The Prime Suspect series, starring the incomparable Helen Mirren, is one of the finest police dramas ever to appear on television. It has won seven Emmys, eight BAFTAs, and a Peabody Award. Mirren's portrayal of Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison earned her six Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special and she went home with the Emmy twice. She was nominated for six BAFTA TV Awards and she was the winner three times. Three of Prime Suspect's Emmys were for Outstanding Miniseries. Mirren is ably supported throughout the series by many fine actors, among them Ralph Fiennes, Tom Wilkinson, David Thewlis, and Zoe Wanamaker. This Blu-ray set from Acorn Media Group is a substantial upgrade from the previous DVD releases.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080I/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 25 Hrs. (approximately)
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 08/26/2013
The Prime Suspect series, starring the incomparable Helen Mirren, is one of the finest police dramas ever to appear on television. It has won seven Emmys, eight BAFTAs, and a Peabody Award. Mirren's portrayal of Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison earned her six Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special and she went home with the Emmy twice. She was nominated for six BAFTA TV Awards and she was the winner three times. Three of Prime Suspect's Emmys were for Outstanding Miniseries. Mirren is ably supported throughout the series by many fine actors, among them Ralph Fiennes, Tom Wilkinson, David Thewlis, and Zoe Wanamaker. This Blu-ray set from Acorn Media Group is a substantial upgrade from the previous DVD releases.DCI Jane Tennison is a veteran of Britain's Metropolitan Police who has long been a victim of the sexism of her male superiors. She is a deeply flawed individual. She drinks and smokes too much, her personal life is a mess, and she is haunted by the ugliness of her work. In the initial installment of Prime Suspect, for the first time in her career Tennison gets the opportunity to lead a murder investigation - this one involving a prostitute who was possibly done in by a serial killer. She runs into opposition from her colleagues when she turns up evidence of a cover-up within the police force.Prime Suspect 2 opens with Tennison having won the grudging respect of the male-dominated police. However, she is tested when she is assigned to handle a murder case in the local African-Caribbean community. Her superiors try to quell allegations of racism within the force by having her work on the case with a black detective - but that detective also is her former lover.Prime Suspect 3 finds Tennison transferred to the vice squad. The members of the squad are assigned the task of breaking up a pedophile ring, but they are thwarted when the objects of the operation are tipped off by a leak. The stakes are raised when the body of a young boy is discovered in the charred apartment of a transsexual. Tennison brings her expertise in murder cases to bear and she soon finds herself involved in the dark world of child prostitution and corruption.Prime Suspect 4 is actually three separate stories. "The Lost Child" involves a toddler who is kidnapped by someone who assaulted the child's mother and stole her car. The investigation leads to a convicted pedophile, but a harrowing hostage situation ensues. "Inner Circle" is the story of an apparent accidental kinky suicide, but Tennison's investigation leads her to believe that the man was murdered. She encounters resistance from members of the local community who appear to be hiding something. "The Scent of Darkness" harkens back to Tennison's breakthrough case from Prime Suspect 1. Prostitutes begin to be murdered in exactly the same fashion as the detective encountered in the earlier case. Is it possible that the wrong person was convicted and the serial killer is still at large?In Prime Suspect 5 (also known as "Errors of Judgement"), Tennison has worn out her welcome at her London station and she is transferred to Manchester, in North West England. She has no friends at her new station, and things do not improve for her when she is thrust into the case of a murdered drug dealer. The evidence points to a local mobster known as "The Street," who has been allowed to operate in the area with relative impunity for years. When Tennison decides to take him on, she discovers that there are forces within the Manchester station who do not want "The Street" to be investigated.Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness finds Tennison back in London. She now supervises all murder investigations in the city, but when a young Bosnian refugee is tortured and murdered she decides to handle the case herself. Complications arise when her investigation leads to a Bosnian war criminal who was allowed to emigrate to England after he agreed to provide evidence against other war criminals.Prime Suspect 7: The Final Act is, as the title suggests, the swan song for the series. Jane Tennison is now approaching the age of sixty, her father is dying, and her drinking has become excessive. As she approaches retirement, she takes on the case of a missing schoolgirl who is believed to have been killed. Tennison vows to bring the murderer to justice, and along the way she finds herself becoming emotionally attached to the missing girl's best friend.Prime Suspect is a realistic, gritty, and often grim police drama which never disappoints. The series takes an unflinching look at the seedy worlds of prostitution, pedophilia, and drug abuse, and it never shies away from such controversial issues as racism and police corruption. The productions are first-rate and the acting of Helen Mirren is simply superlative. Anyone who enjoys crime dramas will want to view this series, because the genre has never had a more authentic portrayal on television.The Blu-ray set also is a shelf space saver. The Acorn Media DVD set is four inches wide; the Blu-ray set, in which each series is on one disc, is a flipper Amaray case which is only one inch wide.This release appears to be region-free, but I am not able to verify it. There is nothing on the packaging to suggest that is region locked.
