THE SHAMELESS (2019) ***½
by Ace Atkins
This paperback edition published by Corsair, 2020, 446pp
First published in hardcover by Corsair, 2019
© Ace Atkins, 2019
Blurb: Twenty years ago, teenager Brandon Taylor walked into the Big Woods north of Tibbehah County, Mississippi, and never returned. For former Army Ranger-turned-sheriff Quinn Colson, the Taylor case has a particular meaning. As a ten-year-old, Colson had been lost in those same woods and came back from them alive and a local legend. Years later, bones of a child are found in the woods, confirming for many the end to the Taylor story. As the case reopens, some point fingers to Quinn’s uncle, the former sheriff, who took his own life in a cloud of corruption and shame. Still, Quinn’s wife, Maggie, can’t believe it. As a childhood friend of the Taylor boy, she thinks there’s a darker conspiracy at work. Letters she receives from a mysterious inmate at a Tennessee state pen may hold the answers. With a heated election for governor on the horizon and the strengthening of a criminal syndicate’s death grip on the state, Quinn’s search for answers will upset the corruption that’s plagued his home since before he came back from Afghanistan. Greed, false piety, power, bigotry, and dirty deals make for a dangerous mix he knows all too well.
Comment: Number 9 in the Sheriff Quinn Colson series takes Ace Atkins’ hero into a cold case that hits close to home. It’s a slow-burning story, built around two New York reporters arriving in Tibbehah County to investigate what really happened to a teenager who allegedly killed himself in the woods. Again the characters are rich and the dialogue superb. Those who have been with the series from the start and seen how it has developed will consider this book a crossroads in a story arc that has built throughout, with its cliffhanger ending and some major shifts for most of the characters. What it lacks in action (a hitherto pre-requisite of the series) it makes up for in plot progression. Quinn, newly married to Maggie is up against forces that would have him removed from office, sister Caddy takes up with a man affiliated to those forces, Fannie Hathcock looks to broaden her criminal empire and battle those who would oppose her, Boom struggles with alcoholism following events from the previous book, THE SINNERS. Many of these plot threads remain unresolved by the book’s conclusion, giving it the feel of a transitionary novel with its lack of closure potentially leaving readers unfulfilled. Casual readers would, therefore, be advised to start from the beginning with THE RANGER, to get acquainted with the core characters, their back-story and the setting. They will be rewarded with a series that has matured with each book and leaves you wanting more.
The Quinn Colson series:
The Ranger (2011) ***
The Lost Ones (2012) ***
The Broken Place (2013) ***
The Forsaken (2014) ***½
The Redeemers (2015) ****
The Innocents (2016) ***½
The Fallen (2017) ****
The Sinners (2018) ***½
The Shameless (2019) ***½
THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (USA, 1956) **½
Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Universal International Pictures (UI); Release Date: 26 April 1956; Filming Dates: late Aug–mid Sep 1955; Running Time: 78m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
Director: John Sherwood; Writer: Arthur A. Ross; Producer: William Alland; Director of Photography: Maury Gertsman; Music Supervisor: Joseph Gershenson; Film Editor: Edward Curtiss; Art Director: Alexander Golitzen, Robert Emmet Smith; Set Decorator: John P. Austin, Russell A. Gausman; Costumes: Jay A. Morley Jr.; Make-up: Bud Westmore; Sound: Leslie I. Carey, Robert Pritchard; Visual Effects: Clifford Stine.
Cast: Jeff Morrow (Dr. William Barton), Rex Reason (Dr. Thomas Morgan), Leigh Snowden (Marcia Barton), Gregg Palmer (Jed Grant), Maurice Manson (Dr. Borg), James Rawley (Dr. Johnson), David McMahon (Captain Stanley), Paul Fierro (Morteno), Lillian Molieri (Mrs. Morteno), Larry Hudson (State Trooper), Frank Chase (Steward). Uncredited: Ricou Browning (The Gill Man (in water)), Don Megowan (The Gill Man (on land)), George Sowards (Ranchhand).
Synopsis: In this third Gill-Man feature, the Creature is captured and turned into an air-breather by a rich mad scientist.
