Cracker: The Mad Woman In The Attic [DVD] 
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Robbie Coltrane stars as the criminal psychologist Fitz in the first story from the popular series written by Jimmy McGovern. When a student of Fitz's is butchered on a train, an unconscious, blood-stained man (Adrian Dunbar) discovered near the scene of the crime soon becomes the number-one suspect. The man claims to be suffering from amnesia, and Fitz is brought in to help uncover the truth.
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My neighbour still has a video player, so I can console myself that one old fart has the pleasure of playing TO SAY I LOVE YOU. Thw two of us enjoyed a night at the Movies watching the video in her house, a wee cup of tea and a biccie made it all the more pleasureable.
Regards, Anna B.
These two excellent episodes of Cracker just make that question even more difficult to answer. They focus not just on the crimes committed, but on Eddie "Fitz" Gerald turbulent private life. This consists of an unhappy wife, a bit on the side in the shape of colleague Jane Penhaligon, kids he does not understand..including one on the way, and a booze and gambling addiction.
"The Big Crunch" shows how normal people can be indoctrinated by people in power as it paints the picture of a ghastly murder committed within a religious sect.
Where are "Men Shall Weep" is probably the most emotional and gut-wrenching of the entire series. It focuses on rape - and gives an traumatic view, not only of the victims, but of the rapist himself. No woman will want to watch this episode alone...truly haunting and not easily forgotton. An excellent performance by Gerladine Somerville as Penhaligon.
Truly brilliant writing and a polished performance...just Cracking!!!
"The Mad Woman in the Attic" and "To Say I Love You" are two such stories. "Mad Woman" was landed with the often difficult task of introducing the characters convincingly while also telling a decent story. Thankfully, due to Jimmy McGovern's flawless writing, this is no problem. The first thing we see is Dr. Edward Fitzgerald (Robbie Coltrane) or "Fitz" in a telephone booth, listening to the races, smoking and shouting things like "come on!" and "yes!" down the line. Automatically, we get an idea of Fitz's character. He is chain-smoking and a gambler and, as we learn later, an alcoholic.
He is also a criminal psychologist. This is the simple genious of Cracker, along with Fitz's character. A quiet, reserved psychologist is often bad enough, but a loud, brash psychologist is even worse. Fitz is not afraid to say what he thinks (or should I say what he knows?) because he understands human nature and thinks that other people should stop deluding themselves and accept the simple truths about life.
Does Fitz's view work? Well, you have to take one look at his family to see that it doesn't it. Almost as soon as the episode starts, Fitz's wife Judith (Barbara Flynn) leaves him, taking his eight year-old daughter, which leaves him with his teenage son Mark, who lies around doing nothing all day, stinking the place out with his feet.
Fitz lectures at a University, and when one of his students is brutally murdered by a serial killer known as "the Sweeney", his life changes dramatically. He goes to the Manchester Police Force and offers them a profile of the Sweeney. "I'm good, and I'll catch him," he assures the father of the dead girl.
Well, in the end, he does. But the main story centres around that of "Kelly" (Adrian Dunbar), a man who is found lying near a railway track (the student was murdered on a train), covered in the girl's blood. He claims he has amnesia, caused by his fall from the train, and so Fitz tries to crack him into confessing. It is at this point that we are introduced to the wonderful, almost poetic interrogation scenes that embody what Cracker is about. In these scenes, Fitz will zero in on a character's heart and tell them a few home truths about themselves which will shock them into cracking. These truths are often harrowing and emotionally-draining, but only occasionally are they completely successful.
The interesting twist in "Mad Woman" (especially interesting considering it is the first in the series) is that Kelly has no memory, and so Fitz has nothing whatsoever to zero in on. He can do more than simply reel off his profile of the actual Sweeney to him, and hope that it strikes a chord with Kelly. When that fails, Fitz turns on his new favourite police officer, D.S. Jane Penhaligon (Geraldine Somerville), knowing that she is a "victim", just like all the other women the Sweeney has killed.
Anyone reading this may think that I have ruined the story for them, but that is not the point. What makes Cracker so ultimately wonderful is how sometimes the storyline involving the hunt for a criminal gets pushed out of the way by the storylines of the characters. Unlike many standard cop shows, this one actually centres on characters other than the main one and his sidekick. Okay, so in "Mad Woman" is has to centre on Fitz and Penhaligon, otherwise it would just be a mess, but as the series progresses we see more and more of the police officers working with Fitz, and glimpse more and more into their lives. The primary case is D.S. Jimmy Beck (Lorcan Cranitch), although he plays a relatively minor part in "Mad Woman".
"To Say I Love You" is another example of television at its best. Like many of the subsequent Crackers, it makes it possible for us to feel sympathy (or perhaps it is pity) for the criminals, no matter how diabolical their actions, and at the same time we cannot wait to see Fitz dissect them in the interrogation scenes.
Sean (Andrew Tiernan), a karaoke singer with an awful stutter, meets Tina (Susan Lynch) in a bar, and they fall in love. Tina is in debt with a criminal, and she convinces Sean to kill him. The brutal manner of the killing draws immediate attention to the case, and Fitz is brought along to profile the killer. What he doesn't realize at first is that he has already met Sean when the boy was arrested for joy-riding a minibus. Against Fitz's advice, Jimmy Beck let him go.
A few may be put off by the length of this episode, but it really drags you into it, because the time allows you to be completely immersed in the world of these characters, and to care about them.
The success of Cracker lies in Jimmy McGovern's writing. Quite simply, it is in a class of its own. Not a single line is unconvincing, and subsequently we begin to see the characters as real rather than just cliches. Of course, the brilliant performances all round also have something to do with it. Robbie Coltrane deserves most of the credit, brilliantly getting across how Fitz is a terribly flawed person, but has a heart in the right place.
Standout scenes (obviously barring the superlative interrogation scenes) in "Mad Woman" are Fitz terrorizing a group of friends at a dinner party while drunk, and also a brilliant cameo by Don Henderson as the father of the Sweeney, which lasts for barely more than three minutes but remains so convincing you'd be sure it was real.
As for "To Say I Love You", almost every scene is standout, although my favourites have to be Fitz taking Penhaligon to the same restaurant as his wife and her new lover, and also Tina confronting her parents before she goes to prison.
Watch it and be amazed!
To Say I Love You - is definitely up there in my Top 3 of all Cracker episodes. The story tells the strength of love and devotion between two unlucky misfits....him with a frustrating speech impediment, her with a family she would rather disown. Their love affair leads to lies, murders, and kidnapping - all believed by the pair to be romantic expressions of their love for one another. Disturbing brilliance.
A great performance by Fitz's forever patient wife Judith (Barbara Flynn) and the girlfriend-in-waiting (Gerladine Somerville) - and look out for a Coronation street regular in a very early role.
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