Behrens Review

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Meanwhile, back in post-World War I Australia, the sexy Miss Phryne (say fry-nee) Fisher (Essie Davis) is in her third series of "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" in a boxed set of three Acorn DVDs. There are eight 55-minute episodes, the main plots of each independent of the others while the subplots develop slowly.

For example, Phryne's relationship with Detective Jack Robinson (Nathan Page) has reached the stage in which he is jealous every time he sees her speaking to a man, while she reciprocates with equal sarcasm should he speak to a woman. Her aide-de-camp, Dot Williams (Ashleigh Cummings), is now ready to marry her Constable Hugh Collins (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), who agrees to convert to Catholicism.

The new element is the appearance of Phryne's father, Baron Henry Fisher (Pip Miller), a charming (for women only, it seems) cad, for whom Fisher has so little respect that she believes him to be a suspect in a murder case. He certainly gets on the viewer's nerves as much as he does on his daughter's.

The main plots involve murder at a magic show, a killing near a military base, two rival Italian restaurants, the death of street boys, a sanatorium for very rich "hysterical" women, murder and gambling at a fading hotel, a tennis tournament and rival players, and a threat to Baron Fisher's life.

Unlike other shows, there is little emphasis on mutilated bodies or rotting corpses. The guillotine trick that goes wrong in the first episode, for instance, is not too gruesome, the severing of the head being seen only in a long shot. Likewise, the autopsy scenes show restraint and respect for the viewers.

The tone of this show varies from very serious to light-hearted, the latter due mostly to Essie Davis' portrayal of what one critic called "the female answer to James Bond, Indiana Jones or a combination of both." Like Bond, she has persons of the opposite sex for breakfast; like Jones, she takes great physical risks to solve her cases. And like the three women who co-stared with Patrick Macnee in "The Avengers"—especially Diana Rigg—she can serve as a role model for young women who question the male's "superiority" in the social order.

Among the usual behind-the-scenes bonuses is a charming "Mr. Butler's Drink of the Week," in which Mr. Butler the butler (Richard Blye) gives a brief recipe for whatever drink seems to suit the plot of the episode that precedes it.

Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays for the Arts and Entertainment section. Visit franklinbehrens.com for past reviews.


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