Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop Black Friday Deals Week in Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Amazon Fire TV Shop now DIYED Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Paperwhite Listen in Prime Shop Now Shop now

The Singing Detective 1986


Britainís largest choice of DVDs and Blu-rays to rent by post £7.99 per month.

Start your 30 day free trial

Prime and Prime Instant Video members can receive unlimited discs, two at a time, for £6.99 per month after trial.


Dennis Potter's award-winning series. Michael Gambon stars as the unsuccessful writer who, whilst lying in a hospital bed suffering from a very bad case of psoriasis, escapes from his misery by 'dreaming' about one of his own pulp thrillers along with some of his childhood memories. A mixture of fantasy, reality and hit songs from the 1940s.

Patrick Malahide, Janet Suzman
Rental Formats:

Product Details

  • Singing Detective, The - Disc One ages_15_and_over
  • Singing Detective, The - Disc Two ages_15_and_over
  • Singing Detective, The - Disc Three ages_15_and_over
Runtime 6 hours 32 minutes
Starring Patrick Malahide, Janet Suzman, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Michael Gambon
Director Jon Amiel
Genres Drama
Rental release 8 March 2004
Main languages English
Hearing impaired subtitles English

Other Formats

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

85 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Steve VINE VOICE on 19 Mar. 2004
Format: DVD
The Singing Detective is an absolutely cracking piece of drama, and it is wonderful to see it superbly transferred to DVD by the BBC. The last time I saw this was on VHS tape, when the picture was murky and dull; now we have a clear sharp image-as good as we can expect from a programme 20 years old.
Good drama depends on three factors: script, acting and production/direction. Dennis Potter's script is one of the finest he produced. Whilst a crime writer, with a horrible skin condition, lies in hospital, his thoughts turn to one of his books. He looks back on some incidents from his childhood. He imagines hospital staff dancing to 1930's popular songs (some memorable scenes here). One moment there is laughter, the next, pathos. And gradually the threads are brought together leading to a surprisingly upbeat ending. Michael Gambon's performance as the writer Marlow is stunning, yet this is one of those series where everyone's is a fine performance. Production is excellent: those crazy dance scenes must have taken some work.
The extras are considerable, including excerpts from 'Points of View' (I never did understand what all the fuss about the 'sex' scene was about) , and a Close Up documentary I had never seen before, with some interesting and relevant observations on Potter's life and works.
At just fifteen pounds for the set-3 discs-this is astonishing value and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By John Self on 18 Mar. 2004
Format: DVD
This is the greatest achievement of Dennis Potter's wildly uneven career. For every original masterpiece like Blue Remembered Hills or Brimstone and Treacle, there was a self-indulgent stinker like Blackeyes or Cold Lazarus. But there is only one Singing Detective. I watched all six-and-a-half hours in two days: it's magical and gripping.
Everything about this series just *sings*, from the towering performance by Michael Gambon, spitting with one breath and simpering with the next, to the production values which hold up remarkably well in a digital age (with the exception of the contemporary scenes outside the hospital, all big hair and red earrings, monochrome decor and 5-inch floppy disks - if you can remember those - but we can put those to one side and just think of it as a period piece within a period piece). But what holds it together is Dennis Potter's zinging way with words and images, which can mix clever Kubrickian cut-shots (Marlow the singing detective waving to his audience / Jim Carter as Philip's dad waving his train away silently, in the saddest scene in the whole series - which also shows that Potter knew when to drop the words) and the ability to make a two-minute word-association game knuckle-whiteningly gripping.
The themes and elements are ripe and raw - sex and spies, goons and whores, suicide and adultery - but it's rarely explicit (as the content rating on the box shows: "Sex/Nudity: Infrequent, mild": sorry, guys). This makes it all the more astonishing that the show should have been greeted in 1986 not only as anything other than a transforming masterpiece, but as a piece of filth by 'Dirty Den,' as campaigners and newspapers had it. (The DVD includes extracts from Points of View giving these barbarians the permanent shame they deserve.
Read more ›
2 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 6 Oct. 2000
Format: VHS Tape
The sick mind of a sick man. Doesn't sound like a very promising premise for a TV mini-series, does it? Yet Dennis Potter's multilayered masterpiece is quite extraordinary to watch, to re-watch and to enjoy.
A hospitalised Michael Gambon is a pulp author enduring painful and embarrassing treatment while musing on the past, skirting round dreadful, unspeakable events, mingling his reminiscences with dreams of his fictional alter-ego, the Singing Detective.
Paranoia mingles with fantasy as you and he gradually draw closer to the truth - and it's not what you expect.
Intense, moving, uproariously funny, disconcerting and bewildering, it's all held together by Michael Gambon's extraordinary performance.
You could surely never sell this series from the plot precis alone, but within half an hour of the first episode, it's selling itself. Nothing like this has been made since.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By TragicAunty on 14 Sept. 2004
Format: DVD
The "Singing Detective" was a TV series that almost passed me by. I was too young to watch it when it first aired in 1986. I had always wanted to see it since I saw the famous interview with Dennis Potter and Melvyn Bragg, and after my subsequent disappointment with "Cold Lazarus" and "Karaoke" (Potter's posthumous TV productions, cobbled together in his final 3 months of life) I thought that the only real way to understand Potter's work was to watch his masterpiece.
Last week, I watched all six episodes. And the strangest thing is that watching this just made me quite miserable. Why? Well, not because of the subject matter, even though it is hardly upbeat. Nor in fact due to obvious pain expressed in this piece -- Potter's emotional and physical memories unpeeled effortlessly on screen. Rather, it is the fact that such a series just does not (and sadly could not) exist on British TV anymore. It belongs to no genre, it is confusing, it is shamelessly stylised. In fact, it is a direct predecessor of such great American TV series such as "6 Feet Under."
If you have not seen this truly remarkable piece of Television (and I know that may sound cheap, but that is what has happened to TV in the past 10 years) get hold of a copy. It really is nothing like you will have seen for years.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse