bottom of the investigation, but it usually leaves a bitter taste. 
The four stories included here, all taken from the books of best-selling writer Carlo Lucarelli, are Unauthorised Investigation, Carte Blanche, The Damned Season and Via Della Oche. There are no extras in this collection.
Released by Arrow Films. Rating:15, Duration: 420mins, Language: Italian with English subtitles, £14.99. Available here

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Z Cars Collection One DVD REVIEW

DVD: ★★★½

SPECIAL FEATURES:

THERE IS HUGE affection for Z Cars, the BBC cop show that ran from 1962 to 1978. It was a series that tried to shift the emphasis away from the Dixon of Dock Green, paternalistic depiction of the force by injecting some social realism into the genre. In the British Film Institute’s 2000 poll of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes, Z Cars came 63rd.

Here, the boys in blue along with their CID colleagues were not always angels and did not always get on with each other. The show made small-screen stars of the predominantly male leading cast, including James Ellis (who was Sgt Lynch throughout the whole run), Frank Windsor (DS Watt), Brian Blessed (PC Smith), Colin Welland (PC Graham) and John Slater (DS Stone).

First collection on DVD

This is the first batch of the series to find its way onto DVD and features the early colour episodes from 1972. The two-disc collection features six half-hour episodes – Loyalties, Breakage, Relative Values, Connor, Not Good Enough and Team.

So, what are they like? They are dated, obviously, coming before the era of fast jump cuts, explosions and spectacular car chases. The stories are about small crimes, shady types selling knock-off fags, for instance, and they include those jarring cuts between scenes filmed outdoors on film to those studio moments on video, complete with
booms appearing and wobbly walls.

Woodbines, Cortinas and butterfly collars

But for all that, the stories work because of the quality of the writing and acting, with characters that are distinctive and interesting. And this release is a fascinating glimpse into a lost world of coppering before paperwork took over – Lynch even finds work for the wife of a criminal he puts away – along with a view of Britain in its 70s glory, all Woodbines, Cortinas, butterfly collars and office typewriters.

One thing this era of Z Cars lacked, however, was the original drum and whistles arrangement of the great theme tune, which by this time had been replaced by a horrible orchestral version.

Z Cars Collection One, released 2 September 2013; running time 292 minutes; RRP £19.99

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Broadchurch on DVD

DVD: ★★★★½
Extras: ★★★★

IT’S BEEN the most talked about crime series of the year and a real triumph for ITV. Audiences and critics were gripped by the whodunit and  seven million people were tuning in, which in these multi-channel days is a blockbuster figure.

But despite all the hoo-haa about whether young Danny’s killer was his dad or his friend or the vicar or creepy Susan, the eight-part drama had a lot more to it than the jaded mechanics of a traditional whodunit.

Broadchurch broke the mould of police procedurals by discarding the corpse before each ad break that is the norm in shows such as Midsomer and Lewis along with the clever detectives deducing who the perpetrator was. It was about the gut-wrenching tragedy of the Latimer family, the behaviour of the press, the strife at the police station and the role of the church.

It was beautifully written by Chris Chibnall and had a first class cast, headed by David Tennant and Olivia Colman, brilliantly supported by Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan, Vicky McClure, Arthur Darvill, Pauline Quirke and Will Mellor.

Chibnall reveals in the excellent special features on this new DVD release that he wrote the drama on spec because it was something he really wanted to write. And that desire to produce a really good, heartfelt  story before taking it to ITV is perhaps the secret to its success.

Broadchurch on DVD, released 20 May, running time 400 minutes on three discs. RRP: £25.99. Cert TBC

PRIZE DRAW

We have one copy of the complete series of Broadchurch worth £25.99 to give away. All you have to do is join the CrimeTimePreview gang (see the column on the right) to enter a prize draw for this fantastic series. The first name drawn on the closing date of Friday, 24 May, will be sent a copy of the DVD.
This offer is open to UK residents only. Prize Draw entrants must register as members of CrimeTimePreview (see column, right); one name will be drawn on the closing date (Friday, 24 May) and will be posted a free copy of Broadchurch. The selectee will need to provide their postal address. No prize alternatives. If anyone registers but declines the Broadchurch DVD, an alternative winner will be selected. Good luck!

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Quincy, ME and the Jack Taylor Collection DVD REVIEW

Quincy, ME series 3 on DVD

Quincy, ME series 3
DVD: ★★★½ 

Jack Klugman, who passed away over last Christmas, was the popular star of 12 Angry Men, TV’s The Odd Couple and latterly Quincy, ME, the third series of which is released today on DVD and should help keep fond memories of the actor alive.

The series ran from 1976 to 1983, a good stretch in the ultra-competitive world of US network TV, with Klugman winning a new fanbase as the inquisitive LA pathologist who was constantly butting heads with the cops. The format was routine, with a death occurring each week, appearing to be down to natural causes. Then Quincy, usually assisted by his lab helper Sam (Robert Ito, pictured together, below), would notice a discrepancy, suspect foul play and turn detective himself.

Jack Klugman and Robert Ito in Quincy, ME

Quincy, ME preceded the contemporary obsession for dramas based on forensic pathology and is obviously far less explicit than today’s hit dramas such as CSI and Silent Witness. It was a family-friendly mystery that grew out of NBC’s Mystery Movie slot, which included 1970s hits such as Columbo, McCloud and McMillan.

And it was undoubtedly Klugman’s turn as the principled, irascible medical expert that won it a place in the viewing habits of audiences in the US and UK.

