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on 25 June 2002
I was a student at Oxford University when this series, which converted me into an avid admirer of Miss Sayers, was first shown in 1987 and have been waiting 15 long years for its release on video. It has been well worth the wait. All three stories are excellent and it is a shame that the BBC were, I believe, unable to obtain the rights to Busman's Honeymoon, which would have adapted to the medium of television even better than the other three.
Edward Petherbridge IS Lord Peter Wimsey, much more so than Ian Carmichael who starred in the earlier series. The character portrayed by Carmichael was attractive and charming - perhaps more "tv-friendly" but he wasn't Sayer's Wimsey. Petherbridge, aa well as having a quite uncanny resemblance to LPW as described in the books, conveys the introspective, somewhat insecure and neurotic person (who is after all a shell-shocked World War One veteran) which is lying just below the surface of a carefully constructed shield of "piffle".
Gaudy Night is less faithful to the original books than the other two in the series but that is perhaps inevitable. Gaudy Night is a complex novel with the "mystery" serving only as a background to an exposition of Sayer's views on feminism and intellectual integrity, and has dated remarkably little with the passage of almost 70 years. Despite the omission of several elements present in the novel, such as St. George, the chess set and the dog collar, the atmosphere of an Oxford Women's College in the 1930's is well evoked with excellent attention to period detail. There is real chemistry between Harriet and Peter as the story comes to its satisfactory close, although it is a shame that the script writers couldn't have remained a little more faithful to the original, which is beautiful piece of prose.
I strongly recommend all three videos (Strong Poison, Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night) to any fan of Dorothy L. Sayers or as an introduction to those who do not yet know her, which is what the original series did for me - to my eternal gratitude.
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on 16 June 2003
One of the best TV series ever made!!
I recently acquired these DVD's (Strong Poison/Have His Carcass/Gaudy Night) and they are now my most treasured set. The performances by Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter are flawless!
This series is a MUST HAVE for all mystery buffs (especially Dorothy Sayer's fans!) For those who were disappointed in the Ian Carmichael series produced 10 years earlier, take heart--you have now found the answer to your prayers!
My only criticism is that there were no more titles produced in this series. I can't understand why they did not continue to make more of these wonderful productions. And furthermore, I can't understand why the BBC took so long to release this series onto Video/DVD. If I had known of the existance of this series sooner, I would have launched a campaign to demand that they make more episodes. Oh well...I guess we will just have to make do with the three gems that were made. (In fact you should probably buy two sets of these, as you may wear out your original DVD's from watching them over and over and over and ...ahem...oh yes back to the review...)
The first two films, Strong Poison and Have His Carcass, are faithful to the books and each is truly a pleasure to watch. The third, Gaudy Night (or "Gaudy Lite" as I have seen it referred to) skimps a bit in comparison to the novel. However, the extraordinary acting on the part of Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter more than make up for this, ensuring that this version of Gaudy Night is a highly entertaining one. This series should have segued into "Busman's Honeymoon." However BBC dropped the ball on obtaining the rites and left us all hanging.
Perhaps it isn't too late for a continuation of this series after all. It has ONLY been 16 years since the last episode. Surely if Ian Carmichael could have the audacity to play Lord Peter Wimsey at his age, Edward Petherbridge could pull it off for at least another 20 years or so (and do it brilliantly I might add!)
Needless to say, I have become an instant fan of Mr. Petherbridge and can only hope I may find more of his work on film. (This is a daunting task since he is a distinguished stage performer and seems to shy away from the camera. Something about acting for the love of the thing and not the money. Oh these serious actors!! By the way, isn't he WAY OVERDUE for some sort of Knighthood or something ...hmm??!!)
WARNING: Ordinary television will seem even more unsatisfactory after viewing these DVD's.
As I said before, you'd better get at least two copies of each of these DVD's (or to be on the safe side, you'd better make it three!!)
(NOTE: It seems that the UK version of the DVD's contain an interview with Edward Petherbridge as a bonus feature. Unfortunately for me, the American version does not. You lucky Brits!!)
Enjoy!
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on 22 February 2015
As a lifelong Wimsey fan, I really enjoyed the Petherbridge/Walters productions when they were first aired in the 80s. I found these much more convincing than the earlier Ian Carmichael versions, and could never understand why they didn't give us the other Wimsey stories as well. I guess they were concentrating on the stories that included Harriet Vane, but that still leaves Busman's Honeymoon and probably a couple of short stories. Personally, I'd love to have seen Petherbridge do the Wimsey only stories as well.

