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Maigret: Complete Collection

Release Year:         1991
Studio:         Acorn Media
Format:         Colour; DVD, NTSC, Full Screen
Rated:         Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:         4 / 12
Running Time:         339 min.
DVD Release Date:         February 26, 2013
Creators:         Georges Simenon
Screenwriters:         Alan Plater, William Humble, Robin Chapman, Douglas Livingstone, Bill Gallagher
Directors:         James Cellan Jones, John Glenister, John Strickland, Nicholas Renton, Stuart  Burge
Actors:         Michael Gambon, Geoffrey Hutchings, Jack Galloway, James Larkin
DVD Features:         SDH subtitles; BONUS 8-page booklet with articles on Georges Simenon, Jules Maigret, and the television series
E:Top Picks Rating:         9 /10

Acorn Media Write-up:
Emmy nominee Michael Gambon (“Harry Potter”, “The Singing Detective”) is Jules Maigret, the “wonderfully entertaining sleuth” (Austin American-Statesman) at the heart of novelist Georges Simenon’s beloved detective series.

Equipped with rigorous logic, uncanny judgment of character, and, of course, his signature pipe and fedora, Inspector Maigret relishes the challenge of solving any mystery. Filled with dangerous crimes and elusive characters from the villages of rural France to the alleyways of Montmartre, this series brings the most intriguing and complex puzzles from Simenon’s anthology to the screen.

Broadcast on “Masterpiece Mystery!”, this complete collection features a strong cast of familiar faces, including Brenda Blethyn (“Pride & Prejudice”), Minnie Driver (“Good Will Hunting”), Barbara Flynn (“Cranford”), Jane Wymark (“Midsomer Murders”), Edward Petherbridge (“A Dorothy L. Sayers Mystery”), and Michael Sheen (“Frost/Nixon”).

Jon Ted Wynne Review:
Invariably, Chief Inspector Jules Maigret (pronounced MAY-gray) is compared to Sherlock Holmes. True, both use superior intelligence to solve crimes and, more superficially, both smoke pipes, but there is little else in this reviewer’s opinion that links the two great detectives. Unless, of course, you count the fact that both characters have been well-represented on screen in dozens of interesting and engaging mysteries.

Maigret stands on his own as being a wonderful, fun fictional detective to observe and enjoy on his own. There are several details from the twelve episodes that comprise the two disc, 12 episode complete collection release which illustrate the show’s originality. Maigret’s frequent touching of people (versus Sherlock Holmes general lack of emotion), for example, be it a hand on someone’s shoulder or cheek, is a nice change, strikingly different from most literary sleuths. And MAIGRET the series is full of fun touches in the productions design, such as the brand name “Mercedes” on a typewriter (there is indeed a tenuous connection between the famous car company and the typewriter manufacturer). There is always something to catch the eye and provoke a smile, even if the series is, by and large, low key.

One criticism that has been leveled against this manifestation of Maigret in particular is the opinion that the show is “too English”. A French series of MAIGRET was in production around the same time as this one in the early 1990s. No doubt with the Gallic actors speaking French and perhaps even looking more authentic, the French TV show may have an edge in this regard, but not everyone wants to read subtitles. The English actors combined with accented pronunciations of French names is, if one stops to think about it, potentially troublesome for some, but the show is so well done that even the Eastern European locations substituting for France are entirely convincing (let alone the English actors). And if you get right down to it, why not just enjoy both versions?

However the series under consideration here is bolstered by one important key ingredient: Michael Gambon as CI Maigret.

Gambon might not be considered in quite the same level of stardom as his contemporaries, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, but in my view he is a much more interesting actor. Usually flamboyant and always memorable, Gambon as Maigret is subtle and even placid at times. Yet he never relinquishes his role of being at the centre of each episode, despite star turns from various guest artists, especially the perpetually weary-looking Edward Petherbridge in one of the later episodes.

Michael Gambon tells the story of how, as a young actor, he managed to snag an audition for Laurence Olivier, then the Artistic Director of London’s flagship National Theatre. Gambon very bravely assayed Richard III’s opening soliloquy “Now is the winter of our discontent” as his central audition piece. Olivier of course had famously made Shakespeare’s King Richard one of his signature roles on stage and on film. Attempting Richard in the presence of Olivier took guts–or the foolhardiness of youth. Gambon had both. Olivier’s reaction shall forever remain a mystery however, as Gambon, at a key point in the speech, grasped a wooden support column and swung around with a flourish, only to catch his hand on a nail in the column, tearing a huge gash which in turn gushed red. With blood pumping dramatically everywhere, no doubt exacerbated by performing-enhancing adrenaline, Gambon felt certain he had blown his big chance. Olivier, perhaps feeling sympathy, perhaps impressed by young Gambon’s willingness to shed blood for his art, hired him on the spot. That was Michael Gambon’s big break, without which we likely would never have had the opportunity to enjoy his superb interpretation of Inspector Maigret.

See for yourself. One might easily conclude Olivier would have hired him, even without the sacrificial display.