Thursday March 21, 2013

KEENE, N.H.

A Mind To Kill -- Acorn Media has rereleased a box set of 11 DVDs titled "A Mind to Kill, Complete Collection." Its best feature is Philip Madoc as detective Noel Bain. Like his counterpart Barnaby in "Midsomer Murders," Bain is thoroughly likeable and works well with his assistants. But he is still trying to get over his wife’s being killed by a driver who got off and to cope with raising his daughter Hannah (Ffion Wilkins).

Shot in Wales, the stories include the usual attractive female pathologist, Margaret Edwards (Sharon Morgan). Bain’s dialogue with her and with his DS Alison Griffiths (Gillian Elsa) is quite droll, intelligent and often witty. His discussions with his daughter are aggressive now, wonderfully understanding then.

As I was watching one of the 21 episodes, I suddenly realized I had seen this plot before. Yes, it was a former "Midsomer Murders" episode. By gad! They are running out of original ideas! Well, of course they are. Someone once wrote that there are only seven basic plots for all fiction. How many fewer there must be for mysteries.

The last episode in this set does show some imagination by having three plots, each of which reflects on the other two. But it is overdone to the point of lack of credulity. On the other hand, it does bring closure to two of Bain’s major problems.


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While the viewer usually knows who the villain is, only one of the episodes, "Color Blind," has a thoroughly unexpected ending -- which makes one wonder why more solutions cannot do the same in any police series.

My favorite sequence is the one in which is he is on the outs with Margaret and his daughter invites him to a dinner out, on her. He finds Margaret there instead and pays for the meal. He then tells his daughter that he expects her to pay him back. And that cash or check would be fine.

DS Griffiths has her own demons, but they are woven into the fabric of the plot and are not just so much padding as in other shows. And it is easy to predict that Hannah will wind up in the hands of a villain sooner or later. She does.

Each of the episodes in this series has a running time of about 95 minutes, the picture is in 4:3 full-screen format for Series 1 and 2 and in 16:9 for Series 3. The subtitles are most welcome. By the way, each scene was shot twice, once in English and again in Welsh. There is also a short clip from the Welsh-language version of one episode.

Foyle’s War -- One of the most popular of British police series is "Foyle’s War." Helped immensely by the acting of Michael Kitchen (Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle) is the action being set in Hastings, England, during World War II. Acorn Media has released the entire series in a boxed set that holds 52 episodes on 16 DVDs. The newly issued Series 5 has 13 more on four DVDs.

Foyle wants nothing more than to be a combatant, but his civil work on the home front is just as important. He is assigned a cute-as-they-come driver named Samantha Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks), and the two deal with espionage and good old fashioned dirty doings in and around Hastings.

Some of the episodes are directly linked to the war. The first one is about a rich man’s German wife who was never interred because of family connections in the homeland. Others are straight crimes, mostly murders that could have fit in any time period, other than having the victims and/or suspects members of the military.

The Sets 5 and 6 are not quite as successful, as they take place after the war, and Foyle’s rejoining with Samantha is somewhat forced and awkwardly developed at first.

Among the guest stars are Corin Redgrave, Robert Hardy, Charles Dance, Michael Jayston, Amanda Root, and Tim Pigott-Smith. The total running time is 37 hours, the picture is in widescreen, and Set 6 has subtitles. Those who missed it first time round, grab it up this time.

Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays for the Arts & Entertainment section.