Comment: The second sequel to THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) starts promisingly if more than a little familiarly. Merrow and a group of scientists hunt the Gill Man in the Everglades. Merrow has brought along wife Snowden, who sets the pulses racing amongst the rest of the crew sending Merrow into jealous rages. Reason debates ethics with Merrow and the production becomes a little too talky during its mid-section. Once the Gill Man is captured and loses his gills via a fire the creature begins to adopt human physicalities. Unfortunately. this means the impressive creature design is shorn of its elegance and the Gill Man turns into a lumbering Frankenstein-like monster, but lacking any expressiveness through the heavy rubber mask. The finale at a coastal clinic reverts to formula and the creature becomes enraged when violence is inflicted on others, notably his fellow captive animals. The denouement is hugely disappointing lacking any resolution other than Merrow’s ultimate fate. Impressive underwater photography and the desire to stretch the characters are pluses in an otherwise largely routine fare.
GOLD (UK, 1974) ***½
Distributor: Hemdale Film Distribution (UK), Allied Artists Pictures (USA); Production Company: Killarney Film Studios; Release Date: 5 September 1974 (UK), 16 October 1974 (USA); Filming Dates: October 1973; Running Time: 120m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
Director: Peter R. Hunt; Writer: Wilbur Smith, Stanley Price (based on the novel “Gold Mine” by Wilbur Smith); Producer: Michael Klinger; Director of Photography: Ousama Rawi; Music Composer: Elmer Bernstein; Film Editor: John Glen; Casting Director: Irene Lamb; Production Designer: Syd Cain, Alex Vetchinsky; Art Director: Robert W. Laing; Costumes: Marjory Cornelius; Make-up: Paul Engelen; Sound: John W. Mitchell; Special Effects: Cliff Richardson, Bill Warrington.
Cast: Roger Moore (Rod Slater), Susannah York (Terry Steyner), Ray Milland (Hurry H. ‘Pops’ Hirschfeld), Bradford Dillman (Manfred Steyner), John Gielgud (Farrell), Tony Beckley (Stephen Marais), Simon Sabela (Big King), Marc Smith (Tex Kiernan), John Hussey (Plummer), Bernard Horsfall (Dave Kowalski), Bill Brewer (Aristide), Norman Coombes (Frank Lemmer), George Jackson (Gus, Mine Doctor), Ken Hare (Jackson), Ralph Loubser (Mine Captain), Denis Smith (Radio Commentator), Paddy Norval (Daniele, Girl in Bar), Garth Tuckett (Miner), Albert Raphael (Miner), Lloyd Lilford (Miner), Alan S. Craig (Miner), John Kingley (Miner), Carl Duering (Syndicate Member), Paul Hansard (Syndicate Member), André Maranne (Syndicate Member), Nadim Sawalha (Syndicate Member), Gideon Kolb (Syndicate Member), John Bay (Syndicate Member).
Synopsis: Rod Slater is the newly appointed General Manager of the Sonderditch gold mine, but he stumbles across an ingenious plot to flood the mine, by drilling into an underground lake, so the unscrupulous owners to make a killing in the international gold market.
Comment: Whilst the basic plot may be a little far-fetched, the grippingly authentic and well-filmed mining action scenes are tremendous. Hunt directs these set-pieces with a visceral intensity, which is helped by superb stunt work and whole-hearted performances, from Moore and Sabela in particular. Glen’s slick editing helps to heighten the suspense during these scenes. Dillman makes for a suitably eccentric and cold-hearted villain and Milland enjoys himself as the grumpy rich mine owner. York plays Dillman’s bored and unfaithful wife who falls for Moore’s charms and Gielgud leads the remote investors whose plot to make a killing on the stock market is the catalyst. A rousing final act makes up for some slow spots when the action moves above ground, where tighter editing could have made for a more efficient end-product. Overall, despite the reservations concerning pacing and plot, this is an entertaining thriller that deserves a re-appraisal.
Notes: Many members of the production crew had connections to the James Bond film franchise.
RANSOM (UK, 1974) ***
Distributor: British Lion Film Corporation (UK), Twentieth Century Fox (USA); Production Company: Lion International / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Rwaley Film & Theatre; Release Date: 27 February 1975 (UK), 16 April 1975 (USA); Filming Dates: began 14 January 1974; Running Time: 94m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
Director: Caspar Wrede; Writer: Paul Wheeler; Producer: Peter Rawley; Director of Photography: Sven Nykvist; Music Composer: Jerry Goldsmith; Film Editor: Eric Boyd-Perkins; Casting Director: Lesley De Pettit; Art Director: Sven Wickman; Costumes: Ada Skolmen; Make-up: Stuart Freeborn; Sound: John Bramall, Ken Scrivener; Special Effects: Roy Whybrow.
