George Gently

Series 1

 

George Gently ~ Series 1

[aka: Inspector George Gently]

Three feature length episodes

Created for television by Peter Flannery

Based on novels by Alan Hunter

Written by Peter Flannery

Produced by Suzan Harrison

Directed by Euros Lyn & Ciaran Donnelly

2007/2008

 

Cast:

Martin Shaw as Detective Chief Inspector George Gently

Lee Ingleby as Detective Sergeant John Bacchus

 

“Gently Go Man” supporting cast:

Phil Davis as Joe Webster

Richard Armitage as Ricky Deeming

Claire Rushbrook as Valerie Lister

Shaun Evans as Lawrence Elton

Christian Cooke as Billy Lister

Owen Row as Inspector Setters

Sean McGinley as China Mates

 

“The Burning Man” supporting cast:

Pooky Quesnel as Wanda Lane

Robert Glenister as Empton

John Kavanagh as Doyle

Charlotte Riley as Carmel

Deka Walmsley as O’Shaughnessy

 

“Bomber’s Moon” supporting cast:

Christian Oliver as Wilhelm Schmeikel

Nathalie Boltt as Trudi Schmeikel

Wolf Kahler as Gunter Schmeikel

Kevin Doyle as Robert Stratton

Tim Healy as Old Jim Hardyment

Tony Rohr as China Mates

 

Production:

Television: Company Pictures for BBC

Video: Acorn Media

 

Video

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080i

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: BD50 + BD25

Feature size: 44.5GB + 22 GB

Runtime: 89 / 88 / 88 minutes

Episodes: 3

Chapters: 9 per episode

 

Audio: English PCM 2.0 stereo

 

Subtitles: English SDH

 

Extras: Text Interviews with Martin Shaw, Lee Ingleby and writer/producer Peter Flannery

 

Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray case: BRD x 2

Street Date: January 17, 2012



Product Description:

Acorn Media launched the George Gently Series on Blu-ray in June 2010 with the third season (or “series” as the Brits call them).  The popular mystery series, likened to Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders, are based on Alan Hunter’s detective novels set amidst the upheavals and excesses of 1960s Britain.  Acorn Media returns now to the start of the series in high-definition with Series One, which premiered in the U.K. on BBC1 in the spring of 2007.

“Tony®-nominated actor Martin Shaw (Judge John Deed, The Professionals) plays Inspector George Gently, an uncompromising London detective and grieving widower who finds new life—and new purpose—in Britain’s windswept Northumberland. In the mid-1960s, this remote region has just begun to feel the ripples of social and cultural change rocking the rest of the world, and Gently brings big-city smarts and unflappable judgment to his job. Teamed with brash young sergeant John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby, Nicholas Nickleby), he uncovers motives for murder in a once-tranquil place during a time of transition.”  - Acorn


    

 

The Movie: 8/9/9

George Gently Series One comprises three feature length mystery episodes: the pilot episode: “Gently Go Man,” and two episodes that aired a year later, one week apart: “The Burning Man” and “Bomber’s Moon” with the same writer but a new director.

 

“Gently Go Man”

Original Air Date – 8 April 2007

After his wife Isabella is killed by a hit and run driver, Inspector George Gently considers retiring but when a member of a biking gang in County Durham in the North East is killed and Gently hears that Joe Webster (played by the always amazingly intense Phil Davis), whom he believes to be responsible for Isabella’s death, is in the area, he travels north to investigate, teaming up with ambitious young sergeant John Bacchus. Suspecting that local inspector Setters is corrupt and possibly involved in the assault on his informant China Mates, Gently comes to realize that he and Webster are actually both investigating the same crime.


    

 

“The Burning Man”

Original Air Date – 13 July 2008

The charred corpse of a man identified as Ruari O'Connell is found near an RAF base, and a ring found in his stomach leads Gently and Bacchus to his lover, cafe owner Wanda Lane. When a second Irishman is shot dead, a condescending Special Branch commander named Empton arrives telling Gently that Ruari was an IRA soldier on the run from vengeful compatriots. As bodies mount, the identity of the burning man changes accordingly.