As with any dramatisation, there are changes from Sayer's writing, but you can see why these were necessary. They're pretty true to the original, and both Walters and Petherbridge were true to character. I love these three videos - why else would I pay such outrageous prices to get to see them again?
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 April 2015
Dorothy L Sayers' greatest novel is triumphantly translated to the small screen in this brilliant dramatisation. Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter do a great job as Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. Harriet has returned to her old Oxford college for a Gaudy or festival, bringing together past students. Harriet is a damaged person, seared by her experience of men and the humiliation of her murder trial. Peter has loved her faithfully for five years and has been driven to the end of his patience by her ambivalent behaviour towards him. Behind his sophistication and wit, he is also damaged, a shell-shocked survivor of World War 1, but he is also clever and resourceful.
This is a whodunnit with a difference because there is no murder, though the threat of one hangs over the college throughout the story. We see the relationships and stresses within this small community of unmarried women, with truly wonderful performances from the whole cast. The novel explores the whole issue of sexual repression, as well as the difficult position of educated women in a society which regarded them as unmarriageable 'bluestockings'. Peter is a rare man in wanting to marry such an intellectual woman, secure enough not to be threatened by her cleverness.
The Oxford college atmosphere is wonderfully evoked, against the background of beautiful architecture and disciplined, upper-crust thirties culture. In this setting, Harriet is finally forced to confront her own fears and make a decision about her treatment of Peter. The mystery comes to a resolution in a terrific, climactic scene, but the real drama is what happens to the inner lives of the central characters. Wonderful!
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on 14 April 2015
WARNING: possible spoiler coming up! The 3rd and last in the set of DVDs from 1987, another favourite of mine, not least because of the superb acting! Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter have such chemistry together on screen! Lord Peter is still fervently pursuing Harriet but you can see now how he has "grown up" in terms of love and relationships, become less silly, understands where Harriet is coming from, and continues to be tender and patient. Harriet, whilst not altogether relaxed, is coming to terms with herself more and more, and, with a generous helping hand from Miss De Vine, finally comes to a decision about Peter, with whom she has definitely fallen deeply in love with! It all culminates in a very thoughtfully acted proposal and kiss, in the cloisters of an Oxford college ( a re-ordering of the script attributed to the actors themselves according to Edward Petherbridge...see Youtube) I think I could be permitted to swoon at this point! Romantic fool that I am I have not forgotten reality and have to admit to wondering about the practicalities of such a marriage to come! (That's what life and experience do for you!) One thing that has always confused me, do we ever hear Harriet's acceptance of Peter's proposal or do we just have to take it for granted? There was no clear dialogue in the book either. Partly because of the intervention of Latin!
You will see lots of old faces in this DVD including Sheila Burrell, Carol McCready, Richard Morant amongst others, including some great supporting artistes.
All are excellent actors and really bring the piece to life. You will love the tea-dance scene in which Peter and Harriet fox-trot to "Tea for Two" !
As to whether the TV adaptation does the book justice will always be a subject for debate. This is a fairly long book condensed into 3 episodes and obviously details and side-line stories are lost. But if they were included you would lose the essence of the TV mystery series which is probably what the producers set out to accomplish. What does bother me is that the psychology of the love story between Harriet and Peter is much more curtailed in this DVD than in any of the others. In the book, in the scene where they are both sitting in the punt on the river, Harriet notices the sun on Peters hair, marvels at his fair complexion and the soft down on his face. This is heady stuff and is sadly missing. And at the close of the book, Peter takes her up onto the roof of the Radcliffe camera where he tells her how deeply sorry he is for relentlessly pressurising her with his demands of marriage. We could have done with a bit of that!!
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on 18 January 2014
Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter are, quite simply, superb in the central roles, and I like Richard Morant's interpretation of Bunter as loyal but subtly sarcastic ("Bunter, that is borderline!"). The pangs of unrequited love on Lord Peter's part are beautifully done, and the resolution to the romance is very, very satisfying.
Most of the academics at Shrewsbury College are, unfortunately, rather irritating, and Harriet ends up being just as annoying when in their company.
An interesting story, though, with a well-constructed plot and a surprising, and poignant, ending.
Recommended.
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This is the third in a series of television movies based on Dorothy L. Sayers's famous mystery series featuring Harriet Vein and amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. The first two programs are "Strong Poison" and "Have His Carcass."

One of the strengths of the BBC production is that they do not try to dramatize so much that the story does not match the book. One of the advantages of this series is that it is long enough that most of the pertinent information is shown. They made an excellent choice when deciding to use Edward Petherbridge as Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Walter as Harriet Vane. They match the book character descriptions perfectly. In fact if you see this program before you read the book their images will be in your mind.

Maybe due to time restraints or different directing, many of the most interesting book characters were left out of "Gaudy Night" A chess board plays a significant part in the book and is also left out of this version.

Harriet is invite to her university's gaudy. She soon finds out that it is not an idle indentation. It seems that people are receiving poison pen letters and very nasty pranks. Not wanting the police to be involved they turn to Harriet (knowing of here reputation for solving crimes.) When Harriet receives a letter herself she confides in Lord Peter. Are these innocent pranks or will they lead to some thing more sinister? And who is the culprit?
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on 19 June 2014
This quality of drama is far and few between on current television shedules.First class entertainment,not a lot more can be said.
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on 26 February 2015
Best version of Lord Peter Wimsey. Just loved this particular series when it first came out.
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on 10 June 2015
Something I had wanted to re-view since it was shown on television. Not as detailed as the book, but then it would be difficult to dramatise so much of it. Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter became my ideal embodiments of Lord Peter and Harriet Vane. I was disappointed they were unable to produce 'Busman's Honeymoon' to complete the series.
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