Cast: Sean Connery (Tahlvik), Ian McShane (Petrie), Jeffry Wickham (Barnes), Isabel Dean (Mrs. Palmer), John Quentin (Shepherd), Robert Harris (Palmer), James Maxwell (Bernhard), William Fox (Ferris), Harry Landis (Lookout Pilot), Norman Bristow (Denver), John Cording (Bert), Christopher Ellison (Pete), Richard Hampton (Joe), Preston Lockwood (Hislop), Karen Maxwell (Eva), Colin Prockter (Mike), Malcolm Rennie (Terry), Knut Wigert (Polson), Knut M. Hansson (Matson), Frimann Falck Clausen (Schmidt), Kaare Kroppan (Donner), Alf Malland (Police Inspector), Brita Rogde (Air Hostess), Sven Aune (Co-Pilot), Per Tofte (British Embassy Driver).
Synopsis: A gang of hijackers led by McShane seize a British plane as it is landing in Scandinavia.
Comment: Hostage thriller is a little drawn out by diving straight into the scenario, thereby allowing little room for character development or motivation. Whilst the complex nature of the story unfolds as it progresses, it somehow lacks the suspense of its ticking-clock premise. Connery is as effective as ever in the lead role of the Scandinavian police chief at odds with his government’s approach to the situation, whilst trying to figure ways to delay McShane and his terrorists. Its matter-of-fact approach at least prevents the story from descending into cliche melodrama and characterisations. Effective location photography adds to the sense of realism in this efficient, if not wholly satisfying, suspenser.
Notes: Initial US release version ran 88m. Aka: THE TERRORISTS.
CASINO ROYALE (1953) ****
by Ian Fleming
This paperback edition published by Vintage, 2018, 256pp (229pp)
First published by Jonathan Cape in 1953
© Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., 1953
Introduction by Anthony Horowitz
Blurb: Le Chiffre is a businessman with expensive tastes – and SMERSH’s chief operative in France. As his dissolute lifestyle threatens to ruin him, his only hope of survival is to risk his paymasters’ money at the baccarat table. Across from him sits James Bond, the finest gambler in the British secret service. Bond’s mission: to outplay Le Chiffre and shatter his Soviet cell. midst the opulence of the Royale-les-Eaux casino, the two men face each other in a game with the highest stakes of all.
Comment: The book that started a phenomenon. Ian Flemings’ Casino Royale introduces us to Britsh spy James Bond – 007. The story is a relatively low key beginning for Bond, bearing in mind what was to follow, but that is part of the books’ charm. By pitting Bond against an enemy agent in a card game we get to delve into Bond’s character and philosophy. His attitudes, particularly to women, may seem anachronistic today but were indicative of the time the book was written. Published only a few years after the end of World War II it demonstrated how many men found it difficult to share their emotions – their sensitivities hardened by their experience by their wartime experience. The plot is fanciful in its set-up of the card game being a vehicle by which Le Chiffre urgently seeks to recover lost funds in order to redeem his benefactors. Once we have accepted the notion then we are treated to a tense battle of wills. The second half of the book deals with the aftermath of the game and includes a torture scene that has become infamous over the years and is certainly extremely sadistic – even by today’s standards. Bond’s falling for his fellow agent, Vesper Lynd, plays out alongside this and leads to a shocking finale which goes a long way to explaining Bond’s approach with women in the books that followed. Fleming’s writing is also at its tightest here and he describes the card game with a depth of knowledge. The short chapters keep the reader turning the pages by either ending on a key plot progression or mid-scene. This debut work is Fleming at his most efficient and Casino Royale remains one of the best of the series.