    

 

“Bomber’s Moon”

Original Air Date – 20 July 2008

Gently and Bacchus investigate the murder of Gunter Schmeikel, who is found at the bottom of the harbor. Evidence indicates it wasn't an accident. Gunter had lived in England as a POW during World War II and had worked on Old Jim Hardyment's farm. It's only been 20 years since the end of the war and there is still a good deal of anti-German sentiment. The dead man's son and daughter-in-law, Wilhelm and Trudi Schmeikel lie to the police about their whereabouts on the evening of Gunter's death, and there is suspicion that Wilhelm may have been embezzling funds from his father's business.  Another suspect is young Jimmy Hardyment who believes Gunter had an affair with his mother.


    

 

LensView:

The George Gently mystery series got me thinking once again about what makes for a good mystery - or, at least, why this or that piece of detective fiction - literary and cinematic - appeals to me more than some other: The good ones all have that remarkable ability to evoke a time and place, a population of intriguing, often entertaining characters, a list of likely suspects, a compelling procedural and an intricate puzzle to solve. Finally, we are seduced by the personality and manner of the detective and, of course, the yarn itself leading to the climactic unmasking of the culprit.


I reviewed George Gently Series 3 last year, but for Acorn’s return to the beginning of the series, I was given Midsomer Murders Set 19 to cover as well.  Watching these shows back to back clarified something about George Gently that I am a little embarrassed to say was less evident in my comparison to Foyle’s War. Simply put, Gently and Foyle are dramas about real people, enhanced just enough to make for compelling television. In those shows, killers behave out of passion, laced with just enough carelessness to permit capture - bt that only makes sense, doesn’t it.  Midsomer has more in common with Poirot: both are entertainments in the form of puzzles where chess pieces that look and talk like real people, but are clearly not, are contrived for our amusement.  In these stories, people are dispatched for the sake of the mystery not because people actually do such things.  Gently and Foyle want to say something about social context; the latter do not allow themselves be distracted by such indelicacies.

 

I think the reason that the Inspector Gently stories invited me to revisit those questions is that the time (1966), if not the place (England), is one I lived through long enough ago to have gained some emotional distance and intellectual perspective on its social and political climate.  Unlike typical American movies and TV fare, there is no attempt to revise those times through the lens of contemporary culture.  In the George Gently mysteries we time travel to a place not unfamiliar, yet somehow a little out of phase with our own lives.  Social issues that loom so dramatically significant then are of less impact now and we must discipline ourselves not to judge them too harshly for their naïveté.  There is never doubt that the characters themselves feel strongly about their circumstances.


    

 

With CSI came a wholly different look at the police procedural. The investigator relies more on science and less on intuition and experience.  Even though the George Gently mysteries are far less graphic in a detailed sense, what few glances we get at the victims are all the more disturbing. (While not officially rated, I would not hesitate to give these episodes a “PG-13.”) 

 

In today’s television detective dramas, one investigator is more or less interchangeable with another.  Not so in your typical BBC mid-twentieth century mystery series, and most especially with George Gently.  Not because Inspector Gently is an extraordinary character with brilliant insights, but precisely because he is neither.  In some ways he is more like the subjects of his investigations than  , Marple or Wimsey on the one hand, or Grissom and Briscoe on the other.  Much the same is true for Sgt. Bacchus, a considerably more volatile personality than Gently, a man out of touch with his own drives and prejudices - a fact that Gently rather enjoys pointing out to him.  Indeed, the episodes in this series are at least as much character studies as they are procedurals or a mysteries.


    

 

To continue the comparison of George Gently to Foyle’s War: Both feature a conservative, yet open-minded, middle aged Detective Chief Inspector who is pretty much allowed to follow his investigations as he sees fit.  Thankfully there is precious little of that staple of American police detective fare of the rogue inspector, chronically hounded by an unsympathetic precinct captain.  The Gently stories are primarily urban, Foyle’s War primarily rural.  The motivation for Gently’s criminals is usually intrapsychic or interpersonal; for Foyle’s miscreants, the crimes are often broader in impact, set as they are in the early 1940s with an enemy just 30 miles away that has taken over just about all of Western Europe. 

