DVD review: An Inspector Calls

BBC Worldwide release date: September 21st 2015

Starring:  David Thewlis, Miranda Richardson, Ken Stott, Sophie Rundle, Kyle Soller

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It’s 1912 and all is well with the world. The Titanic is about to set sail and there most definitely isn’t about to be a global world war in two years, as the well-to-do Birling family settle down for a dinner to celebrate the engagement of their daughter. The only trouble is someone claiming to be a police inspector (Thewlis) is at the door with news of a death. He is about to blow the complacent world of the Birlings and their selfish “everyone for themselves” philosophy apart forever.

The victim is a local girl: one Eva Smith, a working-class factory worker who has committed suicide. The tragedy initially appears to have no connection to the Birlings at all. Or does it? We soon learn gradually that every member of the family has, in their own way known Eva and through their actions, somehow contributed to her death. The Birlings soon learn that their actions have consequences, not just in this case, but in a wider world on the brink of being torn apart by two world wars and a global depression.

But, there are further questions too. Who exactly is Inspector Goole? And is he really what he claims to be?

Screened earlier this month, this is an excellent BBC version of J.B. Priestley’s classic Attlee-era, socialist play. All the cast, particularly David Thewlis are superb and the introduction of flashbacks invigorates proceedings immeasurably, bringing the action vividly to life.

Bonus features include one short introduction to the play and one longer one.

Downton Abbey this ain’t. It’s better.

Bonus features

An Inspector Calls – An Introduction

The Enduring Power of An Inspector Calls

DVD review: Mapp & Lucia

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It’s 1930 and the peace of the village of Tilling is about to be unsettled by the arrival of two outsiders. The duo: Mrs. Emmeline Lucas (Anna Chancellor) and her male companion Georgie Pillson (Steve Pemberton) are an odd pair but, it soon becomes clear, nowhere near as unusual as the people of Tilling itself. For this is truly a world of eccentrics, peopled by drunken majors, vicars with fake accents, intriguing lifestyle choices and of posh women who though ostensibly polite, rarely say what they actually mean. Queen of them all is Miss Elizabeth Mapp (a toothsome Miranda Richardson): a social tyrant in the guise of a benign village spinster. It is only a matter of time before she and her new tenant Lucas (known as Lucia) become locked in a battle of wills.

Do not be fooled. This may have been filmed in genteel village surroundings and screened in three parts over the Christmas period, but this is not gentle stuff. A clue should be evident in the fact that it was written by the League of Gentlemen’s Steve Pemberton adapting it from E.F Benson’s classic series of inter-war novels. He and fellow Royston Vasey resident Mark Gatiss (he plays the Major), also make up a stellar cast. There is undeniably a dark underbelly to this village too.

Although Blackadder II fans will already know she can play a tyrant called Elizabeth (she played Queen Elizabeth I as a dangerously volatile spoilt brat in the 1985 classic TV comedy), here Miranda Richardson (plus added teeth) excels as the megalomaniac Elizabeth Mapp. Thirty years after the well-received Channel  4 version of the stories (featuring Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales and Nigel Hawthorne), this new version is a triumph too.

Mapp & Lucia

BBC DVD

Programme Name: Mapp And Lucia – TX: n/a – Episode: Mapp And Lucia (No. 2) – Picture Shows: **STRICTLY NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00;01HRS, SATURDAY 6TH DECEMBER, 2014** Irene Coles (GEMMA WHELAN), Major Benjy (MARK GATISS) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Nick Briggs