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01.16.08

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Melissa

Acorn Media; $29.95

By Michael S. Gant


A three-part (150 min.) 1974 BBC mystery returns on DVD. Peter Barkworth plays Guy Foster, a downsized Fleet Street journalist whose wife, Melissa, turns up dead after a swank party that Foster didn't attend. Foster looks like the culprit: he was known to be fighting with Melissa; a doctor claims to have been treating him for anger issues; people he's never seen before insist they know all about him; his alibi has more holes than a colander. Soft-spoken, square-jawed Detective Chief Inspector Carter (Philip Voss, who's been in everything from '60s-vintage Dr. Who to Octopussy to Four Weddings and a Funeral) really wishes he could believe Foster, but all the witnesses remember events differently than the harried reporter. The story is short on action (it's a British mystery after all), but the plot pleases with its tide of seemingly impossible conundrums that Foster must resolve. The film stock makes it all look like an old soap opera, but much of the fun comes from the '70s wardrobes and hair styles, especially the rail-thin bell bottoms and puffy sideburns sported by one of Foster's nervous friends. The minimal extras include a short bio of writer Francis Durbridge, a stalwart mystery novelist who created private detective Paul Temple, whose adventures ran on the BBC for 30 years. (Michael S. Gant)


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