The James Bond novels of Ian Fleming:
Casino Royale (1953) ****
Live and Let Die (1954) ***½
Moonraker (1955) ****½
Diamonds Are Forever (1956) ***
From Russia with Love (1957) ****
Doctor No (1958) ****
Goldfinger (1959) ***½
For Your Eyes Only (1960) (short stories) ***
Thunderball (1961) ****
The Spy Who Loved Me (1962) **
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963) *****
You Only Live Twice (1964) ****
The Man with the Golden Gun (1965) ***
Octopussy and the Living Daylights (1966) (short stories) ***
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (UK, 2019) **½
Distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment; Production Company: Mammoth Screen / British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Creasun Media American; Release Date: 17, 24 November & 1 December 2019; Running Time: 3 x 60m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Stereo; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
Director: Craig Viveiros; Writer: Peter Harness (based on the novel by H.G. Wells; Producer: Betsan Morris Evans; Executive Producer:Jamie Brown, Peter Harness, Minglu Ma, Preethi Mavahalli, Damien Timmer, Craig Viveiros; Director of Photography: James Friend; Music Composer: Russ Davies; Film Editor: Adam Bosman, Josh Mallalieu; Production Designer: Pat Campbell; Casting: Karen Lindsay-Stewart; Costumes: Howard Burden; Make-up: Amy Stewart; Sound: Jonathan Seale; Special Effects Supervisor: Chris Reynolds; Visual Effects Supervisor: Stephen Coren, Sally Goldberg, Ivor Middleton.
Cast: Eleanor Tomlinson (Amy), Robert Carlyle (Ogilvy), Rafe Spall (George), Jonathan Aris (Priest), Rupert Graves (Frederick), Woody Norman (George Junior), Nicholas Le Prevost (Chamberlain), Susan Wooldridge (Mrs. Elphinstone), Taliyah Blair (Lillian), Reid Anderson (Stall Holder), Philip Gascoyne (Navy Officer), Charles De’Ath (Greaves), Joey Batey (Henderson), Sam Benjamin (Salesman), Freya Allan (Mary), Christopher Hatherall (Naval Lieutenant), Daniel Cerqueira (Stent), Aisling Jarrett-Gavin (Lucy), Bradley Cottrell (Newspaper Boy), Harry Melling (Artilleryman), Kieron Bimpson (Captain), Cokey Falkow (Army Officer), Milo Twomey (Sergeant Major), Michele Donockley (Red Planet Survivor).
Synopsis: Set in Edwardian England, this new adaptation of H.G. Wells’ seminal tale – the first alien invasion story in literature – follows George (Spall) and his partner Amy (Tomlinson) as they attempt to defy society and start a life together. The War of the Worlds tells their story as they face the escalating terror of an alien invasion, fighting for their lives against an enemy beyond their comprehension.
Comment: This adaptation of H.G.Wells’ classic novel plays loose with its source material and clumsily attempts to invent its own allegorical agenda with references to British colonialism. Rather than follow the novel’s linear narrative we jump between scenes set during the invasion and three years after into a post-apocalyptic landscape. The latter scenes only serve to slow the narrative and remove any fluidity and excitement that the invasion generates. Split across three hour-long episodes, the story feels overly stretched despite the occasional excitements and moments of tension. Tomlinson is good as the heroine who is conflicted between her bravery and responsibility to her unborn child. Spall is also okay as an everyman out of his depth. Carlyle, however, is wasted in a role that largely consigns him to the periphery of the action. What lets the production down is the writing, which is often stilted and provides a totally unsatisfying conclusion which clumsily attempts to be symbolic. Viveiros struggles to lift the material and settles for long moments of slow-motion action and introspection, which further dilute some of the set pieces. Technical attributes, however, are pretty good for the limited TV budget.
BERGERAC: SECOND TIME AROUND (UK, 1989) ***½
Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Seven Network; Release Date: 23 December 1989; Running Time: 97m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
Director: Peter Ellis; Writer: Ian Kennedy Martin; Producer: George Gallaccio; Director of Photography: John Walker; Music Composer: Ray Russell; Theme Music: George Fenton; Film Editor: Bernard Ashby; Production Designer: Martin Methven; Costumes: Barrie Sedwell; Make-up: Christine Greenwood; Sound: Malcolm Campbell; Stunt Arranger: Gareth Milne.
Cast: John Nettles (Jim Bergerac), Terence Alexander (Hungerford), Sean Arnold (Crozier), John Telfer (Willy Pettit), David Kershaw (Ben Lomas), David Schofield (David Mason), Jenifer Landor (Elizabeth Dufresne), Donald Sumpter (Harry Tilson), Prentis Hancock (Arthur Medley), Richard Hawley (Michael Fulton), Chris Langham (Devas), Andrew Sachs (Moise Davidson), Rupert Frazer (Ted Grob), Sarah Neville (Sally Collins), Derrick Branche (Damian Shore), Elizabeth Bradley (Mrs. Maurice), Lisa Climie (Wendy), Pavel Douglas (De Lavarre), Clare Byam-Shaw (Dr. Bonham).