Quincy, ME series 3 (Acorn Media UK), RRP £25.99, release date 4 March 2013, running time 953 minutes on six discs, certificate 12

Iain Glen as Jack Taylor

The Jack Taylor Collection
DVD: ★★★★
Extras: ★★★ 

Channel 5 is currently riding high with these three excellent films about former Irish cop Jack Taylor, starring Iain Glen.

Based on the superb novels of Ken Bruen, these three films – The Guards, The Pikemen and The Magdalen Martyrs – do a fine job of capturing the Galway ‘finder’ with all his rough edges. Taylor rarely wins a fight, but he will never back down when taking on the cases the cops won’t touch.

Iain Glen, here a long from Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey, wanted to take on the role despite his heavy schedule, and he is very watchable as the down-at-heel, damaged former Guard. We first meet him chasing down the speeding saloon car of a government minister in the pilot, The Guards.

When the minister, whom Jack dislikes because he won’t support Ireland’s nurses, gets out of his car to give the detective a dressing down, Jack punches his lights out. Hence, the end of his career.

‘He’s self-destructive, he drinks, takes drugs, but he has a moral centre,’ director Stuart Orme says in the extra features. ‘He wants to do the right thing.’

The three 90-minute films see him risking everything to take on vigilantes and stick his nose into frightening conspiracies. They are full of atmosphere and strong characters, while delving into the dark side of Irish society on occasion. And they leave quite a few UK police procedurals in the shade.

The Jack Taylor Collection (Acorn Media UK), RRP £25.99, release date 11 March 2013, running time 281 minutes on three discs, certificate 15

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Spies of Warsaw on DVD

Spies of Warsaw DVD

DVD: ★★★½ 

David Tennant reveals another side of his versatility in this 1930s-set thriller when he turns dashing French spy in pre-war Poland. This BBC4 production was shown in January but is now already available on DVD.

It’s a beautifully produced drama with an unusual wartime setting, focusing on a French cultural attaché, Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier, who is based in Warsaw. To the diplomatic community, Mercier appears to be the slightly bored military hero, having to attend evening balls in full dress uniform and other dull functions.

David Tennant and Jane Montgomery
But there’s more to the colonel than that, as he develops a network of double agents, scouts the border with Germany and comes to a conclusion that is unpalatable to his political masters – that Germany is planning to invade Poland (and threaten France).

Jane Montgomery stars as Anna Skarbek, with whom Mercier becomes entangled in a tricky, dangerous, romance.

Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais
Spies of Warsaw was written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who are better known for their comedies (The Likely Lads, Porridge) but who became fascinated with this story, which is based on Alan Furst’s novel.

Warsaw had to be rebuilt brick by brick following the Second World War, and this series was filmed there. It makes an atmospheric setting for what is something of an old-fashioned, but still engrossing, wartime thriller.

There are no extras on this DVD, which is a shame. However, the Beeb’s online media centre has a media pack about the drama here.

• Also just being released are series 1 and 2 of The Hour, the 1950s drama set in the early days of TV news, with a fine cast, including Dominic West, Romola Garai, Ben Wishaw and Peter Capaldi.

Both DVDs are available from BBCShop.com

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Accused 1, Inspector Montalbano 2 DVD REVIEW

DVD: ★★★★½
Extras: ★★★

Six episodes of terrific writing and great acting. Jimmy McGovern, the man behind Cracker, The Street and The Lakes and the lead writer on these stories, is so respected by actors that this hard-hitting series about men and women who find themselves accused of crimes attracted an A-list of British talent – Marc Warren, Andy Serkis, Christopher Eccleston, Naomie Harris, Mackenzie Crook, Ben Smith, Peter Capaldi and Juliet Stevenson. Each story is powerful, dealing with moral dilemmas and ordinary people at crisis points in their lives who end up in the dock – but should they be there? And each begs the question of what would you, the viewer, have done. The series won an International Emmy for best drama, along with Christopher Eccleston for best actor, as the man who finds a wodge of cash in a taxi and ends up in a great deal of trouble. Mackenzie Crook plays against his comic persona as a psychotic soldier, while Marc Warren is the dad who goes after a man suspected of assaulting his daughter, with tragic results. This story, Jimmy McGovern reveals in the DVD’s extras, was partly based on his own experience. ‘There is a fine line between being in prison and out of prison,’ says McGovern. ‘There but for the grace of god…’ Thought-provoking and compelling drama.
Running time: 385 mins, two discs. RRP £19.99. Cert 15

DVD: ★★★★ 

Extras: ★★★ 
This Italian-made dramatisation of Andrea Camilleri‘s popular novels, starring Luca Zingaretti as Montalbano, captures much of the magic of the books – the setting, the Sicilian lifestyle, the food and the interplay of characters – some wily, some comic. This three-DVD set has six 90-minute films, most of which were shown in the UK earlier this year (but were actually made a decade or so ago). These are Excursion to Tindari, The Artist’s Touch, Montalbano’s Croquettes, The Scent of the Night and The Goldfinch and the Cat. Though the series is subtitled and tucked away on BBC4, it has won a loyal core of devotees. The stories deal with chilling crimes involving murder or drugs, with Montalbano swerving between the Mafia and the expediences of his superiors, while viewers undoubtedly revel in the glimpses into Sicilian life, Montalbano’s beautiful beach house and his infidelity, as he occasionally sneaks away from his lover to enjoy a favourite meal. Gripping and mouthwatering at the same time. Extras include a biography of Andrea Camilleri.
Running time: 611mins, three discs, RRP £25.99, Cert 15

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