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DVD Review: Armchair Thriller, Set 1

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For those of you who may recall seeing some of these suspenseful dramas back on Mystery!, you’ll be glad to know that Acorn Media has brought forth the first of (presumably many?) waves from Britain’s Armchair Thriller on DVD in the States. The series debuted in ‘78, following a previous version of the show, Armchair Theatre, which ran for several years before. Both shows were anthology series. Armchair Thriller only lasted for a few seasons on Thames Television in the U.K. and presented a variety of psychological thrillers, all of which were shown in either four or six-parts. This set presents four complete multi-part episodes housed on four discs.

Disc One of Armchair Thriller, Set 1 contains “Dying Day,” a four-parter wherein obsessive-compulsive Anthony Skipling (Ian McKellen) overhears two men plotting to murder him on an audio cassette recording. Nobody wants to believe the odd gent — especially when his evidence mysteriously “erases” itself.

“The Limbo Connection” is on Disc Two. This six-part tale has alcoholic screenwriter Mark Omney (James Bolam) racking his brain to remember what happened the night his wife (Suzanne Bertish) disappeared from a mysterious institution. With the police believing he murdered his wife, Marc goes about putting the pieces together with the help of his ex-girlfriend (Rosaline Ayes).

Disc Three’s four-part offering, “Rachel In Danger” was actually the pilot episode of Armchair Thriller. In it, Rachel, a 10-year-old bookworm, goes to visit her father whom she hasn’t seen in eight years. Unbeknownst to Rachel, her father is dead, and the man pretending to be him is a foreign spy (Stephen Greif).

The final disc contains the six-parter, “The Victim.” Starring John Shrapnel, “The Victim” tells the story of a wealthy business executive who goes on the hunt when his daughter (whom he worships) is kidnapped. Go, dad, go!

Culled directly from vintage videotapes, Armchair Thriller, Set 1 has its share of flaws, but that shan’t bother most of you. The video is presented in the then-standard 1.33:1 format and the modest English mono stereo sound brings all of the aural imperfections home without too many hitches. No special features are included with this set, though there are a few promos for other Acorn Media releases that play automatically before the Main Menu appears on Disc One.

While these episodes may not be presented in its original chronological broadcast order (it’s all pretty random, really), Armchair Thriller, Set 1 is a fun collection of suspenseful British dramas. Give it a whirl.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.