Synopsis: David Mason murders Ted Grob by throwing him into a swimming pool, handcuffed to a patio recliner. Jim returns to duty to solve the murder and is asked by an ex-con who believes he was framed to go back over the details of the robbery of a courier company some years earlier which has a connection with the recent death.
Comment: The fourth of six feature-length Bergerac specials, this one broadcast at Christmas 1989 ahead of series 8. By this time changes were afoot in the series with Nettles’ Bergerac a much more reflective character following his split with long-time girlfriend Susan Young (an absent Louise Jameson); Sean Arnold’s Crozier has been promoted to Superintendent and is operationg from police HQ, without the services of secretary Peggy Masters and Jim’s ex-family are long gone to London. The stories had become tougher and the new approach is no more evident than in this flashy, violent heist thriller with its explosive finale. It’s well-written and typical of Kennedy Martin’s hard-nosed approach to crime series – he did, after all, create The Sweeney. There’s a strong performances from Schofield – in one of his unhinged bad guy roles – and Landor briefly gives Bergerac hope of a new love interest. Producer Gallaccio may have been trying to move the series away from its cosier approach by giving it the edge of the more action-orientated dramas of the period, but in doing so he had taken something of the character of the series away. As a result, the series lost some of its charms whilst gaining a bigger budget and slick action set-pieces.
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (USA, 1954) ***½
Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK); Production Company: Universal International Pictures (UI); Release Date: 12 February 1954 (USA), 9 December 1954 (UK); Filming Dates: 13 October 1953 – 15 November 1953; Running Time: 79m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Universal 3-D (dual-strip 3-D); Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
Director: Jack Arnold; Writer: Harry Essex, Arthur A. Ross (based on a story by Maurice Zimm); Producer: William Alland; Director of Photography: William E. Snyder; Music Composer: Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter, Herman Stein (all uncredited); Music Supervisor: Joseph Gershenson; Film Editor: Ted J. Kent; Art Director: Hilyard M. Brown, Bernard Herzbrun; Set Decorator: Russell A. Gausman, Ray Jeffers; Costumes: Rosemary Odell (wardrobe for Miss Adams); Make-up: Bud Westmore; Sound: Leslie I. Carey, Joe Lapis.
Cast: Richard Carlson (David Reed), Julie Adams (Kay Lawrence), Richard Denning (Mark Williams), Antonio Moreno (Carl Maia), Nestor Paiva (Lucas), Whit Bissell (Dr. Thompson), Bernie Gozier (Zee), Henry A. Escalante (Chico). Uncredited: Ricou Browning (The Gill Man (in water)), Ben Chapman (The Gill Man (on land)), Art Gilmore (Narrator (voice)), Perry Lopez (Tomas), Sydney Mason (Dr. Matos), Rodd Redwing (Louis – Expedition Foreman).
Synopsis: A strange prehistoric beast lurks in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. A group of scientists try to capture the animal and bring it back to civilization for study.
Comment: Late contender in the classic Universal monster series has a basic plot and variable performances from its cast. These deficiencies are countered by the excellent creature design and some effective and tense underwater footage. Adams also makes for a strong heroine, with whom the creature has become fixated (echoes of “Beauty and the Beast”). The music score was compiled from work by three different uncredited composers as well as stock material, but the memorable (if oversued) creature theme was written by Stein.
Notes: Underwater sequences were directed by James Curtis Havens and the creature was designed by Milicent Patrick. Originally produced in 3-D. Followed by REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955) and THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956).
BERGERAC: RETIREMENT PLAN (UK, 1988) ***
Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Seven Network; Release Date: 27 December 1988; Running Time: 94m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
Director: Edward Bennett; Writer: Edmund Ward; Producer: George Gallaccio; Director of Photography: John Walker; Music Composer: Ray Russell; Theme Music: George Fenton; Film Editor: Bernard Ashby; Production Designer: Phil Roberson; Costumes: Barrie Sedwell; Make-up: Benita Barrell; Sound: Malcolm Campbell; Stunt Arranger: Gareth Milne.
