Monday, 20 October 2014


In the 1950s, Commissaire Maigret, a laconic, pipe-smoking French policeman, uses his profound knowledge of human nature to solve crimes. Volume 1 of the TV series Maigret (1991-2005), with the great Bruno Cremer, is available since last month in France on DVD from Koba Films

This set contains the first eight of the 54 feature-length installments from the definitive adaptation of the detective created by Belgian writer Georges Simenon (1903-1989).

« Je ne ferais pas ce métier si je n'aimais pas comprendre. »  

Commissaire Jules Maigret appeared in 75 novels and 28 short stories published between 1931 and 1972. Popular worldwide, these stories have been adapted many times in various countries, mainly for the cinema (with Pierre Renoir, Albert Préjean, Jean Gabin, etc...) and television. From 1960 to 1963, Rupert Davies played "Inspector Maigret" in Maigret for the BBC. On French TV, Les enquêtes du commissaire Maigret, starring Jean Richard, ran from 1967 to 1990 with eighty-eight 90-minute episodes until pubcaster Antenne 2 decided to give its familiar figure the axe. Though with the intention to give him a fresh start (Richard was then 70) (1).

English producer Steve Hawes, an admirer of Simenon's work and a former head of drama at Granada Television (2), and French producers Eve Vercel and Robert Nador of Dune Production, joined their creative forces for the new Maigret of Antenne 2 (which became France 2 in 1992). To portray the commissaire, Vercel and Nador considered Julien Guiomar but he was busy with TF1. They had also in mind Philippe Noiret or Bernard Fresson. Movie, stage and TV actor Bruno Cremer accepted the iconic role after due reflection, for 12 episodes only.

To radically differ from the previous version, the producers decided to set theirs in the 1950s with a cinematic feel. Hence directors like José Pinheiro (Parole de flic), Claude Goretta, Bertrand Van Effenterre (Tumultes) or Serge Leroy (L'Indic) for the first batch of episodes. The budget required co-production with Swiss and Belgian televisions, French private channel La 5 and later EC Télévision Paris. But also filming in Switzerland, Belgium or Czech Republic (3). Laurent Petitgirard composed and conducted the magnificent theme of Maigret, and the superb music of most of the series.

- Maigret et les plaisirs de la nuit (1992, aired as the fourth episode). Directed by José Pinheiro, adapted from Maigret au Picratt's (Maigret in Monmartre) by Jacques Cortal and José Pinheiro. A stripper is found dead in the club where she worked. Jacqueline Danno (Rose) and Jean-Louis Foulquier (Fred) are amazing. Philippe Polet is excellent as Lapointe.

- Maigret et la Grande Perche (1991). Directed and adapted by Claude Goretta from Maigret et la grande perche (Maigret and the burglar's wife). An ex-prostitute tells Maigret her burglar husband vanished after finding a dead body in a house. This house belongs to a dentist who lives with his elderly mother. Brilliant, thanks to Renée Faure as Madame Serre and Michael Lonsdale as her son. Anne Bellec appears as Madame Maigret.

- Maigret chez les Flamands (1992). Directed and adapted by Serge Leroy from Chez les Flamands (The Flemish shop). Maigret goes to the Belgian border at the request of the Peeters family, accused of murdering a young woman. Anna is played by Alexandra Vandernoot (Highlander: The Series). Vincent Grass (Cassin) dubbed Bruno Cremer in the finale episode (Maigret et l'Étoile du nord, 2005) because of the actor's health issues. With Gérard Darier as Machère. Filmed in Belgium.

- Maigret et la maison du juge (1992). Directed by Bertrand Van Effenterre. Adapted by Santiago Amigorena and Bertrand Van Effenterre from La Maison du juge (Maigret in Exile). Assigned in Vendée, Maigret is confronted with a judge (portrayed by the legendary Michel Bouquet) who tried to get rid of a body. Now famous actress Karin Viard (Thérèse) and Bruno Wolkowitch (Albert) both played in the same 1989 episode of Jean Richard's Maigret.

- Maigret et le corps sans tête (1992). Directed and adapted by Serge Leroy from Maigret and the Headless Corpse. The dismembered body of a man is found in a canal. Maigret goes to a café not far and notices the attitude of its owner, Aline Calas. Leroy delivers an authentic "film for television". The performances of Aurore Clément (Aline) and Patrick Floersheim (Pape) are award-worthy. Philippe Polet and Gérard Darier return as Lapointe and Machère.

- Maigret et la nuit du carrefour (1992). Directed by Alain Tasma. Adapted by playwright Gildas Bourdet from La nuit du carrefour (Maigret at the crossroads). Maigret arrives at a crossroads in the country to solve the case of a corpse found in a car. Filmed in Luxembourg. Sunnyi Melles shines as Else, the "femme fatale". Roland Blanche, Myriam Boyer, and beloved Parisian character actor Hubert Deschamps are amongst the guest cast.

- Maigret et les caves du Majestic (1993). Directed by Claude Goretta. Adapted by Santiago Amigorena and Claude Goretta from Les caves du Majestic (Maigret and the Hotel Majestic). A guest at the Hotel Majestic has been strangled. Prosper Donge is played by actor, director and theatre author Jerôme Deschamps. Filmed primarily in Switzerland.

- Maigret se défend (1993). Helmed by Polish director Andrzej Kostenko. Adapted by Gildas Bourdet and Andrzej Kostenko from Maigret on the Defensive. Maigret is accused of inappropriate conduct towards the daughter of a high-ranking public official. Regrettably the weakest of the set, saved by its guest actors: Agnès Soral (Aline), actor/director Claude Faraldo as mobster PalmariÉric Prat (very good as Torrence), Philippe Dujanerand (Dr Mélan), etc.

The eight episodes of this DVD set from Koba Films are on four discs. French subtitles for the hearing impaired are available.

(1) Jean Richard learnt about it in the press.
(2) Granada had its own Maigret, starring Michael Gambon, from 1992 to 1993.
(3) Even Finland, South Africa and Cuba for some later episodes. (The book of Jacques-Yves Depoix) (The filming of Maigret et la Grande Perche)

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