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DVD Review: Under the Hammer (1994)

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When it comes to the world of art, I will be the first one to readily admit that I know nothing about it. Paintings, sculptures; whatever, I don’t get it. That said, however, I do realize that there are other people out there who are obsessed with art — even more so with the value of art. Under the Hammer, a short-lived ITV series from the mid ‘90s, brings us a look at life at a prestigious London auction house, even more so the pompous, self-important individuals whose daily drama is so extravagant that it actually warranted a seven-episode series on British television.

Under the Hammer’s main protagonists consist of older Ben Glazier (Richard Wilson), who loves to dive into an art whodunit — such as tracking down a long-missing Dickens manuscript or determining whether or not a recently-uncovered Titian piece is the real deal or not — and younger Maggie Perowne (Jan Francis), who enjoys an on-again/off-again relationship with a shady wine guru (Michael Siberry). Amongst the many guest stars that pop up in this series to give it some reliability are John Gielgud, Ian Carmichael and Emily Mortimer.

Acorn Media’s 2-Disc set presents this series in a 4:3 full frame format with stereo sound and optional English (SDH) subtitles. The only special feature to be found here is a text-only bio on creator John Mortimer. Frankly, I found the narcissism present in the main characters here — rich, powerful, greedy people who just keep growing more affluent, and who are turn their noses up at those who are less-fortunate and/or as uneducated in art as they are — to be thoroughly unpleasant. Nevertheless, the show’s performers do a fine job, and the episodes carry enough intrigue to warrant at least one viewing.

If you enjoy snobbish drama with a flair of deception to it, give this one 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.