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Blu-ray Review Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Matt Hough, Jan 7, 2016.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    XenForo Template Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime Blu-ray Review

    During a literary career that spanned more than half a century, Agatha Christie created two detectives that carried her to the heights of popularity: Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. But they weren't the only sleuths in her arsenal. She also penned four novels and a collection of short stories with an adventurous couple always on the lookout for thrills and excitement: Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Though Mrs. Christie only occasionally dropped in on her very British pair of investigators and their tales weren't distinguished by the intricate and baffling puzzles which Poirot or Marple tackled, Tommy and Tuppence seemed to have been a favorite of the author reminding her possibly of herself and her first husband when they were newly in love and had the world before them. The BBC has commissioned new versions of two of the tales: The Secret Adversary and N or M?, and these two make up the contents of the new Blu-ray release Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime.


    Cover Art


    Studio: BBC

    Distributed By: Other

    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

    Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA

    Subtitles: English SDH

    Rating: Not Rated

    Run Time: 5 Hr. 35 Min.

    Package Includes: Blu-ray

    keep case in a slipcover

    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

    Region: All

    Release Date: 01/05/2016

    MSRP: $39.99




    The Production Rating: 3/5

    Mrs. Christie considered her Tommy and Tuppence adventures to be thrillers as opposed to traditional mysteries, and yet these stories contain elements of mystery within them, usually concerning the identity of the evil mastermind out to either take over the world or bring down England and the West, but there is a sameness to her means of disguising her evildoers which makes it fairly easy to figure out these enigmas once you’ve read (or seen) one or two of them. The Secret Adversary finds the couple embroiled in a search for the mysterious Jane Finn (Camilla Beeput) who has information concerning the possible upcoming assassination of a prominent governmental official which would intensify the Cold War currently dominating all of the international political climate. Thwarting Tommy (David Walliams) and Tuppence (Jessica Raine) every step of the way is the mysterious Mr. Brown who at various points is instrumental in capturing and holding Tommy against his will and in putting Tuppence’s life in the gravest of danger. He’s always a couple of moves ahead of the Beresfords and their uncle, high ranking governmental official Major Carter (James Fleet), and is like a puppet master pulling the strings of a large number of people both innocent and diabolical. Zinnie Harris has taken the bare bones of Mrs. Christie’s original 1922 story, re-set it in the 1950s, and made some changes to characters’ names and their associations to one another, so those looking for a more faithful adaptation of the story might opt for the 1982 BBC adaptation which starred James Warwick and Francesca Annis.

     

    The second drama in the set is N or M?, for many the best of the Tommy and Tuppence books, and once again a story set in another time period (in this case the early 1940s during World War II) has been reset to the Cold War 1950s this time by screenwriter Claire Wilson. The threat in this installment is a hydrogen bomb created by Dr. Gilbert Worthing (Danny Lee Wynter) who has been kidnapped and which is now under the control of a mysterious operative code-named either “N” or “M” (the Beresfords each heard a different letter). Major Carter sends Tommy to the Sans Souci Guest House on the coast to discover the identity of the secret agent and if possible to find and free Dr. Worthing. The guest house is run by the brusque Sheila Perenna (Aoife McMahon) and is home to a motley collection of eccentrics: Major Khan (Alyy Khan), Carl Denim (Ed Speleers), Mrs. Sprot (Christina Cole), psychologists Mr. and Mrs. Minton (Robert Hands, Issy Van Randwyck), and Commander Haydock (Roy Marsden), any of whom might be the Russian searching for the elusive final key which Worthing has hidden that will arm the bomb. Tuppence, who was ordered to stay at home, naturally ignores Tommy’s pleas and arrives at the coast as Mrs. Blekensop, and with Tommy incognito as birdwatcher Mr. Meadows, the two have a devil of a time staying in character in order to pursue their own leads.

