George Gently

Series 4

 

George Gently ~ Series 4

[aka: Inspector George Gently]

Two feature length episodes

Created for television by Peter Flannery

Based on novels by Alan Hunter

Written by Peter Flannery & Stewart Harcourt

Produced by Caroline Levy

Directed by Nicholas Renton & Gillies MacKinnon

September, 2011

 

Cast:

Martin Shaw as Detective Chief Inspector George Gently

Lee Ingleby as Detective Sergeant John Bacchus


“Gently Upside Down” supporting cast:

Vincent Regan as Peter Holdaway

Kate Bracken as Hazel Holdaway

Louise Delamere as Margaret Holdaway

Jade Bourne as Shelly Marshall

Kieran Bew as David Nugent

Neil Morrissey as Tony “Tone” Hexton

Sean Gilder as Joe Claverton

Juliet Cowan as Sheila Claverton

Shannon Tarbet as Mary Claverton


“Goodbye China” supporting cast:

Jay Miller as David Blackburn

Dean Lennox Kelly as Sgt. Molloy

Christine Bottomley as Terri Molloy

Neil Pearson as Alan Shepherd

James Acton as Danny Shepherd

Lucy Akhurst as Liz Thompson

Darren Morfitt as Paul Collison

Tony Rohr as China

 

Production:

Television: Company Pictures for BBC

Video: Acorn Media

 

Video

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080i

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: Dual layer 50 GB

Feature Size: 22.55 + 22.40 GB

Bit rate: High (31~ 37 Mbps)

Runtime: 89:00 / 88:20

Episodes: 2

Chapters: 10 per episode

 

Audio: English PCM 2.0 stereo

 

Subtitles: English SDH

 

Extras:

Behind the Scenes - in 480i (13:30)

Acorn Previews & Trailers

 

Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray case: BRD x 1

Street Date: July 3, 2012



Acorn Product Description:

Likened to Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders, George Gently Series 4, debuts on Blu-ray and DVD on July 3, 2012 from Acorn Media. This set continues the popular mystery series on high-definition video.  Already in release are Series 1 and Series 3. The mysteries are based on Alan Hunter’s detective novels set amidst the upheavals and excesses of 1960s Britain.

“Tony®-nominated actor Martin Shaw returns as Inspector George Gently, a grizzled London detective and 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.”


     

 

The Movie: 8/9

George Gently Series 4 comprises two feature length mystery episodes: “Gently Upside Down” and “Goodbye China,” co-written by Stewart Harcourt and series creator Peter Flannery.

 

“Gently Upside Down”

Original Air Date - 4 September 2011

A girl’s body is found in a shallow grave in an idyllic Northumberland coastal village in 1966. The subsequent investigation leads Gently and Bacchus through a roster of suspects including two of her schoolteachers and her own father, among others.


     

 

“Goodbye China”

Original Air Date - 11 September, 2011

DCI Gently looks into the suspicious death of his old informant China when he is given conflicting reasons for China’s demise by the coroner and the nurse who tended him in his final hours. Gently’s investigation leads him to the local police, where it there appears to be a conspiracy of silence and obstruction. Meanwhile a teenage boy, known to be one of the village troublemakers has disappeared and Gently suspects there may be a link to China’s death.

 

Comment:

Both episodes ask tough questions - familiar, but dramatically integrated and well argued.  In “Goodbye China” one of the imponderables concerns the question of compassion vs. justice when both appear to be wrong; in “Gently Upside Down” one of the many complex issues raised has to do with the boundaries between teacher and student, professional and worker.


     


As with the importance of Location to Retail, Casting is everything.  Once you have a good product to sell, in this case, a well-tuned script, you need a cast of believable actors to make it real - if reality is your aim, which it is in this detective series. Between the two movies here, only one character, the murderer in “Gently Upside Down,” devolves somewhat into a cliched performance just at the end.  But those thirty seconds aside, both episodes are rich with people we know or know of; people in our neighborhood, colleagues at work, family members.  We see them in crisis, which enhances their inner life, outwardly expressed for our pleasure or, in some cases, our abhorrence.  But even in those latter instances, there is always a balancing human condition - not an excuse or rationalization for behavior, but an understanding.  It’s more complicated to watch these stories for this reason.  But that’s what makes the George Gently mysteries the rich experiences they are.


     


One hardly knows where to start in giving credit for what we see, but such is our task, and we shall give the casts their partial due: One of the most complex characters is played by Dean Lennox Kelly as Sgt. Molloy, the loyal cop with a conscience and a wife who’s been shagging another man for a year; Tony Rohr as the eponymous China, a drunk who knows his limitations but wishes sincerely to rise above them for the sake of his imagined friendship with the good Inspector; Vincent Regan as the murdered girl’s English Peter Holdaway, with more ways to scan a verse than Richard Burton; Neil Morrissey as the washed up Tony “Tone” Hexton, a man, like so many in this story, that can’t consider himself as growing old; Kate Bracken as Hazel Holdaway, the dead girl’s best friend and competitor, the perfect 60s pop icon wannbee; and Neil Pearson as Alan Shepherd, who gave up a promising future in police work to take on the responsibilities of father to an autistic son; and perhaps most moving and disturbing: Sean Gilder as Joe Claverton, the dead girl’s father, accused by the police, his wife and himself.


