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Good DVD Extras and 13 Murder Mysteries Both Playful and Grim,
This review is from: Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries 1 (DVD)
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The Honorable Phryne Fisher has a lot in common with Emma Peel. Smart, dresses to kill, athletic, sexy and courageous. And they both solve mysteries. Except Phryne (pronounced FRY-knee) lives in 1928 and her foes are more realistic than the I-vant-to-rule-the-world type usually found in "The Avengers".
We first meet Phryne disembarking at Melbourne, Australia. She almost immediately receives an engraved invitation to dine with her old friends, Lydia and John Andrews, and her indefatigable gossip of an aunt.
When Phryne arrives at the Andrews', it's just in time to see her host's body carried out on a police stretcher. According to Aunt Prudence, "It seems that John collapsed suddenly after a light breakfast of tea and kumquat marmalade toast. And the maid found him, purple in the face and cold to the touch on the bathroom floor."
Phryne's investigation leads her to several interesting characters, including a French-Russian tango dancer, a Turkish bath owner and a handsome police detective. The last because, yes, John Andrews was murdered - with poison in the sugar bowl.
But what's especially interesting is when we get the first inkling of why Phryne really came to Melbourne. She visits a man in jail. We aren't given much information in the beginning, except we know it has to do with her late sister Janey. Phryne tells him, "I've come half way around the world to make sure that you never get out of here alive..... Whatever horrors you visited on her [Jane], I have imagined tenfold, and given the chance, I will do the same to you without smearing my lipstick."
This Australian Broadcasting Corporation series is based on the mysteries written by Kerry Greenwood. I haven't read the books, so I had no preconceptions. Until about 10 minutes into the 1st episode of "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries", I thought that this series might be a little light and mannered for it to really impress me. But as we see more of Phryne and those who become her cohorts, this becomes a series with more substance and layers. There's a lot of humor, too, and I ended up really liking the series. Instead of me rambling on, read some of the comments I gleaned from different people in the DVD set's extras, see below.
In this set, you get 4 discs with 13 episodes, a total of 706 minutes of great viewing.
DVD extras on Disc 4:
1. "The Look" (19 minutes) How they come up with the costumes, characters, sets and locations for 1928 Melbourne, including lots of rehearsal and set-up clips. Commentators are Scooter Welbourn (3rd assistant director), Roger Lanser (director of photography), Marion Boyce (costume designer), Tony Tilse (start up director), Scott Zero (visual effects designer), Kerry Greenwood (author of originating books), Robert Perkins (production designer) and Anna Karpinski (hair & makeup designer).
Boyce mentions that there were "at least 150 outfits for Essia" (Essia Davis, who plays Phryne).
With Zero, there are some great clips of scene creation, such as when a character falls off a roof or when three men have a fight with an ax - as they couldn't have an actor actually swinging an ax in actual fighting range.
2. "Meet the Creators" (5 minutes) Commentators are Kerry Greenwood, Fiona Eagger (producer) and Deb Cox (producer 7 series screenwriter). Kerry had input on key character casting, and was impressed with Essia. "I just saw her walking into a room, and she's got the understated arrogance that Phryne has to have. Phryne's a female hero. She isn't an ordinary mortal." And I'll add my two cents. I really liked that Phryne (though beautiful) is not some young thing. For Phryne to have experiences and depth, it would not have worked to have an actress too young. Phryne nursed in the war and can fly a plane, throw a dagger, climb a mountain, shoot a gun - and speak Mandarin. Above all she is a quiet observer when she needs to be, her big eyes intelligently taking it all in, her deep voice calming or cutting as required. Phryne's a little larger than life, but we expect that in an athletic protagonist.
Deb Cox says, "I wasn't interested in doing something orthodox. I wasn't interested in replicating the Miss Marples and the Poirots."
3. "Set Tour" (4 minutes) Kerry Greenwood takes us through the sets for two rooms in Phryne's house, explaining how perfectly production got the period details. Even the books on the bookshelf are real and correctly contemporary.
4. "Cast Interviews" (8 minutes) Commentators are Essie Davis, Nathan Page (plays Detective Inspector Jack Robinson, with a most deep and melodious voice), Ashleigh Cummings (plays Dorothy "Dot" Williams), and Hugo Johnston-Burt (plays Constable Hugh Collins).
Davis says of Phryne, "She's extremely wealthy, but has come from great poverty, so she understands an enormous cross-section of humanity." And, as you find out right away in episode 1, Phryne is a "hedonistic lady"!
5. "Vehicles of the Series" (3 minutes) Only one vehicle is covered, but it's a beaut. Phryne's red Hispano-Suiza. Bob, the gentleman who restored and owns the car, calls it the "supercar of the 1920's".
6. "Steam Train Experts" (2 minutes) Jim Murty and Steve Lumsden, the volunteer steam train driver and fireman talk about the train and its operation.
7. "Locations in Melbourne" (5 minutes) Clips of shooting and/or rehearsals are shown for 15 different locations used during the series.
8. Photo Gallery (2 minutes) Publicity stills and production stills.
9. PDF "St. Kilda Tribune" Put the DVD in your computer and you bring up the (fake) front page of the May 13, 1928 St. Kilda Tribune. The lead headline is "Murder Most Stylish - The Wonderful Miss Fisher Solves Yet Another Murder".
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 27, 2013 10:05:47 AM PDT
Cliff Hanger says:
I think you mean Emma Peel.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 27, 2013 10:27:35 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 27, 2013 10:29:14 AM PDT
Happy Reader says:
Hah! You are right, Cliff Hanger. I will change it in my review, but this will be evidence that I seem to have gotten Steed and Peel mixed up and wrote Emma Steel!
Posted on Jun 16, 2014 1:42:31 PM PDT
Really nice review, especially liked the detail on the extras. Only just watched episode one on Netflix, haven't read the novels but do like the series and will continue ... !
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