I had the good fortune of practically stumbling into these GEORGE GENTLY telefilms by way of flipping through the channels, catching a few bits, and then investing in the DVD sets. My first go-round was the fourth series; but I was happy to then go back and watch them from the beginning, now bringing me up to date with Series 3. It’s not as if you’d definitely need to watch them in any particular order, though the first season does ably establish the particulars of the character relationships. I’ve enjoyed them all, and I’m happy to sound off with a few words on these current episodes as well.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last paragraph for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
In “Gently Evil,” our duo are called to the scene of a rather grisly and personal murder: a loose woman was killed in her bed, and the murderer draped a delicate handkerchief over the woman’s eyes in a curious parting move. Was it meant to be something sinister? Or was it something a bit more personal? As they pull on the various strings, alibis begin to unravel, and the secret they uncover will rock one family to its foundation. In “Peace & Love,” a turbulent protest against nuclear missiles leaves an area professor dead, forcing Gently and Bacchus to question teachers and students alike. What they uncover brings new meaning to the phrase ‘higher education,’ indeed!
Series 3 consisted only of these two telefilms (a total of 176 minutes), and, when measured against the stories explored in Series 1, 2, and 4, I found these a bit convoluted. That isn’t meant to say that they’re not believable; rather, it’s just that I think the adaptations of these two were probably a bit more involved as both stories involve the greater passage of time. In fact, several months go by after the set-up of events in “Gently Evil”; fortunately, the producers cast some very memorable talent in the involved roles so as to make it easier for the audience to keep up with the changing of the times. As such, these two won’t go down as my favorites, but the performances of all the players are so solid its hard not to be momentarily swept up in the affairs of others.
GEORGE GENTLY is produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Company Pictures, and Element Pictures, with funding by the Irish Film Board. DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled through Acorn Media. As for the technical specifications, no expense has been spared in bringing these films based on the novels by Alan Hunter to life. Sadly, there are no special features to speak of, but the producers do provide English subtitles for those us who have occasional trouble with the foreign accents and/or euphemisms.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. The GEORGE GENTLY series is a top-notch procedural sent during the turbulent days of the 1960’s when oh so much free love and free speech came to some at such an awfully high price. Martin Shaw is back in top form, as is his faithful aide Lee Ingleby, and I’d imagine that, so long as someone will air these things, they’ll keep making them. And hats off to all involved for doing it as the production quality has yet to falter. While Series 3 was brief (it only involved two telefilms), I’ll definitely stay tuned for more.