     


Elsewhere, and for some mysterious reason, the main menu presents the two episodes of the fourth series in reverse order.  While there are no continuity concerns between them if you watch them in either order, “Goodbye China” introduces a character that may or may not recur in the following season, so I would recommend watching them in the order they aired: “Goodbye China” last, not first.


While the series started off running with its first season, by the fourth year the episodes have an ease about them; more confident, less forced.  Hard to define, really.   The series are still very much character-driven and avoid the Agatha Christie device of red herrings in the form of equally qualified looney suspects.  Even so, and while remaining true to down-to-earth situations, these two new stories allow for more mystery than previously.  My only concern is that Bacchus is becoming predictably two-dimensional, too much the bad cop to Gently’s reasoned one.  At least the writers avoid the cliche of insisting they be at loggerheads in their differences.


     

 

Image: 7<8/8

Maintaining the original resolution of 1080i, with bit rates well in the 30-36 Mbps, Acorn arrives at a generally pleasing, often exceedingly sharp image, especially in “Gently Upside Down.”  The judder that I observed in Acorn’s earlier George Gently Blu-rays don’t present here.  Contrast is well controlled and color is true; transfer issues, if any, are unobtrusive, noise and edge enhancement is minimal to non-existent.  “Goodbye China” has a softer, old film look to it - not digitally contrived so much as fitting to the subject.  Still, I kept wishing for greater sharpness.   It’s there in the glossier HD-video presentation of “Gently Upside Down,” again entirely appropriate to the world of television that the episode ventures into.


     

 

Audio & Music: 8/7

Hats off to Acorn for supplying the original stereo mix in PCM, which offers clean, crisp dialogue and subtle, well balanced foley and realistic effects.  The George Gently series continues their outright rejection of visual and audio effects for their own sake.  In neither episode is there a single shot fired, car chase, knife or blood splatter, which is not to say that the material isn’t graphic, it’s just that everything happens off camera but described or talked about in such a way as to be perhaps even more disturbing than watching the dirty deeds themselves.  So the audio mix must be subtle and nuanced if it’s not to feel forced on the one hand or talking heads on the other.  And here Acorn scores admirably, as does the tasteful, supportive music that sometimes brings in 1960s style tropes and other times, sparingly, a more modern mood enhancing score.


     

 

Extras: 4

Gone are the “Episode Summaries” of Series One, and in their place Acorn offers an all too brief, but well-turned, thirteen-minute Behind the Scenes look at the First Series production.  It’s in 480i (with accent on the “i”), with subtitles.  Martin Shaw, who has a wonderful sense of humor, makes an interesting, fundamentally important observation about acting right off the bat.  Director Daniel O’Hara likens Gently and Bacchus to Holmes and Watson. Production Designer Maurice Cain, Costume and Makeup Designers Emma Fryer and Jess Taylor, Locations Manager Mark Valentine, and DP Nick Dance talk about designing and shooting a 1960s milieu. These guys took the lessons of Somewhere in Time quite seriously.

 

Acorn supplies accurate subtitles which, considering the northern England brogue that some characters occasionally lapse into, is a godsend.  On the other hand they still insist on slipcovers that open from the top and bottom, designed, one must believe, to permit the disc case to slip right through your fingers onto the floor as you take it from the shelf.  You have been warned.


     

 

Recommendation: 9

Staring and ending on a positive note, I feel there is no better detective series on British television or any that I know of stateside than George Gently(Sherlock, on the other hand, is exceptional entertainment, but it is not so much a detective series as a four-dimensional crossword puzzle.  In this, the show has no peers.)  There are simply no ho-hum episodes across the four seasons of George Gently, and some, like the two here on Series Four, are among their best - dark and gritty, with only a glimmer of humor to keep it human.  I’m still not taken with the Confidential Magazine yellow and green background cover art, but the photo used here of Martin Shaw is more appropriate than in the previous entries.


     


I have to say that George Gently Series 4 might be a hard sell at MSRP $39.99.  That’s $20 for each each 90-minute movie, which may seem a lot when you consider the excellent value generally seen for TV series.  Even HBO and Showtime seasons come in at about half that per hour.  On the other hand, studios don’t really price their feature length movies by the hour, and 90-minute films can sell for the same price as one twice as long.  Either of the two episodes of this fourth series are outstanding examples of cinematic detective fiction and stand on their own without necessarily knowing anything about the preceding years of the show.  The image and sound quality is very good, especially for “Gently Upside Down.” I think this marks a useful improvement over the previous Blu-ray releases. Fans of the series should have no problem continuing here with confidence, in any case, and lovers of modern detective mysteries are urged once again to give Mr Gently a try if you haven’t already.  Let’s hope that Acorn takes a step back real soon to give us Series 2 on Blu-ray for a full deck.

 


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

June 29, 2012


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