The other episodes in this collection are more standard TV mystery fare. In one, a collection of seeming strangers becomes stranded at a bed and breakfast. "The Murders at Lynch Cross" has an Agatha Christie feel to it. Of course, the group are not truly strangers to each other - they have all crossed paths in some past tragedy they took scarce notice of. But since this is a mystery/suspense series, we know someone will have to pay for this transgression. Antonia Fraser's teleplay "Mister Clay, Mister Clay" concerns a schoolmaster whose young students tease him daily to the breaking point. The plot is a bit muddled and long in unraveling, but it does seem prescient, echoing in a way it could not have known, today's school violence as result of bullying. Joan Hickson co-stars in that episode. She brings to life a very strict older schoolmarm, with wildly uncombed hair. We all had this teacher at some point in our school careers. One can practically smell the mothballs scenting her threadbare wool sweaters through the TV screen. The pity is that Hickson isn't given more to do in the slightly unwieldy storyline.
Charles Dance fares a bit better in "This Lightning Always Strikes Twice," a TV tale with vague hints of Hitchcock's Rebecca. Only in this instance the hapless innocent isn't a young girl, but the unwitting suitor her family wishes for her. The actors acquit themselves well in this episode, apart from the bug-eyed overacting of the mysterious ingenue. "Dust to Dust" promises a chilling occult flavor, complete with mysterious magic tokens, but in the end delivers only confusion. Still, it's done stylishly; its few actors are suitably elegant. The poisonous, potent (yet bedridden) matriarch in her tilted wig and beaded bedclothes is straight out of an old Bette Davis film. It's hard to fault camp done with this much gusto. The final tale of six, "Thirteenth Day of Christmas" is more straightforward as a contemporary slasher drama. An insane young man is kept at home by his loving parents. Everyone is in denial, which of course means tragic consequences.
Despite this collection's flaws, I couldn't help but love it - it's a good, fun, campy, cheesy set of engaging mysteries. I felt about this DVD set the way I felt about a brooch I found abandoned on a second-hand store shelf. A bit odd, a bit slipshod. One wonders how it arrived and why it came to be at all, but can't walk by its glimmer. Rational or not, I enjoy what I enjoy. Flawed or not, this boxed set of a mid-1980s British TV series is one such thing. Best viewed on a stormy evening, a bowl of popcorn and mug of cocoa within reach. Time For Murder is available now. Bolton Hall spa robe not included.