     

    Though both installments in this new Christie series have entertaining moments, the stories are a bit compromised by the necessity of making each story a three-part drama stretching the running time of each story to nearly three hours. There’s a fair amount of padding and some lugubrious direction by Edward Hall that rather defeats the effervescence of the tone of the original books and makes the shows, particularly The Secret Adversary, seem much longer and uninvolving than they should. The devil-may-care nature of the Beresfords’ relationship is also muddled by the casting of David Walliams and Jessica Raine as Tommy and Tuppence. He’s not the adventurer of the books but rather a duffer and a plodder through both stories here while she’s audacious enough for the two of them but not a fine fit for the duo being rather shrill and out of control. What’s more, they’re amateurs in the worst possible way: constantly failing to stay in character when undercover, arguing about discoveries and suppositions at the most inopportune moments, and constantly allowing prejudices and jealousies to cloud their judgment when lives are at stake. Their assistant Albert, in the stories an office boy and gofer, here is a science instructor at a public school, but he’s played with some panache by Matthew Steer. James Fleet makes for a relatively fussy Major Carter while good performances from Clarke Peters and Alice Krige in The Secret Adversary and Christina Cole, Ed Speleers, and Aoife McMahon in N or M? add spice to those installments of the series.



    Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

    The episodes (one on each disc in this two-disc set) are presented in the widescreen television aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is generally very fine throughout while color can be bright or muted depending on the interior or exterior lighting being utilized. Black levels are quite good but not the very deepest one will ever see. The discs offer the viewer the opportunity to play the shows as separate installments in three parts or as one long feature. Together, each story contains 18 chapters.



    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix places the well recorded dialogue into the center channel. The background music gets the most consistent spread through the fronts and rears. There is some occasional panning of sound effects across and through the soundstage, but many of the ambient sounds are spread only across the front.



    Special Features Rating: 3.5/5

    Time Out with Clarke Peters (24:48, HD): the actor answers a series of questions about his life and career and his experiences with Agatha Christie material and in filming The Secret Adversary.

     

    The Styling of Partners in Crime: Fashioning the 1950s (31:48, HD): in addition to comments from director Ed Hall and actors Jessica Raine and David Walliams, three of the primary members of the crew discuss the decisions made on aspects of the production under their purview: costume designer Amy Roberts, hair and makeup designer Konnie Daniel, and production designer Stevie Herbert.

     

    Partners in Crime: Behind the Scenes (57:32, HD): a pretty comprehensive overview of the making of the series beginning with comments on the genesis of the production from producers Hilary Strong, Mathew Pritchard, and Hilary Jones, director Edward Hall, and actor David Walliams who actually got the ball rolling on the series. Then, various actors from each of the two productions describe their characters and tell the part their characters play in the story. Among the actors speaking are Jessica Raine, Camilla Beeput, Aoife McMahon, Christina Cole, Danny Lee Wynter, and Ed Speleers.

     

    Photo Gallery (1:32, HD): a montage of stills, cast portraits, and behind-the-scenes shots shown with background score.



    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime isn’t a patch on the original series from the 1980s. These two installments are overextended for the stories they’re telling and feature different and sometimes asynchronous new interpretations of two of Mrs. Christie’s most famous comic creations. For lovers of mysteries, they do barely pass muster, but fans of the original books are in for some big surprises with these new readings of the stories.


    Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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  2. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

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    Thanks for the review. I thought the two leads of the new series were miscast from the get-go. The old series is lower budget but more fun.
     
  3. Keith Cobby

    Keith Cobby Cinematographer

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    Agree that the leads were miscast, and the programme lacklustre. It hasn't been re-commissioned.
     
  4. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    Even on the page, Tommy and Tuppence were always better than the stories they were in. Postern of Fate, in particular, was the last novel Christie wrote before her death, and it showed. Posthumous linguistic analysis of the text highlighted unmistakable markers of Alzheimer's Disease (though she was never diagnosed). But even though the central mystery is uninvolving, conversations repeat needlessly, and the narrative as a whole is a bit of a dreadful slog, both characters still had moments to shine. If you don't cast them right for an adaptation, the enterprise is lost out of the starting gate.


    The one thing I've always liked about this series as opposed to Poirot and Marple is that they the characters aged along with the world in which they inhabit.
     

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