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More Mysteries from the Other Side of the Pond

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Last year, I took a peek at several “Mysteries from the Other Side of the Pond,” ranging from classic British TV series to the more contemporary ones. Now, even though Great Britain is fairly small, it still manages to crank out more television shows devoted to police procedurals and private investigators than I thought humanly possible. Not that I’m complaining, mind you — I love a good mystery. Well, it’s time once again to venture into those same waters as I bring you six more titles now available on DVD from the fine folks at Acorn Media.

Enjoy.

· Murphy’s Law: Series 4 & 5 (2006-07)

Once more, actor James Nesbitt gives an incredible commanding performance as Detective Sergeant Tommy Murphy — a tortured Irish cop working in London. Much like Series 3, Series 4 for 5 each contain one solid storyline, though they are only comprised of three episodes a piece. Series 4 finds Tommy called back into action (even as his increasingly-senile mother is committed to a home) to permeate his way into a drug ring operated by two brothers. In Series 5, Murphy is working undercover to expose a group of smugglers; a noble deed that immediately goes awry when his new trainees disappear and one washes up dead. Two discs of compelling police drama that America can only hope to recreate. Acorn Media has also released Murphy’s Law: Complete Collection for those of you who are unfamiliar with the series (shame on you) and want to see it all from the beginning.

· Vera (2011)

Ten points if you just sang “Vera, Vera, what has become of you?” à la Roger Waters. While television audiences on either side of the Pond have seen many unkempt male investigators, it’s a bit of a rarity to see a woman who just can’t get a grip on things. Vera centers on the relationship between DCI Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn) and her surrogate son, Sergeant Joe Ashworth (David Leon). Vera’s personal demons are aplenty — ranging from guilt to alcohol — but never prevent her from engaging in her duties adequately. In fact, her inner torment actually benefit’s the various murder investigations she and Sgt. Ashworth are assigned to over the course of these four episodes (housed on four discs) based on the popular series of novels by Ann Cleeves.

· Without Motive (2000-01)

Originally broadcast on British television during the beginning of the ‘00s (or “the Naughties,” as the Brits tend to call ‘em), Without Motive takes us into the dark world that sometimes encompasses even the strongest of men. Ross Kemp (or EastEnders fame) stars as Detective Constable Jack Mowbray: a family man whose investigation into the grisly murder of a young lady results in a twisted domino effect that threatens to destroy his happy home life. Things take a turn as the clues lead to a serial killer, and police officials begin to gnaw at each other’s throats. In the second series, Kemp and colleagues return to the nightmare of the first — as they search for a copycat killer. Acorn’s 4-disc set contains all 12 episodes of this popular UK series.

· Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979)

Long before Gary Oldman started earning award nominations and rounds of applause the world over for his portrayal of George Smiley, Sir Alec Guinness inhabited the role of the aged spy in this excellent six-part British series. Set in the glorious days of the Cold War, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy finds the Secret Intelligence Service up in arms as it attempts to unravel the identity of a Russian mole dubbed “Gerald.” After being involuntarily withdrawn from the SIS (or, “Circus,” as the agents call it) on account of a major bugger-up, Smiley and his former boss (Alexander Knox) go about finding the leak themselves. A Blu-ray version is due to be released in April. A follow-up series, Smiley’s People, was produced three years later and featured Guinness reprising his role.

· Case Histories (2011)

From 2004 to 2008, English author Kate Atkinson scribed a trio of novels about detective Jackson Brodie. In 2011, the BBC brought us an adaptation of those stories under the title Case Histories (also the name of the first book), with Harry Potter co-star Jason Isaacs in the lead role. After working as a soldier and a copper, Jackson Brodie now serves as a private dick in Edinburgh. Like all who have preceded him (especially in this article), Brodie has a troubled past — though his caseload is far more diverse than just murders. Brodie tackles missing persons, a novelist with road rage, and a tragic accident that claims the life of another. Acorn’s 2-disc set brings us all three two-part episodes (that’s six total, kids!) along with a fifteen-minute featurette about the making of the series.

· Man in a Suitcase: Set 2 (1968)

Finally, we reach an altogether different kind of mystery — the world of intrigue as only the swinging ‘60s could bring us, and with an American star to boot. Looking like a cross between James Dean and Richard Gere, the über-handsome Richard Bradford stars as McGill, a disgraced US intelligence officer who now roams Europe as an agent for hire. Set 2 contains the final fifteen episodes of this short-lived but memorable spy show (which was created to replace Danger Man), and features guest appearances by Edward Fox, Donald Sutherland, and every other supporting character actor ever seen in the whole of Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther movies. Four discs jam-packed with ‘60s goodness and a lengthy interview with star Richard Bradford. Set 1 is also available.

Happy viewing, kids.

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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.