George Gently

Series 3

 

George Gently ~ Series 3

[aka: Inspector George Gently]

Three feature length episodes

Created for television by Peter Flannery

Based on novels by Alan Hunter

Written by Peter Flannery & Jimmy Gardner

Produced by Suzan Harrison

Directed by Daniel O’Hara

2010

 

Cast:

Martin Shaw as Detective Chief Inspector George Gently

Lee Ingleby as Detective Sergeant John Bacchus


“Gently Evil” supporting cast:

Daniel Casey as Alan Charlton

Natalie Garner as Agnes Charlton

Shaun Dooley as Darren Paige

Ruth McCabe as Mrs. Paige

Melanie Clark Pullen as Lisa Bacchus


“Peace and Love” supporting cast:

Sarah Lancashire as Mallory Brown

Warren Clarke as Charles Hexton

MyAnna Buring as Adriana Doyle

Emun Elliott as Fraser Barratt

Kerrie Hayes as Elizabeth Higgs

 

Production:

Television: Company Pictures for BBC

Video: Acorn Media

 

Video: 

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080i

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: ca. 42 GB

Runtime: 89 / 87.5 minutes

Episodes: 2

Chapters: 12 per episode

 

Audio: English PCM 2.0 stereo

 

Subtitles: English SDH

 

Extras: None

 

Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray case: BRD x 1

Street Date: June 28, 2011



Acorn Product Description:

Likened to Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders, George Gently, Series 3, debuts on Blu-ray and DVD on June 28, 2011 from Acorn Media. This set marks the first Blu-ray release of the popular mystery series based on Alan Hunter’s detective novels set amidst the upheavals and excesses of 1960s Britain. In Series 3, available to U.S. audiences for the first time, Inspector George Gently (Martin Shaw, Judge John Deed, The Professionals) delves into a family’s dark secrets and a university’s chaotic campus. Series 3 premiered in the U.K. on BBC1 in September 2010, but George Gently has not aired in the U.S. yet. A fourth series has been commissioned as well.

Tony®-nominated actor Martin Shaw returns as Inspector George Gently, a grizzled 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.


     


The Movie: 7/8

“George Gently” Series 3 comprises two feature-length mystery episodes: “Gently Evil” and “Peace and Love.”

 

[amazon:]

“Gently Evil”

Original Air Date - 26 September 2010

It's 1966 and the world is changing fast... Martin Shaw plays one of the unsung heroes of detective fiction, Inspector George Gently, whose passionate investigations reveal the dark underbelly of a society on the cusp of change. Set in an idyllic coastal village in Northumberland, 1966. When the body of a loose young woman is found murdered Gently and Bacchus find themselves investigating a family with unimaginable secrets. Initially it appears that the woman's estranged husband, and father of young daughter, is responsible for the killing. But as they further investigate this disturbed family they discover a far more alarming truth.


     

 

“Peace and Love”

Original Air Date - 3 October 2010

The year is 1966 and the football World Cup has come to England. With the USSR due to play at Roker Park and the fear of the 'Reds Under the Bed' exemplified by the upcoming Polaris submarine landing at the nearby Jarrow docks, tensions are running high. CND protesters, lead by radical students from Durham University, are the last thing the police need when the world media is on their doorstep awaiting the upcoming football match. Gently and Bacchus investigate the murder of a well know Lefty academic, found dead in the docks post a CND rally. This takes them onto the Durham University campus - an ancient temple of learning struggling to come to terms with the novel influx of students from the working class and brash, radical, academics. Sexual and Social rebellion is everywhere in the air and to the young and optimistic these forces seem inevitable and unstoppable. Bacchus is horrified yet fascinated by the promiscuity on display. Gently, a war veteran, more shrewdly recognizes that Liberation is not always an unmixed blessing...


     

 

Comment:

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 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 Poirot, 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 so out of touch with his own drives and prejudices that he becomes easily unhinged by the mere thought that a suspect might have committed a crime.  (We imagine that in the earlier episodes of series 1 & 2 Bacchus was somewhat more stable, his wife not having yet left him.)


