Review: ‘Mystery! Unnatural Causes — Parts I & II’

Host: Diana Rigg.

Host: Diana Rigg.

P.D. James’ Adam Dalgliesh (Roy Marsden) of Scotland Yard returns for a two-parter about a corpse whose hands have been chopped off and the seaside village where the body turns up. Telepic features good atmosphere and a well-thought-out mystery, though Dalgliesh doesn’t cut the figure of a Poirot, Marple or Holmes; it’s just solid detective work, firm but not riveting.

Crime writer Maurice Seton’s body turns up in a boat in the village, and the crime’s involved with a London gambling raid, with Maurice’s nasty half-brother Digby (Simon Chandler), a physically disabled secretary Sylvia (Anne Lambton), a casino operator and a young woman injured in a car accident.

Maurice, part of a slight literary circle in town — blonde Celia Calthrop (Marjie Lawrence) was a member — was investigating gambling when the trouble broke out. Secretary Sylvia, acting especially concerned, has her own little secret.

Peter Buckman, in dramatizing the original novel, adds a romantic venture for Dalgliesh in which the lady in question, Deborah (Mel Martin), tries pinning the commander down to a commitment. She threatens to leave for a job in N.Y. if he doesn’t give in to her demands. An extraneous plotline supposedly humanizing the hero, the affair doesn’t show off the man’s best side.

Marsden continues in strong style, and the other cast members are superior. Technically, the drama’s good, though a crucial chopper rescue scene looks staged. And, of course, Marsden’s Dalgliesh and his surroundings don’t havethe pizzazz of his crime confreres.

Mystery! Unnatural Causes -- Parts I & II

(Thurs. (13, 20), 9-10 p.m., PBS)


Filmed in England by Anglia TV Films & Drama Ltd. Exec producer, Brenda Reid; producer, Hilary Bevan Jones; director, John Davies; writer, Peter Buckman; based on novel by P.D. James.


Camera, Richard Crafter; editor, Keith Judge; art director, Davina Tuckey; sound, Richard Collins; music, Richard Harvey; production designer, Spencer Chapman.


Cast: Roy Marsden, Mel Martin, Kenneth Colley, Simon Chandler, Bill Nighy, James Cossins, Nicholas Jones, Anne Lambton, Marjie Lawrence, Roger Alborough, Arthur Blake, Lucy Briers, David Conville, Oliver Haden, Edward Peel, Jerome Willis, Erin Geragity, Rosemary Williams.
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