DVD Reviews: Midsomer Murders, Murdoch Mysteries & Foyle’s War

The state of American mysteries has devolved into way too many shows featuring large group of technicians using cutting edge science to catch felons. But where’s the fun in a bunch of people waiting for lab reports and killers who have no alibis when it comes back positive? Do viewers want to see science or get engrossed in the people who have to find out the truth at a crime scene? Thankfully there are quite a few shows that remember the human factor in mysteries are the more entertaining. Midsomer Murders: Series 14 & 15, Foyle’s War: Set 8 and Murdoch Mysteries: The Movies arrive in time to keep you deducing along with real investigators and not merely lab technicians.
Midsomer Murders: Series 14 & 15 reissues the first four sets of DVDs (Sets 21, 22, 23 & 24) featuring the arrival of CI John Barnaby (Life of Riley‘s Neil Dudgeon) into what should be a soft assignment. Little does he know that this English countryside is a haven for mass murders. The movie length episodes are arranged in the way they aired on English television.

Series 14 kicks off with “Death In the Slow Lane,” the arrival of CI Tom Barnaby. The locales joke how could he have landed the position. Before he can settled into the country life, he’s dealing with a homicide at an antique car show held at a girls boarding school. Turns out a local celebrity has been barely run over by one of the cars. The starting crank fatally stabbed him. Was it an accident or a very slow driver? Barnaby’s main help is Sgt. Benjamin Jones (Jason Hughes) for sorting out the suspects including the woman running the boarding school, a few of the car collectors with a history and a rather adult star pupil. “Dark Secrets” is extremely dark. It opens with a brother and sister drowning when their car skids into the river. Their parents become recluses in their estate. Years late a social services drops by to get the elderly parents in the system. Their son-in-law wants the government worker off the property. He gets a more forceful removal at a nearby artists colony. He complains to Barnaby, but they don’t take it too seriously. Things do get dramatic when the social services guy turns up dead. Who would want to kill such a low level government agent? Barnaby’s snooping turns up a startling connection between the recluses and the artists.

“Echoes of the Dead” is a gruesome delight. A serial killer is going around snuffing locals and positioning their bodies in wedding related poses. It’s a cross between Se7en and Say Yes to the Dress. Barnabas and Jones need to find the killer before the next bride is discovered. “The Oblong Murders” dips into the county’s local cult. The Oblong Foundation has nothing to do with the short lived Will Ferrell animated series that gets rerun on Adult Swim. They’re just a new age back to nature kind of group. Since Barnaby can’t get too much access to the group, he suckers Jones into going undercover instead of taking his holiday. This almost works out well for Jones since there’s a lot of free love on the compound. However there’s also a bit of free death and other illicit activities that make him be a cop.

“The Dark Rider” is the English version of the Headless Horseman. Two families with neighboring castles have been feuding for quite a few centuries. This is more than an argument over a “borrowed” lawnmower. In the middle of the night, a headless horseman arrives at the DeQuettevilles’ estate causing an elderly family member to take a nasty tumble. The Fleetwoods aren’t too concerned. They mainly want to bet property on an altered outcome for a historical reenactment battle. Barnaby and Jones are kept busy since the Horseman keeps riding around to claim more family members. Whose family is behind this severed spirit? One of the suspects has a familiar face. James Callis gets to play two DeQuetteville brothers. He’s best known in America as Gaius Baltar on the remake of Battlestar Galactica. He gives two different performance and makes us think both guys might be guilty.

“Murder of Innocence” releases a murderer from prison who swears he was railroaded. Grady Felton supposedly killed a landowner’s son when he was caught poaching. He wants revenge on those that screwed him. When both his lawyer and the prosecutor turn up dead, he’s a major suspect. But he does have alibis. Barnaby has his hands full as he investigates the recent homicides while reviewing Felton’s original conviction. Is this all a plot against the guy to get him back in to prison? Or is there something more sinister lurking in Midsomer? “Death and the Divas” lets Barnaby enjoy himself at a film festival dedicated to an actress who made Hammer Horror films (although not called them in the episode). This isn’t a getaway weekend. Nearby a writer working on a book about the actress and her more famous sister is offed. Barnaby must solve a mystery that more complicated as the murderer uses scenes from the sisters’ movies to inspire his homicides.