     

 

George Gently is worth contrasting 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: 6/7

Maintaining the original resolution of 1080i, with bit rates just either side of 30 Mbps, Acorn arrives at a generally pleasing, often exceedingly sharp image, more so when there is no movement in the frame.  Color balance is superb, especially noticeable with flesh tones.  But if you want to see just how unstable the actual image is try pausing any scene where there is any movement, however slight, across the field.  When the movement is rapid, the average processor hasn’t a chance, as evidenced by the following screen capture (ripped, as are the others here, from the Blu-ray disc and unprocessed further.)  Hairy. . . which speaks well of how well our players do their job since it hangs together as well as it does most of the time.  Contrast is very good, transfer issues (except as just described) are unobtrusive, noise and edge enhancement is minimal to non-existent.


     

 

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.  Are there shots fired?  I don’t remember any.  No car chases.  No knifings on camera.  A couple of garrotings, but no fisticuffs as such.  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.  I recall just how precisely the opening of a leather handbag was captured, the snap of the clasp and the sound of its contents dumped on a bedspread.  Ray Harman’s opening theme subtly mimics the style of 1960s TV shows tastefully, while Dominik Scherer’s supportive music is used sparingly throughout the drama.


     

 

Extras: 1

Acorn’s George Gently Series 3 comes with a closetful of no bonus features. Not only are there no production features or commentaries or inserts, but the single item in addition to episode and chapter access is the misleadingly titled “Episode Summary” for each episode, which, thankfully, aren’t summaries at all but set-up introductions.

 

On the other hand, Acorn does supply helpful, accurate SDH subtitles which, considering the northern England brogue that some characters occasionally lapse into, is a godsend.  I might add that there is one amusing sequence right out of Hot Fuzz where Bacchus translates the mumblings of a local to Gently, to the former’s apparent delight.  On another, far less important, but still puzzling note, I can’t for the life of me understand why studios 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.


     

 

Recommendation: 7

Acorn Media has previously released George Gently, Series 1 and 2, on 3 and 4-disc DVD Boxed Sets, Series 3 being their first appearance in high definition.  I’m always fascinated by studio decisions on where to start publishing an existing series on Blu-ray.  Generally, but not always (vide: Dexter), it’s with the most recent season, simultaneously with a DVD edition. This is presumably to head potential buyers into high-def, since fans of the series will likely already have purchased previous seasons in DVD instead of waiting for the Blu-ray.  Then comes the game we all play waiting to see if the earlier seasons will see the 1080 light (as they have not yet with The Sopranos but did with Lost).  In the present instance Acorn will get the jump on the release of Series Four on North American television with this release – a strategy of dubious value, but it has a certain cache I suppose.


     

 

I wonder, too, how this title will be marketed to people who aren’t already acquainted with the series, which begs the question: how might that have happened, seeing as how the series hasn’t yet aired in the U.S. though Acorn has been keeping up with DVD incarnations since 2008.  Having said that, it came as some surprise to me that Amazon.com ranks the 4-disc GG Series 2 DVD as 26,837 in popularity as against 18,627 for the 4-disc Foyle’s War Series 2.  That FW would be a better seller was no surprise, but that GG had any sort of presence, considering its relative lack of North American airing, was.

 

“George Gently” – not exactly a grabber of a title is it?  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.  Then, too, I wonder what possessed someone to shorten the title from the more descriptive one we find on the title card by dropping the “Inspector”!  That said, I’m guessing it’s up to word of mouth and reviewers like myself to spread the word: Two good mysteries for the price of one?  Perhaps.  But with no extra features and without a 5.1 mix (which, incidentally, I think are idiotic in such circumstances, but the high-def videophile usually feels otherwise), George Gently Series 3 is a hard sell at MSRP $39.99 (even harder for the DVD at the same price if Amazon has it right!).  Fans should have no problem, however, and lovers of modern detective mysteries are urged to give Mr Gently a firm Go.


     



Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

June 17, 2011


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