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In the BBC One production, “George Gently,” we are transformed back to the swingin’ 1960’s not of London, but of coastal Northumberland and County Durham. It’s another time, and another place, far away but not so different in some ways. Murder, for example.
George Gently is a police inspector whose wife was murdered by notorious gangster Joe Webster. After her death, Inspector Gently ponders retirement. But when he hears about a murder in Northumberland that sounds like Webster’s handiwork, he delays his retirement to take on this one last case. Once in rustic, backwoods Northumberland, he is paired with local detective DS John Bacchus. There he must track down Webster, while at the same time trying to deal with his headstrong young assistant and keep him on the straight and narrow.
Based upon the “Inspector Gently” novels by Alan Hunter, the series stars Martin Shaw as the title character. He is unruffable, he is as determined as a bulldog, and he is at his very core a very caring and gentle fellow. He is well trained and knows when he’s being lied to. He’s old enough to know that people’s brash reactions often are the result of reactionary thinking, and that a little time will help them see things right.
His new partner, DS John Bacchus as played by Lee Ingleby, has enough problems of his own, but apparently not so many he can’t try to get himself into deeper trouble, given the slightest of opportunities. It is, after all, the swingin’ Sixties, a time of free love and rebellion. He tries hard to conform to the rather conservative standards set by his new colleague, formerly of posh London. Although most of the time he finds it far too easy to give in to rash thought and easy sentiment.
Together they are a formidable pair, and eventually get to the root of whatever crime is laid at their feet.
In George Gently, Series 2 we are treated to four episodes:
-“Gently with the Innocents”
This is one of the very best of the Gently series. Gently and Bacchus investigate when elderly Alfred Peachment is found murdered in the grounds of the large house where he lived alone, formerly a children’s home which he superintended but now closed for several years. The house was being sold, against his wishes, by a committee headed by his ex-wife and her brother, the local doctor, to the seemingly callous property developer Cora Davidson. Harry, Alfred’s mute, simple-minded gardener, is the chief suspect and he attacks Bacchus. Only overly helpful local copper Blacksmith seems able to communicate with the boy, causing Bacchus to resent him. A discussion with an old flame leads Gently to suspect that Peachment may have been a paedophile, abusing children in his care, and that any of the suspects may be acting alone or as a group of avengers, to punish him for past misdeeds.
-“Gently in the Night”
Audrey Chadwick’s corpse is found on a church altar and, whilst she told her parents and landlady she was a nurse, the not so happily married Bacchus recognizes her as a hostess at a Playboy-style drinking club he has used,called Rakes, run by brash American Patrick Donovan. Audrey had had an abortion - news to her volatile boyfriend - and the doctor who performed it tells Gently it was because she had been raped. Margaret Bishop, an anti-abortionist, heads a group picketing to close Rakes but her husband is Donovan’s lawyer and very much at odds with Margaret’s views. He admits intimacy with Audrey but denies rape, nonetheless making him the prime suspect. After the murderer has been unmasked the club is shut down and Gently, having earlier accused Bacchus of being out of condition for his youth, bizarrely takes him on in a charity boxing match.
-“Gently in the Blood”
Following a tip-off Gently and Bacchus acquire a suitcase full of stolen passports dropped by petty crook Jimmy Cochran. Cochran’s old flame Maggie Alderton worked in the office where they were issued and is found raped and strangled next day, the father of her child being identified as one Thomas Ali,for whom she was apparently trying to secure a passport. Cochran is in a turf war with some Arab boys ,also involved in dodgy passports and Maggie’s transvestite boss is also less innocent than he first appears. However, facts prove Ali and Cochran to be father and son and neither has killed Maggie, a pawn in the whole scam. With the real murderer hanged, Gently, a veteran of the 1959 Notting Hill riots in London,nonetheless warns young Bacchus of the perils of racial intolerance.
-“Gently Through the Mill”
Days before the 1964 General Election manager Patrick Fuller is found dead and the safe robbed at the flour mill he once owned but, financially strapped, he sold for a pittance to prospective Labour M.P. Geoffrey Pershore. Fuller’s widow knows he was in an affair with a colleague’s wife and the surly foreman, who blackmailed them, is the next corpse to be discovered. Bacchus discovers that Fuller was a Mason and infiltrates the local lodge to find a witness ,leading Gently and himself to not one but two killers.
“George Gently, Series 2” includes the following extras:
- Text interviews with Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby
- Production notes from producer Johann Knobel
- Historical facts about 1964
Releasing Jun 28, 2011, George Gently, Series 3 includes the following episodes:
It’s 1966 and the world is changing fast… Martin Shaw plays one of the unsung heroes of detective fiction, Inspector George Gently, whose passionate investigations reveal the dark underbelly of a society on the cusp of change. Set in an idyllic coastal village in Northumberland, 1966. When the body of a loose young woman is found murdered Gently and Bacchus find themselves investigating a family with unimaginable secrets. Initially it appears that the woman’s estranged husband, and father of young daughter, is responsible for the killing. But as they further investigate this disturbed family they discover a far more alarming truth.
-“Peace and Love”
The year is 1966 and the football World Cup has come to England. With the USSR due to play at Roker Park and the fear of the ‘Reds Under the Bed’ exemplified by the upcoming Polaris submarine landing at the nearby Jarrow docks, tensions are running high. CND protesters, lead by radical students from Durham University, are the last thing the police need when the world media is on their doorstep awaiting the upcoming football match. Gently and Bacchus investigate the murder of a well know Lefty academic, found dead in the docks post a CND rally. This takes them onto the Durham University campus - an ancient temple of learning struggling to come to terms with the novel influx of students from the working class and brash, radical, academics. Sexual and Social rebellion is everywhere in the air and to the young and optimistic these forces seem inevitable and unstoppable. Bacchus is horrified yet fascinated by the promiscuity on display. Gently, a war veteran, more shrewdly recognises that Liberation is not always an unmixed blessing…
“Series 3” also includes Sub-Titling.
A fourth series will be aired in Britain this year and hopefully we will see that series released this side of the pond sometime in 2012. Until then, enjoy these great programs available from Acorn Media.
Trailer available by clicking here.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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