The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries were first brought to the airwaves by the BBC in the early 1970s, and Set One, recently released on DVD by Acorn Media, includes two feature length mysteries based on the novels by Dorothy L. Sayers. Set in the 1920s, these two episodes follow the dapper Lord Peter Wimsey and his loyal butler Bunter as they root out answers to dastardly deeds in their profoundly British manners.
The first Mystery, “Clouds of Witness,” takes place on Lord Peter’s brother’s country estate where the group is gathered for a shooting party. When his future brother-in-law is found dead, Lord Peter’s older brother Gerald is accused of his murder. At the inquest, however, many inconsistencies in nearly everyone’s stories come out – plus Lord Peter’s sister’s dead fiancé is revealed to have been a card cheat and thus a man with many enemies. Lord Peter, along with Bunter and Scotland Yard’s Charles Parker follow the leads from the countryside to Paris and even to America, trying to clear Lord Gerald’s name. Many red herrings later, the truth comes out.
In the second mystery, which I enjoyed quite a lot, “The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club,” confusion arises as to who will inherit a fortune when both General Fenteman and his elderly sister die within hours of each other. Lord Peter’s allegiances are called into question when one of the suspects is a war buddy of his, poor shell-shocked George Fenteman, the deceased general’s grandson.
Although hugely popular when it first aired in the 1970s, this series seems rather dated now. The sets look inexpensive and the action is staged like a play, along with outsized stage acting from most of the supporting players. These are very talky movies, as though the person in charge of adapting the screenplay was loathe to cut any of Dorothy Sayers’ prose. The costumes, however, are quite fabulous and the British manners of the day impeccable.