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Murder Most Horrid volume one
cast: Dawn French, Bill Paterson, Timothy Spall, Jane Asher, and Jim Broadbent

directors: Bob Spiers, James Hendrie

220 minutes (12) 1991
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Fremantle DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Christopher Teague
Originally broadcast in 1991, this mix of crime and comedy was a vehicle for the talented Dawn French - unfortunately, watching this DVD of six episodes from the first series made me scratch my head as to why I missed it on original transmission. It really is rather special; a clutch of pulp story titles and ideas, written with a knowing-nod to both genres.

Naturally, not everything worked nor clicked into place, with my personal favourites being He Died A Death (written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, their second episode), Murder At Teatime (written by Graham Alborough and Jez Alborough) - both directed by veteran TV comedy helmer, Bob Spiers - and A Determined Woman (written and directed by James Hendrie).

Such a series does rest on the talents of the leading lady, and thankfully Dawn French turned out to be a rather versatile actress. Of course, it's not just her, and each episode does contain a supporting cast of famous faces, from Jane Asher to Jim Broadbent; Tony Slattery to Kevin McNally; a veritable mix.

Murder Most Horrid is very much an anthology show, with a faux Tales Of The Unexpected framing device where French - dressed as a, well, I'm not entirely sure - could be a schoolgirl or maid - reads a passage from Shakespeare (as written by someone else) that may not necessarily have a bearing on the story you are about to watch.

French plays a different protagonist in each story, from a South American wife who knocks on Asher's door in The Girl From Ipanema, to a scientist on the verge of time-travel in A Determined Woman (alongside a hen-pecked Broadbent). As stated above, not everything was my cup of tea, but everything considered it was damn fine entertainment, not quite comedy gold but very, very close: He Died A Death is how I imagined a London theatre during a mid-week matinee performance, made up of has-been bit-part actors; and Murder At Teatime was a great pastiche of children's entertainment.

Hopefully, Fremantle Media sees fit and releases the remaining three series' on DVD - not to mention the BBC who should really be making another similar show; possibly not comedic, but more in line with their Murder In Mind series which were broadcast around the same time.

On the DVD-side of things, all but one episode (Murder At Teatime) get a commentary, plus an assortment of stills from the series.

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