DVD Review: Midsomer Murders (County Case Files)



Ever have that need to head out to the countryside to take in the quaint and quiet life yet you fear that all the locals are homicidal maniacs? Are you paranoid and unable to trust in the goodness of people who want to get away from city life and enjoy the rustic scene? Of course not. You are the perfect audience for Midsomer Murders. The long running British TV series truly knows how to combine the charms of the English manors with the creative killings you’d expect in an artsy part of London. Midsomer Murders: Country Case Files brings together all 18 episodes that featured Detective Sergeant Charlie Nelson (Gwilym Lee) assisting Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) from seasons 16, 17 and 18.

DS Nelson is a younger guy with a bit of a beatnik style with his light beard and sweater look. He arrives in Midsomer just in time for the holiday homicide of “The Christmas Haunting.” Excited folks are ghost hunting in the witching hour. They’re looking for the ghost of a blacksmith’s daughter who is supposedly looking for revenge. Somebody dies and DCI Barnaby isn’t going to pin this on the ghost. The only thing that haunts him is the memory of his old DS. But Barnaby gives Nelson a chance to prove he can adapt to countryside crime where you can’t overwhelm the murder room like an episode of CSI. They quickly realize the victim had enough living suspects that wanted him dead. There is quite a bit of home action for Barnaby since his wife is in the final months of her pregnancy.

“Let Us Prey” brings a touch of the Spanish Inquisition to England. Turns out a sweet church has had some rather gruesome old frescoes in a crypt. That’s normally just historic weirdness except some local is reenacting the tortures depicted in modern times. Making matters worse is a major weather event that might wash away the suspect’s trail. “Wild Harvest” features a farmer that has been mauled to death by a wild boar. Normally this isn’t a homicide and just reasoned as nature being nature. However the farmer is dripping in truffle oil. Wild Boar aren’t known for their seasonings. This scent leads Barnaby to a famous chef nearby. This does sound like a murder pot concocted by Anthony Bourdain. “The Flying Club” opens when a parachute doesn’t work for the owner of a small airfield. Who made this birdman drop like an egg? Could be the older residents who hate the sounds of airplanes messing with their country life. There’s also dark secrets involving the victim and his soaring past.

“The Killings of Copenhagen” is the celebrated 100th episode. A man in a Copenhagen hotel gets a tin of cookies that’s been mailed to him. Within a few minutes, he is dead. How could he die so quick? Turns out the tin was coated with strychnine. How does this tie back to Midsomer? Turns out that the dead guy owned a cookie company back in England and the tin was mailed from home. This leads to Barnaby and Nelson investigating the biggest English-Danish homicide event since Hamlet. Making matters more pressing for Barnaby is that his wife is about to hit her due date. The Danish investigative crew are part of their version of The Killing.

Season 17 was rather short with only four episodes. “The Dagger Club” has a novelist murdered and everyone looking to snag the manuscript of his final book. “Murder by Magic” is what happens when an illusionist’s big trick turns brutally real. Even a folk festival is a crime scene in “The Ballad of Midsomer County.” How does a man drown in eggs and eels? “A Vintage Murder” makes tours of wineries a deadly affair. Season 18 brings on Dr. Kam Karimore to help out with the crime scenes. “Habeas Corpus” messes up an investigation when the body goes missing. Barnaby and Nelson fear this is part of a body snatcher ring. “The Incident at Cooper Hill” has people fear that aliens killed a park ranger during a UFO watchers gathering. Ancient Astronaut Theorists say yes to this plot. “Breaking the Chain” bring the Tour de Death to the countryside. “A Dying Art” turns a sculpture park into a deadly media. “Saints and Sinners” involves ancient and not so ancient remains. “Harvest of Souls” brings out the wall of death.

For those wondering what happened to Gwilym Lee, he’ll be in movie theaters later this year as Brian May, the guitarist of Queen in Bohemian Rhapsody. You might not recognize him clean shaven with a giant head of hair. He was also in the series Jamestown. Gwilym had a great three season run on the show.

Midsomer Murders: County Case Files shows the writers continue to find creative ways for people to die in posh settings. Midsomer Murders is the perfect for fans of Downton Abbey that want a modern twist and a body count.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The resolution really brings out the charms of the English countryside and the manors. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital. The sound levels transport you into the tranquility of the well kept gardens. The episodes are subtitled.

Gwilym Lee Interview (9:07) lets him discuss entering a show that’s distributed around the world. He seems awed and comfortable being a part of a show that has hit 100 episodes. He senses the popularity of the show is the landscapes and manor houses.

Behind the Scenes (23:06) focuses on the changes on the show as it nears 100. They talk of creating the character of DS Nelson.

Celebrating 100 Episodes (17:08) covers the history of the series through out the year. It’s a fine primer for new fans.

Photo Gallery (2:02) is a montage of production stills including the cast going to Denmark.

Acorn Media presents Midsomer Murders: County Case Files. Starring: Neil Dudgeon and Gwilyn Lee. Boxset Contents: 16 episodes on 8 DVDs. Rated: Unrated. Released: May 8, 2018.

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