Cast: John Nettles (Jim Bergerac), Terence Alexander (Hungerford), Louise Jameson (Susan Young), Nicholas Ball (Gravel Beresford), James Laurenson (Raoul Fuegas), Sylvester Morand (Harry Lubeck), Constantine Gregory (Diego Ferrera), Sean Arnold (Crozier), Barrie Houghton (Reno), Danny Webb (Joe Grantham), Micha Bergese (Costello), Sue Lloyd (Eva Southurst), Carmen Du Sautoy (Marie Chantel), Anthony Calf (Simon Lorrilard), Matyelok Gibbs (Alice Thorwell), Bill Stewart (Gully), Paul Angelis (Jack Thorwell), John Telfer (Willy Pettit), David Kershaw (Ben Lomas), Nancy Mansfield (Peggy Masters), Hilary Mason (Miss Amberton), Robert McBain (George Beck), Dave Atkins (Wesley), Jonathan Oliver (Pathologist), Catherine Livesey (Woman House Buyer).
Synopsis: Jim is summoned from Jersey to spend Christmas on the Costa Del Sol where a pair of small-time British crooks have tried to muscle in on Charlie’s latest business venture. When Jim gets involved he finds himself in the middle of a local gang war whilst back on Jersey a group of French thieves are causing havoc and Susan’s life is put in danger.
Comment: The third of six feature-length Bergerac specials, this one broadcast at Christmas 1988 ahead of series 7. Series 6 had seen a new producer on board in George Gallaccio, who added a harder edge and more complex plots to the series. His desired style is fully evident in this episode which includes two separate plot threads. However, there is no connection between them, which gives the impression the special has been cobbled together from two distinct stories with characters disappearing without an explanation. The end result is a disjointed affair, despite the excellent supporting cast – notably Houghton’s piano-playing assassin and Du Sautoy’s high class thief – and the use of exotic Spanish locations.
BERGERAC: FIRES IN THE FALL (UK, 1986) ***½
Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Seven Network; Release Date: 26 December 1986; Running Time: 89m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
Director: Tom Clegg; Writer: Chris Boucher; Producer: Jonathan Alwyn; Director of Photography: Alec Curtis, Adrian Smith; Music Composer: Ray Russell; Theme Music: George Fenton; Film Editor: Bernard Ashby, Paul Garrick; Production Designer: Ken Ledsham; Costumes: Andrew MacKenzie; Make-up: Marilyn MacDonald; Sound: Bill Chesneau; Visual Effects: Simon Tayler.
Cast: John Nettles (Jim Bergerac), Terence Alexander (Hungerford), Amanda Redman (Pauline Taylor), Barrie Ingham (Raoul Barnaby), Margaretta Scott (Roberta Jardine), Sean Arnold (Crozier), Louise Jameson (Susan Young), Donald Churchill (David MacKenzie), Paul Brooke (Malcolm Croxted), Ron Pember (Jack Plemont), Deborah Grant (Deborah Bergerac), Lindsay Heath (Kim Bergerac), Geoffrey Leesley (DC Terry Wilson), Jolyon Baker (DC Barry Goddard), Mela White (Diamante Lil), Nancy Mansfield (Peggy Masters), Jim McManus (Filing Clerk), Tony Westrope (Jeavans), Nicholas McArdle (Doctor), Guy Standeven (Vicar), Salomi Oxberry (Maria).
Synopsis: When an elderly millionairess puts her trust in a psychic who claims to speak to the dead, Jim is asked to debunk some supernatural myths.
Comment: The first of six feature-length Bergerac specials (broadcast at Christmas just ahead of series 5) builds on the approach tested in the earlier fourth series episode “What Dreams May Come?” by delving into the supernatural thriller genre. Like the earlier episode “Fires in the Fall” looks to explain these supernatural elements through a gradual reveal of its mystery. That it is both relatively successful, sometimes scary and often entertaining is testament to the directorial skills of Tom Clegg and the scripting of Chris Boucher. Ingham also adds greatly to the story with a creepy guest turn as a medium seemingly in contact with the dead. There’s also an early role for Redman as the put-upon niece of Scott’s wealthy retiree. All the series regulars are involved, with some lighter moments built around heating problems at the bureau. Whilst not totally satisfying, largely because it tries to introduce one twist too many during the finale, it remains a strong episode in a consistently entertaining series.