YOUNG MONTALBANO Various directors/Acorn Media Montalbano returns, rejuvenated and recast in Young Montalbano. Following the massive success of Inspector Montalbano, the volatile Italian policeman returned to TV screens at the start of his career, with all the integrity intact, but less of the experience of his older, wiser, self. Starring Michele Riondino in the title role, the programme is set in the early 1990s and gives an insight into the private life and early crime-fighting career of the idiosyncratic Sicilian detective. The prequel series was popular in Italy and debuted on BBC Four in 2013. Exhausted by the never-ending hillsides of his rural Sicilian beat, the Deputy Inspector is in the middle of investigating a murder when he finds himself promoted to Inspector and dispatched to his childhood home of Vigata. There he is called upon to take control of the local police station and gradually build his team with both Fazio Senior and Fazio Junior, Domenico ‘Mimi’ Augello and the clownish Officer Catarella. Production values and production here are a match for the Zingaretti episodes, but if there is a caveat (apart from the continuing unreality of the policing on display), it is that the dynamic of the later series is established too quickly, with little chance for organic growth (the fractious relationship between Montalbano and idiotic comic relief Catarella is in place by the second episode, as are – similarly precipitately — several of elements of the original show.
VAN VEETEREN SEASON 2 Various directors/Arrow Films It is a cause for some regret that this intelligent and very capably realised series has not had the success in the UK which is its due — it has not even enjoyed a TV showing, which makes Arrow’s welcome issue of multiple series more than welcome. The Van Veeteren adaptations (and its leading actor) enjoyed the imprimatur of the detective’s creator Håkan Nesser – a man (for all his good humour) not given to showering praise unreservedly, so that factor must be taken into account in any appraisal of the series. Following the massive success of their BAFTA winning series The Killing and Borgen, and the newly BAFTA-nominated series’ The Bridge, Arrow Film’s Nordic Noir label have issued Van Veeteren Season 2. Intelligent and suspenseful psychological thrillers are now par for the course from the Nordic countries, and the Van Veeteren series is inspired by the best-selling crime novels by one of Sweden’s most popular mystery writers, Håkan Nesser, whose books have been translated into more than ten languages. Set in the fictitious city of Maardam, in an amorphous made-up country situated somewhere in northern Europe, the series details the murder investigations of retired chief inspector Van Veeteren, and his two crime squad protégés, Münster and Moreno. The series began with Van Veeteren going into retirement, buying an antiquarian bookshop, with a view to spend his declining years devoting himself to indulging his other great passion, books, and trying to spend more time with his family – especially his estranged son Erich, whose history of crime and drug abuse are at least in part a result of Van Veeteren’s deep commitment to his work. His retirement, however, is in name only, as Münster and Moreno continue to consult the master detective, who helps them with new perspectives in their investigations and invariable ends up getting actively involved himself.
GASLIGHT Thorold Dickinson, director/BFI When the musical remake of Lost Horizon appeared in cinemas, prints of the original Frank Capra film were withdrawn, inevitably creating an appetite for the first (and better) movie; something similar happened with Gaslight. By turns charming and cruel, Anton Walbrook excels as the sadistic husband Paul Mallen who attempts to drive his wife Bella (Diana Wynyard) mad to prevent her disclosing his dark past. The success of Gaslight on stage and film encouraged Hollywood studio MGM to buy the remake rights, with a clause insisting that all existing prints of Dickinson’s version be destroyed. Fortunately, Dickinson had made a ‘secret’ print, which was donated to the BFI and used for reference when the film was digitally remastered by the BFI National Archive. Special features include five short films, original promotional materials and documents from the BFI National Archive Special Collections (PDF) and an illustrated booklet.
ANNO 1790 Rickard Petrolius, director/Arrow Films The Scandinavian crime invasion shows no sign of abating, and Anno 1790 is a persuasive example of why the genre has such staying power: this compelling drama rings several very satisfying changes on established formulae. This Swedish historical crime piece (which stars Peter Eggers, Joel Spira and Linda Zilliacus) boasts an acute sense of period. Johan has served as a doctor in the Russo-Swedish war of the 18th century, but is now a police inspector in Stockholm. He is a modern man of the day: he rejects religion, inspired by the French revolution and Voltaire. An ill-advised love affair (with the wife of his commanding officer) complicates his life, as do his attempts to ensure that the revolution he desires is a bloodless one. But violent death is to remain an immovable presence in his life. The real achievement of Anno 1790 is its canny combination of vividly realised historical detail and the suggestion of a 20th-century consciousness in its hero. Peter Eggers is a charismatic actor who commands our attention throughout Rickard Petrolius’s powerfully realised drama.