 

Gently and Foyle each have partners, but Gently and Bacchus interact in ways that provide real counterpoint to their investigations, pretty much missing from Foyle’s War, which maintains sharp focus on what is usually a wide-ranging investigation.  Most important, there is a lyricism and poignancy to Foyle’s War that is utterly lacking in the desolation of Gently’s North England in the mid-1960’s, where the country has not healed itself from the ravages of WWII before being torn apart by global forces, seen and unseen, and a social revolution that still resonates today.


    

 

Image: 7/7

Paul Mavis at DVDTalk: rated the image quality on Acorn’s DVD release highly, and their Blu-ray production goes that one or two better.

 

Maintaining the original resolution of 1080i, with bit rates in the mid-30 Mbps, Acorn arrives at a generally pleasing, often exceedingly sharp image, more so when there is no movement in the frame.  I found that the instability observed on Acorn’s George Gently 3 with movement across the frame is just as much in evidence here, almost certainly related to its being in 1080i.  On the other hand my OPPO handles all this beautifully so that we are only subtly aware of jagged movement occasionally, rarely and not very obtrusively. Color and contrast are excellent, with good shadow detail especially in the many nighttime and dimly lit scenes, transfer issues (except as just described) are unobtrusive, noise and edge enhancement is minimal to non-existent.  I found, surprisingly enough, that the image quality of the initial episode was a mite better than the other episodes on this set or GG3.


    

 

Audio & Music: 7/7

Hats off to Acorn for supplying the original stereo mix in 2-channel high-definition audio, which offers clean, crisp dialogue and subtle, well balanced foley and realistic effects.  Are there shots fired?  Yes - but you aren’t likely to remember where.  No car chases.  No knifings on camera.  Victims are displayed off the bias but the violence that resulted in the various murders are generally off-screen.  So the audio mix must be subtle and nuanced if it is not to feel forced on the one hand or talking heads on the other.  And here Acorn scores admirably.  Ray Harman’s opening theme subtly mimics the style of 1960s TV shows tastefully, while his supportive music is used sparingly throughout the drama.


    

 

Extras: 2

In addition to a handful of unforced Acorn DVD previews in SD, optional “episode summaries” (more correctly: set-ups) accessible from the main menu and Acorn’s excellent SDH subtitles which, considering the northern England brogue that some characters occasionally lapse into, is most helpful, we find moest, somewhat mickey-mouse text interviews with the leading actors Martin Shaw & Lee Ingleby as well as with writer/executive director Peter Flannery.  This beats nothing at all, as was the case with Acorn’s first George Gently Blu-ray entry.

 

As with their George Gently 1 Acorn continues to use slipcovers that open from the top and bottom, designed, one must assume, to permit the disc case to slip right through your fingers onto the floor as you take it from the shelf.


    

 

Recommendation: 9

Contrary to my own expectation, Acorn apparently found enough interest in this series to resume their video offerings with Series One, a move I applaud.  In fact, my opinion of this first season is considerably more favorable than on-line critics I have come across.  On the other hand, don’t expect the George Gently stories to be entertaining mysteries - they’re good but nothing that will make you drool with envy as with the cleverness of a Murder on the Orient Express. The emphasis here is on character, drama and social context, and in this regard, the series scores high points indeed. The pilot episode that introduces Chief Inspector Gently to Sergeant Bacchus balances wry humor with an intensity, aided in this regard by the remarkable character actor Phil Davis (Bleak House), that later would become the series’ trademark.


    

 

George Gently” – not exactly a grabber of a title is it?  (In the U.K. the title migrated to “Inspector George Gently” with Series Two) - nor is the cover art that includes a black & white portrait of a sad, if determined looking Martin Shaw against a Confidential Magazine yellow and green background. That said, I’m guessing it’s up to word of mouth and reviewers like myself to spread the word: Acorn’s GG Series One was priced a bit steep I felt at $39.98 for two feature length episodes.  The new set is a somewhat better value: three episodes @ 49.98. 


Image quality is quite good, assuming you have a decent processor in your player or display that handles the 1080i-to-1080p conversion properly.  There is a slight but useful bump in the bonus features department as well. The dramas have the authority of realism about them, as do Gently’s investigations. Fans should not hesitate to pick this one up, and lovers of modern detective mysteries are urged to give Mr Gently a solid Go once again.


    

 


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

January 14, 2012


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