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Blu-ray Review: George Gently – Series 1

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Already available on DVD, Acorn Media has now released George Gently: Series 1 on Blu-ray, featuring three feature-length episodes on two discs: “Gently Go Man,” “The Burning Man,” and “Bomber’s Moon.” The series features Martin Shaw as Inspector George Gently, a no-nonsense cop who, after the death of his wife, leaves Scotland Yard and London to work in a small police department in the north of England in the early ’60s. Once there he is teamed with Detective Sergeant John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby). Gently becomes his boss, mentor, and eventually, friend. Bacchus helps loosen Gently up — a bit, and Gently helps Bacchus take his job seriously — maybe for the first time.

Based on the novels by author Alan Hunter, the series features stories that frequently deal with corruption and the mores of the era. Policework in 1964 Northern England is depicted as more rough and intuitive than scientific. CSI-style techniques are not available, but a little roughing up (by Bacchus) in the interrogation room is always an option.

Detective Sergeant John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby) and Inspector George Gently (Martin Shaw)

The first episode on the disc and pilot of the series, “Gently Go Man,” opens with the hit-and-run death of Gently’s wife Isabella while they are returning from an evening out. It’s called an accident, but Gently is sure that it’s murder and that her death is tied to his investigation of mobster Joe Webster (Phil Davis). He tracks Webster to Northumberland, and gets himself assigned to a case that may provide a link — and which is currently assigned to Bacchus.

The next two episodes concern the nearness of the North of England to the troubles in Ireland and the lingering resentment of the locals for Germans post-World War 2. In “The Burning Man.” Gently is now Bacchus’s boss. Their first official case together has them looking into deaths that are tied into love, deception, and the IRA. The last episode in the series is “Bomber’s Moon.” Gently and Bacchus investigate the death of a former German soldier. Bacchus is offered a bribe and tries to work his own sting, but doesn’t realize the implications his actions may have on his career.

The George Gently series is a good-looking one on DVD, but the Blu-ray, shown on an HD screen, just looks terrific. The aspect ratio is 1.78:1. Contrast and detail are both very good, with strong blacks. Outdoor scenes set in the rolling countryside are especially lovely to look at, as many of the interiors tend to be more muted in palette. Sound quality is also very good, with the dialogue distinct and crisp.

The extras on the Blu-ray are a little meagre. Interviews with Martin Shaw, Lee Ingleby, and series creator Peter Flannery are included, but they are just text on screen, which can be a bit much to read on even the largest screen (I viewed this on a 60″ television). The three discs have a total running time of 265 minutes. Subtitles and scene selection are available.

Although the crimes that Gently and Bacchus come across are interesting, what really makes the series compelling television is the relationship between the two and the various people of County Durham they run across in their investigations. Social issues that are still fodder for television today, such as politics and sexuality, are viewed through the ’60s prism with interesting results. George Gently is an intriguing character and series.

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