DVD Review: The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries (Complete Collection)

Lately there’s been a lot of talk of class warfare in America. It’s true in entertainment People get sick of stories of rich kids doing stupid junk and getting richer. Remember that long national nightmare called Paris Hilton? In England, the rich and titled seem to do their best appear as if they’re doing more than wasting. Take for instance Lord Peter Wimsey. So easily he could be Lording it up around London with the posh crowd. But instead he’s solving murders and crimes amongst the upper crust. Dorothy L. Sayers’ sophisticated sleuth became a literary hit in the 1930s. He wasn’t a complete snob. The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries: The Complete Collection collects all five of the books that ran on PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre in 1972 and 1975.

“Clouds of Witness” gets personal for Lord Wimsey (Ian Carmichael). During a family gathering at their country estate, his sister’s fiance turns up dead. How could it happen? The only major clue was the fiance had received a mysterious letter. The major suspect is Lord’s brother who was seen kneeling over the fresh corpse. In this pre-C.S.I. time, there’s no real scientific picking the crime scene apart for clues. The cops don’t want to make it too messy. It’s up to Lord Wimsey to clear his family’s name. Instead of a normal jury, the brother’s fate lies in the House of Lords. It’s a much more elaborate courtroom than Perry Mason steps inside. Lord Wimsey plays an enormous gambit by checking a lead in America during the trial. As the arguments come to a close, Wimsey battles nasty weather in a small plane for a Lindbergh-esque Transatlantic flight. There a sense that two Wimsey’s will be dead men before the end of the five episodes.

“The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club” is the perfect title for a discrete coverage of a death. At an upper crust male club, there’s a corpse found sitting in a leather chair. Nobody is sure how long the General’s really been dead since most of the elderly members sit quietly in the corners. Everybody wants to write it off as a heart attack and toss the war hero in the grave. However on the same day the General’s sister also kicks the bucket. It’s too much of a coincidence for Lord Wimsey to accept. Naturally the posh club isn’t happy to have news of possible homicide in their privileged club spread around town. That’s what lowlifes do at their thuggish pubs. Lord Wimsey can’t be deterred as he suspects a relative wanting to kick start will readings was involved in the mysterious deaths.

“Murder Must Advertise” shows how far he’ll go to solve a case. He’s willing to get a job to uncover the truth. An ad copywriter dies when he falls down a spiral staircase at the agency. But was this what really happened? The guy is tied up with a batch of rich kids who enjoy doing their drugs. Wimsey clocks in at the agency. “Five Red Herrings” involve six suspects for a holiday killing. Wimsey goes on vacation to find himself surrounded by artists. They are hard drinking and scraping kind of painters. This tough guy image goes bad when an artist turns up dead near the water. His easel is empty. Who did it and what was in the painting. “The Nine Tailors” takes us back into Wimsey’s past. Decades before a young Wimsey had been in a small town. He had chased after a killer who had stolen a family’s emerald fortune. By fate, he’s back in the town. He’s pondering if the emeralds are still around. Can he restore a family’s fortune?

The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries: Complete Collection is as delightful now as when they played on PBS in the early ’70s. A lot of that timeless feeling comes from Carmichael’s performance. He might be upper crust, but he is far from crusty. The long running times of the adaptation allows the stories to be presented with the proper pacing.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The series was shot in the classic manner of soundstage work on video while locations had the use of a 16mm package. The transfers for the episodes look fine. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels are fine since the mix sticks with the dialogue track. The episodes are subtitled for the hard of hearing and those who get confused by English accents.
Interviews with Ian Carmichael are given for all five adaptations. Carmichael discusses the character. He felt Wimsey’s sense of humor made the character fun to play. The interviews were shot in 2000.

Ian Carmichael Biography is a brief bio in text form.

Dorothy L. Sayers Biography
is a summary of the novelist’s life in text form.

Production Notes
is the text of an interview with Caramichael. This deals with how Caramichael spearheaded the effort to bring the books to TV. He was met by resistance from the BBC for such a natural project

The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries: Complete Collection takes us back for a time when you could root for a upper crust figure. He’s not busy buying Congressmen and acting like a Kardahsian. Lord Wimsey is solving mysteries. You’ll want to dress up before pressing play on the DVD.

Acorn Media presents The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries: Complete Collection. Starring: Ian Carmicheal. Boxset Contents: 5 novels on 3 DVDs. Released: April 2, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

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