SPEEDY DEATH (1998)

Starring: Diana Rigg, Neil Dudgeon, John Alderton, Emma Fielding, Tristan Gemmill, Tom Butcher

Based on the novel by Gladys Mitchell

Screenplay: Simon Booker

Director: Audrey Cook

Format: DVD (also available on various PBS stations showing the Mystery! series)

Genre: Mystery

Running time: 90 minutes

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

Set in the 1920's this stylish whodunit will bring a smile to the faces of those long-suffering fans of Diana Rigg who were never content merely listening to the remarkable actress introduce the evening's fare on Mystery! (the long-running PBS series). In this engaging tale of murder and blackmail, the viewer is introduced to Mrs. Adela Bradley and her chauffeur, Gerorge Moody.

Mrs. Bradley is a woman out of place. She is recently returned from America where she has picked up, to the chagrin of many of her snobbish English friends, too many bad habits. She has no patience for dullness which is why she divorced her decent but boring husband as soon as she could. She excells in unraveling even the most tangled web of lies, and she has a passion for solving any little mysteries that crop up on her weekend visits to friends. The local police value her expertise in matters related to understanding the workings of the criminal mind. She is a noted author and lecturer on the subject.

On this outing, Mrs. Bradley arrives at Chayning Court for an engagement party. Her god-daughter Eleanor Bing, affectionately referred to as "Mouse," is planning to wed. Tossed into this mix are a number of guests and familiy members that have a way of grating on each others' nerves. When a body is discovered, the local police arrive only to determine the death accidental. Mrs. Bradley isn't so sure. With the aid of her devoted and equally inquisitive chauffeur, George, she sets out to discover what is really going on. Her investigation leads to an unlikely suspect and a surprising conclusion.

The accompanying music will be familiar to most, and will leave you humming the jazzy tunes long after the episode has ended. The costumes are wonderfully crafted and evoke a time long past, and an innocence long lost. The nostalic days of the 1920s were a perfect choice for the setting of this series. The clash between the old ways of the aristocracy and the developing "new" or modern ways of the working class is fascinating. While the aristocracy try to hide their secrets, Mrs. Bradley drags them out into full view.

I enjoyed Mrs. Bradley's sassy personality and her special relationship with her chauffeur. While most men would not be able to match Adela, George manages just fine!

Half of the fun is watching the interplay between Adela and her trusty side-kick, George. Even if there weren't a murder to be solved, spending the weekend with these two would prove to be exhilarating, I dare say.

Two things to bear in mind. One is that Mrs. Bradley has a tendancy to talk into the camera at times. This technique is not overly abused, but might still be annoying to some who just can't abide characters speaking to the camera. Second, it is highly advised that you view the episode "The Worsted Viper" (which is currently only available on VHS as part of a four-episode package) last. It does not bear directly on "Speedy Death" but if you do, as I did, and purchase both series at the same time, remember to watch "The Worsted Viper" after the other three episodes on the VHS package. "Death at the Opera," "The Rising of the Moon," "Laurels Are Poison," and then "The Worsted Viper."

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