Acorn Media / Region 1 / Released March 16, 2010
The thriller has always been one of the staples of British TV and one of the best remembered shows was Armchair Thriller, a real stand out of the late seventies and early eighties. Acorn have just released three more stories from the series, all of which feature well known names, complex plots and more than one or two genuinely tension filled nerve wracking moments.
The show originally aired twice a week in half hour slots which nicely allows room for the stories to breathe and unfold. First up is The Circe Complex a six episode story and starring Trevor Martin and Beth Morris in which a tangled plot to free a jewel thief from jail gets very out of hand. Very strong on atmosphere and very complicated of plot the Circe Complex also carries with quite the air of menace especially in the opening interrogation scenes.
Next up is Quiet as a Nun (again a six parter) which is actually one of the best remembered Armchair Thrillers (thanks in no small part to its ghostly imagery of a Nun without a face), based on the novel by Antonia Fraser this production centres on TV investigative journalist Jemima Shore (played by Maria Aitken) getting a little bit too involved whilst investigating the suspicious death of an old school friend. A year later a full series, Jemima Shore Investigates (with Patricia Hodge as Jemima) would air to great acclaim.
Finally there is the intriguing story of The Chelsea Murders which was planned as another six part story but thanks to industrial action by the TV studios meant it finally aired as a feature length production. Rather nicely Acorn have included the reassembled six parter as well as the feature. Both work equally well, the feature is naturally enough a little pacier but for letting the story unfold then the full six parter is the way to go. The story sees Inspector Warton played by comedian Dave King in a rare straight role out to catch a serial killer who is targetting the upmarket area of Chelsea in London.
A totally enjoyable series, one we have been very much enjoying getting lost in, much fun to be had too in playing spot the star. Besides the big names there are lots of soon to be household names popping up including the likes of James Hazledine, David Yip, Brenda Bruce and even a very young Patsy Kensit. Wonderful stuff. Incidentally the cover art for this set deserves special mention a cleverly play on the opening titles to present an armchair as a skull. Very clever.