- Actors: Michael Gambon, Patrick Malahide, Joanne Whalley, David Ryall, Gerard Horan
- Format: Colour, PAL
- Language: English
- Classification: 15
- Studio: BBC
- VHS Release Date: 19 July 2004
- Run Time: 194 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
- ASIN: B00004CP45
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 308,538 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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The Singing Detective  Volume 2 [VHS]
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Episodes 3-6 of this popular, award-winning Dennis Potter series: a mixture of fantasy, reality and hit songs from the 1940s. 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.
The late Dennis Potter was a master at mining the popular songs of the 1930s and '40s for dramatic effect, but he never did it better than in this mini-series starring the inestimable Michael Gambon. Gambon plays a mystery writer named Philip E. Marlow, who is suffering a torturous bout of psoriatic arthritis in hospital, where he is a victim of both his disease and the national health service. Unable to move without pain, he escapes into his imagination, plotting out a murder tale in which he is both a big-band singer and a private eye. But Potter and director Jon Amiel also mix in flashbacks of Marlow's youth and his unhappy marriage to explain how the real Marlow reached this sorry pass. Flawlessly, intricately, kaleidoscopically assembled, the six one-hour episodes fly by like some fantastic fever dream. --Marshall Fine
Top customer reviews
Michael Gambon's acting as Philip Marlow is absolutely superb, he manages to be repellent and yet as you get to know him he grows on you! The flashbacks to childhood are incredible as you see all the dilemma and difficulty the young Philip faces. The sets, scenery and wonderful local accents for these flashbacks have immense character.
As well as the straightforward back and forth of the story, the lines between reality, what takes place in his novel, and what might be delirium keeps things blurred and is utterly gripping.
And for those who don't like musicals...there is not that much singing!
It also has incredible funny moments, some of them funny/sad.
For anyone who likes things that are a little odder than mainstream, this is well worth a try!
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.
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.