The Production Rating: 5/5
There were two previous DVD releases of Prime Suspect. The first sets were released by Anchor Bay (Prime Suspect 1 and Prime Suspect 2) and HBO (series 3-6). Both the Anchor Bay and HBO releases had issues, which I will not get into here. The problems present in those sets were rectified when Acorn Media Group released the complete series on DVD in 2010. Since both the Anchor Bay and HBO releases are sub-standard, so I will compare the Blu-ray set only to the Acorn Media DVD set.These are the video specs for the Acorn Media DVD set:Prime Suspect 1 207 minutesPrime Suspect 2 204 minutesPrime Suspect 3 206 minutesPrime Suspect 4 305 minutesPrime Suspect 5 201 minutesPrime Suspect 6 195 minutesPrime Suspect 7 184 minutesAspect Ratios:Prime Suspect 1-5 4:3 full screenPrime Suspect 6-7 1.85:1 Anamorphic WidescreenThe Blu-ray set is presented in 1080i 1.78:1 utilizing the AVC codec, with the exception of Prime Suspect 4, Part 1, which is shown at 4:3. Our resident expert Robert A. Harris has his own thread on this Blu-ray release and he theorizes that the OCN has been lost and that Series 4, Part 1 had to be taken from a video master. Readers can rely upon Mr. Harris' appraisal of the set.Regarding the picture quality, Acorn has added the following disclaimer: "The Blu-ray was created from a high-definition transfer and restoration of the original program elements. While it represents a vast improvement in picture quality and level of detail over previously releases or transmissions, viewers may notice variable quality due to the inherent limitations and age of the original elements." The disclaimer is appropriate and accurate. While the picture quality is variable, it is a significant improvement over all previous DVD releases and fans of the series should not be dissuaded by the fact that the Blu-ray set is not perfect.An A/B comparison reveals that the widescreen Blu-ray image show slightly more information on the sides and somewhat less information on top and bottom than the 4:3 DVD image. The discussion at Mr. Harris' thread makes a convincing case that the series was shot with the wider aspect ratio in mind. It therefore appears that Prime Suspect now looks as intended, with the obvious exception of Series 4, Part 1.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The audio is delivered in 2.0 DTS HD-MA, and it varies from very good to excellent. We have to bear in mind that the series began in 1991, when most homes were lucky if they had Hi-FI VCRs. The audio improves as the series progresses to its final series, which was released in 2006. English SDH subtitles are an available option.
Audio Rating: 4/5
The Blu-ray disc for Series 6 includes a high-definition widescreen "behind the scenes" featurette which will be enjoyed by a fan of Prime Suspect. The same can be said of the 50-minute "behind the scenes special" which can be found on the disc for Series 7.The only other extra is a photo gallery on the disc for Series 7.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Prime Suspect is one of the finest police dramas ever shown on television, and Acorn Media has done a fine job of producing a Blu-ray set which by and large restores the show to the way in which it was originally aired in the U.K. This set blows away the earlier DVD versions of Prime Suspect, so this is a highly recommended upgrade. If you have never seen Prime Suspect, this is likely to be the best version we will ever see unless the original elements for Series 4, Part 1 are found.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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