MHz Networks // 2004 // 561 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // December 8th, 2013
Beg pardon, but there's been a murder committed, and the good Police Commissaire wonders if you'd be kind enough to indulge him by answering a few questions?
Maigret: Set 9 collects episodes 49-54:
* "A Shadow In The Courtyard" -- The owner of a successful pharmaceutical company is found slumped over his desk, the victim of an assassin's bullet. Behind him, the office safe is open, and over three million dollars are missing. Foul play is suspected.
* "Maigret At The Doctor's" -- A philandering physician (Laurent Le Doyen) becomes the prime suspect when his children's seventeen-year-old -- and pregnant -- governess dies after consuming Rye spikelets.
* "Maigret Rents A Room" -- In the boardinghouse one of his detectives was standing in front of just before being cut down by a sniper.
* "The Lady's Companion" -- The commissioner's enquiry into an alleged murder is severely hampered by a magistrate who insists that the main suspects are too important to be subjected to the indignities of a normal police interrogation.
* "Seven Little Crosses" -- It's the dog days of August, and Paris police are in hot pursuit of a suspected serial killer.
* "Maigret At The Étoile Du Nord" -- The brutal stabbing of a hotel guest and an aggressively peculiar prostitute figure into this Christmas season story -- Ho Ho Ho!
Murder classique; investigated with decorum, subtlety, and wit -- No ballistics. No blood spatter. I might be wrong, but I don't even remember fingerprints ever being an issue! I realize forensic technology was a much simpler science in the 1950s, but this Parisian superintendent of detectives takes old school to a new level.
I've seen comparisons made to Columbo, and they're reasonable enough, but for the profound influence each detective's country of origin. The advantage of this (French) murder mystery series for this (American) reviewer is that -- completely opposite to the classic Peter Falk series -- I've never seen any of these actors before, and because the acting here is consistently first rate, I can accept these people in the guise of the characters they play. Enjoyable as Columbo could be, I always felt somewhat handicapped by its guest star wattage (Oh no! Is Jack Cassidy actually going to kill Martin Milner?! Hmmm...wonder if Columbo will be too blinded by Leslie Ann Warren's beauty to see the truth? etc.).
Sadly, the six episodes included here represent the last to feature Bruno Cremer (who died in 2010, at the age of eighty) in the title role. It's not unreasonable to expect other actors will inhabit the guise of Georges Simenon's shrewdly loquacious commissioner -- over a dozen have already done so on radio, the silver screen and television, among them, actors from Russia, Japan, Italy, and several British, besides multiple French thesps who've smoked the pipe and worn the chapeau -- but with fifty four solid performances to his credit, Cremer will surely be missed.
Fortunately, MHz Networks have done a fine job of preserving these (artfully) conversational adventures, and Maigret: Set 9 is no exception. The anamorphic widescreen transfers faithfully transfer the unique beauty of Paris -- this series wisely favored location shooting and natural light -- and the accompanying stereo sound more than holds up its end of the bargain. There are no bonus features, but here's a six pack of great telefeatures, each with an average running time of 90 minutes, so who needs them?!
As the dialog herein is exclusively French, statesiders like me will agree that English subtitles don't count as extras, but as necessities. Actually, I was initially reluctant to take on this assignment, having been warned by several English-speaking critics about the excessive amount of reading required just to keep up, but whether or not I experienced beginner's luck, I didn't find this to be a problem at all.
On the other hand, unless you're fluent in Maigret's mother tongue, you're going to have to pay strict attention -- no sock folding while watching, or you'll be lost within minutes -- but your patience will be rewarded; in a series that relies so heavily on interviews, it stands to reason that every word counts.
Vive le Commissaire!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MHz Networks
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 561 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated