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(aka "Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death" )

 

directed by Geoffrey Sax, Paul Harrison, and Roberto Bangura
UK 2014

 

Based on the best-selling novels of M.C. Beaton (whose concurrent HAMISH MACBETH series lasted three seasons for BBC One in the nineties), AGATHA RAISIN finds the eponymous PR power woman (Ashley Jensen, EXTRAS) giving it all up to live her childhood dream of settling down in a cottage in the idyllic Cotswolds village of Carsley. Although she wants to fit in, Agatha has gutted her quaint cottage and had it furnished by an award-winning Hampstead design team, she pinches cleaner Gemma (Katy Wix, NOT GOING OUT) from next door neighbor Sheila (Caroline Langrishe, DEATH WATCH), and courts buys a spinach quiche from an upscale Chelsea bakery to enter into the village fête's contest in order to endear herself to the townspeople. Buttering up judge Andy Cummings-Browne (Robert Bathurst, COLD FEED) for details on the ideal dish, Agatha does not realize until too late that "male lion" Andy has already judged the winner from among his pride of local village mistresses. Ever the sore loser, Agatha has a public scene with Andy and his wife Jo (Hermione Norris, IN THE CLUB) that makes her the prime suspect in his death when he appears to have been poisoned by leftovers of her quiche until she is forced to reveal at the inquest that she did not actually make it. Those not calling her a murderer brand her a cheater, and Agatha gets it into her head that she can only redeem herself by solving the murder herself against the advice of lovesick Detective Constable Bill Wong (Matt McCooey) and incompetent Detective Chief Inspector Wilkes (Jason Barnett, THE BILL). With the help of former PR colleague/gay best friend Roy (Mathew Horne, GAVIN & STACY), cleaner Gemma, her daughter Kyra (Maddie Monti), and enemy Sheila's dishy ex-army attorney eligible bachelor brother James (Jamie Glover, WATERLOO ROAD), sift through the various suspects including jilted lovers - possibly including Sarah (Lucy Liemann, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM), the vicar's wife - and jealous husbands before the case is closed as an accidental poisoning.

In The Walkers of Dembley - based on Beaton's "The Walkers of Wembley" - group of ramblers lead by Jessica (Debbie Chazen, TOSPY-TURVY) claiming access rights to ancient footpaths directly through the crops of landowner/womanizing rogue Charles Fraith (Jason Merrells, EMERDALE) leads to murder. Coming to Charlie's defense, Agatha and James poses as a couple to ferret out motives for murder among Jessica's circle of friends and uncover a hotbed of seething sexuality. Like the MIDSOMER MURDERS episode Ring Out Your Dead - but far less effectively - the second episode Hell's Bells deals with a murder among the town's Bell Ringers when attractive and upbeat widow Amanda (Sally Bretton) is found hanging from a bell chord with a perfectly-forged suicide note and the vicar Jez (Rhashan Stone) is looking more and more like the prime suspect. In Wellspring of Death, the deciding vote in the parish council in the effort to stop landowner Robina's (Jacqueline Tong, HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING) front granting water rights of her village spring to the Ancombe Water Company will have to wait a while when the indecisive council head is found murdered beside the spring. Agatha resists getting involved in an unofficial organization until she discovers that James and village newcomer Mary (Daisy Beaumont, I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD) are mounting their own investigation; whereupon, Agatha takes Roy up on his recommendation to handle the local PR for Ancombe and its dashing CEO Guy Freemont (Jules Knight, HOLBY CITY), but someone is not will resort to another murder or two to spoil Agatha's celebrity-filled village fair. When Mary ends up as The Potted Gardener, Agatha must clear James' name and determine whether her murder had to do with her estranged daughter's (Antonia Clarke, MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT) inheritance or a personal motive among her garden contest competitors (who Agatha soon discovers shared her opinion of Mary and are more than willing to speak ill of the dead). In The Vicious Vet, Amanda finds herself among those charmed and seduced by the town's handsome new veterinarian (Daniel Ings, EDDIE THE EAGLE) whose mysterious death has the village husbands at ease until another killing claims one the village's near and dear.

In The Day the Floods Came, Agatha's transformations of Charlie's estate into a wedding venue goes downhill when their first bride apparently commits suicide the day after the wedding only for forensics to reveal that she was murdered, frozen, and then dumped in the river during the flood. The bridal party is eager for Agatha's help investigating the murder until her inquiry turns up unflattering and even illegal secrets about the victim during her very public memorial. After a hairdressing disaster, Agatha books a spa weekend at a creepy castle only to discover that S.P.A. stands for Special Paranormal Activity package in Witch of Wyckhadden. When she discovers the body of local gypsy witch Francie (Kacey Ainsworth, EASTENDERS), Agatha finds that her reputation as amateur sleuth has not carried over from the Cotswolds and Inspector Jessop (Steven Brand, THE SCORPION KING) regards her as just as likely as a suspect as the rest of the hotel's spook-seeking guest list. Bill, Gemma, James, and Roy race to her rescue but the the answer may lie beyond the grave. The Murderous Marriage of Agatha and James is spoiled by the reappearance of Jimmy Raisin (Jason Thorpe), the husband she thought was dead, causing James to walk out on her. When Jimmy turns up dead, Agatha and James are thrown back together as suspects. When they discover that Jimmy had been in rehab at a clinic near the village, Agatha and James begin to suspect that one of their own neighbors may be a murderer.

Although the series of books started in 1992 - and had been adapted to BBC radio with TO THE MANOR BORN's Penelope Keith as Agatha - AGATHA RAISIN the series comes a bit late to the game, seeming derivative of a cross between MIDSOMER MURDERS and ROSEMARY & THYME with British country life composed almost primarily of village fêtes where bodies are constantly underfoot, although some of the common plot points do indeed seem to stem from the clash of village life with commercial business as well as the landowners from the city who would prevent desired progress in order to maintain their weekend idyll. Agatha is a rather grating protagonist, and too much of the forty-five minute running time of the cases is devoted to her "will they, won't they" brushes with James and Bill over the mostly-predictable plotting; as such, the series will probably play better as "light entertainment" for lovers of the more recent PBS/MASTERPIECE THEATRE crowd who love the newer iterations of Poirot, Miss Marple, and PARTNERS IN CRIME over the classic INSPECTOR MORSE, P.D. James adaptations, and the more quaint and budget-hemmed Agatha Christies.

Eric Cotenas

Theatrical Release: 26 December 2014 (feature), 7 June 2016 - 26 July 2016 (series one)

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DVD Review: Acorn Media - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Acorn Media

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 7:23:16 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 3.95 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles English HoH, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Acorn Media

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
� Disc One:
�  Pilot plus Series 1 Episodes (with 'Play All' episodes; 3:43:18):
� 2014 pilot 'Agatha Raisin: The Quiche of Death' (16:9; 1:30:27)
� - 1.1: 'The Walkers of Dembley' (16:9; 44:58)
� - 1.2: 'Hell's Bells' (16:9; 43:52)
� - 1.3: 'The Wellspring of Death' (16:9; 44:18)
� Introducing Agatha (16:9; 2:04), About the Show (16:9; 1:31), Meet the Cast (16:9; 2:11),
� From Script to Screen (16:9; 1:54), and Welcome to Carsely (16:9; 1:21)

� Disc Two:
�  Series 1 Episodes (with 'Play All' option; 3:39:41):
� - 1.4: 'The Potted Gardener' (16:9; 43:30)
� - 1.5: 'The Vicious Vet' (16:9; 43:46)
� - 1.7: 'The Witch of Wyckhadden' (16:9; 44:22)
� - 1.8: 'The Murderous Marriage' (16:9; 44:20)
� Agatha is Back (16:9; 4:14), From PR to PI (16:9; 3:21), and Picture Gallery (16:9; 1:57)

DVD Release Date: August 1st, 2016
Amaray

Chapters 54

 

 

 

Comments

The pilot feature AGATHA RAISIN AND THE QUICHE OF DEATH aired in 2014 was released on DVD individually last year and has been reisued here in a two-disc set with the 2016 first series. With nearly four hours per disc, the anamorphic image does look more than a tad soft but generally better in motion. Acorn's October Region 1 release reportedly gives the film a bit more breathing room over three discs. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track gets the job done and optional English HoH subtitles are also included. Extras on disc one are focused entirely on the 2014 film, with prominence given to characters who do not survive to the end while disc two's extras relate to the 2016 series.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Acorn Media

Region 2 - PAL



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