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Case Number 19735

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The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries: Set Two

Acorn Media // 1973 // 604 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // September 22nd, 2010

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart ain't ever going to go on holiday with Lord Peter Wimsey.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries: Complete Collection (published July 25th, 2013) and The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries: Set One (published February 25th, 2010) are also available.

The Charge

"It will simply be a different kind of holiday, Bunter. That's all."
Lord Peter Wimsey, on death taking up the bulk of his holiday

Opening Statement

Each of the three mysteries in The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries: Set Two finds the noble sleuth in some kind of holiday from his normal life of, well, being a rich lord. Lord Peter Wimsey (Ian Carmichael) goes undercover as an ad man and gets to like slogan writing in Murder Must Advertise; in Five Red Herrings, he's on a fishing trip in Scotland; and The Nine Tailors finds him trying to get away for the New Year's break. Each time, of course, there's a dead body. The stories are taken from mystery novels by Dorothy L. Sayers.

Facts of the Case

Each of the three four-part mysteries is on its own disc:

• "Murder Must Advertise"
"So you've become one of the world's workers," Lord Peter's sister chides him as he takes a job at Pym's Publicity Ltd., where a former employee has taken a fatal tumble on the stairs. Peter discovers it has something to do with the drug ring his brother-in-law Inspector Parker is trying to bust and disguises himself as a harlequin. Christopher Timothy (All Creatures Great and Small) and Peter Bowles (Rumpole of the Bailey) co-star.

• "Five Red Herrings"
In Scotland on holiday, Lord Peter goes fishing while Bunter practices painting sunsets. They soon find the body of an artist, and a quick look at the crime scene tells Peter it's murder. Russell Hunter (Callan) co-stars.

• "The Nine Tailors"
Thanks to an icy road, Lord Peter returns to a village where he once helped catch two burglars years before. Now there's the death of a mysterious visitor to solve, and Peter gets a second chance to find the stolen emeralds.

The Evidence

The best serial here, by far, is "Murder Must Advertise." Ian Carmichael gets to pull double duty, playing Lord Peter Wimsey and going undercover as Wimsey's cousin in advertising. It's not necessarily believable—Peter makes nocturnal appearances as a harlequin to frighten a woman involved in drug trafficking and it's hard to believe anyone could take him for two different people—but Carmichael brings a goofiness (which he says in an interview was ported over from his earlier role as Bertie Wooster) to the story that makes it fun. There's also lots of wordplay as Peter and the other ad writers get to work.

"The Nine Tailors" also has some good moments, since it goes back to (presumably) Peter's first adventure and shows how he first met Bunter, his butler and friend from World War I. A fake mustache, some hair dye, and careful camera work turn Carmichael into "young Wimsey" for the flashbacks. There's a good bit in which Bunter and Peter trade roles to get some information that they could have just as easily asked for outright.

"Five Red Herrings" feels like it was stretched to get four installments. The last episode takes a long time to set a trap for the killer, and it could be as painful for you as it was for Bunter, who was hiding in a car boot most of that time. Glyn Houston as Bunter gets some good scenes, with his discussion of Peter's adventures (modestly underplaying his own role in the detection, of course) winning the attention of an attractive maid. This story really would have been better at about half the length.

Even when he's only playing one character, the fun Carmichael is having shows. He plays Lord Peter with a mixture of unfailing politeness and confidence that takes over every scene he's in and makes viewers overlook any plot holes. The playfulness in the character shows most in "Murder Must Advertise," as Peter plays with slingshots and dons a disguise, but it's evident throughout the series.

The production shows its age, particularly in the faded exterior scenes. My DVD froze in the first couple of minutes of "Five Red Herrings."

The text features and Ian Carmichael interviews provide little new information if you've seen the previous set, but Carmichael's comments on "Murder Must Advertise" about playing two characters and the differences between Wimsey and Bertie Wooster are interesting.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The slow pace, most evident in "Five Red Herrings," is present throughout. An hour or so could have been trimmed off each of these mysteries without significant loss.

Closing Statement

The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries was an uneven series, with pacing that occasionally could get on your nerves ("Just tell us whodunnit already, Wimsey!" "I ain't ready yet."). However, Ian Carmichael gives a strong performance leavened with humor. The set's probably going to appeal mainly to existing fans of the actor, the series, or the novels.

The Verdict

Not guilty, despite the red herrings.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 85
Extras: 85
Acting: 93
Story: 90
Judgment: 86

Perp Profile

Studio: Acorn Media
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 604 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Drama
• Foreign
• Mystery
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Interviews
• Text Features

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