The series has become quite popular on PBS thanks to the audience seeing more British uppercrust action after Downton Abbey. This is the perfect way to watch the scenic homicide investigations without being constantly berated during pledge breaks to donate enough for a tote bag.


Foyles War: Set 8 is another batch of episodes that have become popular thanks to PBS’ Masterpiece. Sadly this popular series has just come to an end. This Blu-ray contains the final three episodes that are movie length. “High Castle” transfers Foyle (Michael Kitchen) to British Intelligence. He finds himself investigating crimes in the post-World War II England. A college professor is murdered in a London Park could be an ordinary homicide. Except Foyle links the guy to the Nuremberg Trials. Foyle’s investigation begins to turn up a trail of Nazis and those industrialists that made a fortune off concentration camp labor. “Trespass” features the assault of student at a university. This seems to be an antisemitic crime since the victim was the son of a rich Jewish businessman. Turns out there’s a political movement happening that still wants to see the Jews as a source of society’s ills. There’s also a subplot about society’s real ills as the National Health Service gets called in for a whooping cough outbreak. “Elise” brings up some nasty business from the war involving a suspected mole who murdered SOE agents in France. He must track down the killer when he seems to be looking for a few SOE agents that survived the war. There’s issues with the rampant black market since England hadn’t recovered from war shortages.

While this was the final episode, it doesn’t feel completely like a finale. The show had been canceled a few seasons back and revived. The last few seasons had a few years gaps between them. It’s hard to think Foyle’s War is truly over as long as creator Anthony Horowitz and star Michael Kitchen are ready for one last movie. This is a great time for new visitors to pick up the various boxsets to truly enjoy the series. Foyle’s War: Set 8 include several bonus features. All the movies get featurettes that explain the history behind the fictional action. John Mahoney gets interviewed about his part in “High Castle.” Shorts also deal with historic locations and airplanes from the era. This series is worth collecting on Blu-ray so you can appreciate the lush production design.
Murdoch Mysteries: The Movies is how the hit Canadian series arrived on television. Three made for TV movies that set up audiences for their biggest export since The Kids In the Hall. For these first mysteries, the charming detective is played by Peter Outerbridge (Orphan Black). He’s part of a more gritty tone to the show. While he does use the cutting edge of crime technology that can be found in Toronto of 1895, he’s got to use normal methods to prove his culprits in a disbelieving court system. “Except the Dying” makes Murdoch think he’s investigating a dead hooker since the naked woman’s body is found in a cruising area. Thanks to an autopsy, he learns she’s a maid for a rich couple, pregnant and overdosed on opium. This greatly improves the status level of his suspects. “Poor Tom is Cold” investigates what seems to be a young cop’s suicide. Except there’s plenty of fake characters involved in the cop’s life. “Under the Dragon’s Tail” has Murdoch investigate the murder of a woman known for illegal abortions. There are plenty of people who want to let this drift into a cold case. Murdoch won’t let her murder go free no matter what certain people demand. Putting the pressure on him is Colm Meaney (Star Trek: The Next Generation) as Inspector Brackenreid. The movies are such a different tone from the TV series that would eventually star Yannick Bisson.

Midsomer Murders: Series 14 & 15, Foyle’s War: Set 8 and Murdoch Mysteries: The Movies are equally entertaining since all the shows are a series of movies and not merely episodes. A casual fan of mysteries can easily watch an episode without having a clue about the previous seasons. These shows also feature men who don’t give up their gut to technology when it comes to rooting out the guilty party.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic for all three shows. The quality of the transfers will let you spot the clues with the various detectives. The audio is stereo with a mix that will let you take in the accents. There’s also subtitles for those who have a bit of an issue hearing accents.

Acorn Media presents Midsomer Murders: Series 14 & 15. Starring: Neil Dudgeon and Jason Hughes. Boxset Contents: 14 movies on 8 DVDs. Released: May 19, 2015.

Acorn Media presents Foyle’s War: Set 8. Starring: Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks. Boxset Contents: 3 movies on 4 Blu-rays. Released: April 14, 2015.

Acorn Media presents Murdoch Mysteries: The Movies. Starring: Peter Outerbridge, Keeley Hawes, Flora Montgomery, Matthew MacFadzean, Colm Meaney. Boxset Contents: 3 movies on 3 DVDs. Released: May 26, 2015.

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