Monday, 19 June 2017


Well, it seems that 2016-2017 will end for your humble servant like it started...
My bronchial tubes and myself will return but in the meantime I have to take a few things, in or with water, and have some rest. I have a great GP.

When possible, I'll focus on three (very) late reviews. Thank you for your comprehension, your trust and your regular visits.

Friday, 9 June 2017


Columbo: Meurtre sous prescription is a 2016 French theatrical play starring Martin Lamotte as the famous detective in a raincoat, portrayed on television by Peter Falk over a period of 35 years. France 4 aired it this week, after pay TV channel Paris Première.

Lieutenant Columbo first appeared in Enough Rope, an episode of a NBC anthology called The Chevy Mystery Show (1960), written by Richard Levinson & William Link. He was a secondary character, played by Bert Freed (1).  The duo then adapted their script as a stage play titled Prescription: Murder, produced in 1962 with Joseph Cotten as Dr. Roy Flemming, Agnes Moorehead as his wife Claire, Patricia Medina (Susan Hudson, his mistress) and Thomas Mitchell as Columbo. Later, Levinson & Link turned their play into the scenario of a film for television directed by Richard Irving. Produced by Universal and aired on NBC in February 1968, Prescription: Murder starred Peter Falk as the lieutenant, opposite Gene Barry as Dr. Ray Flemming and Katherine Justice (Joanne Hudson).

Irving directed again Falk as Columbo in Ransom for a Dead Man (1971), a pilot movie penned by Dean Hargrove, Richard Levinson & William Link. Following its success, the actor played the character from 1971 to 1978, achieving worldwide fame. Columbo also popularized the inverted detective story (2). Peter Falk returned to his signature role from 1989 to 2003. In all, 69 TV movies were made. In 2004, French impersonator and TV host Pascal Brunner became the detective on stage in Une femme de trop, adapted from the 1962 play by Pierre Sauvil. In the UK, Dirk Benedict (The A-Team, Battlestar Galactica) toured in a 2010 production of Prescription:Murder. John Guerrasio succeeded him the next year. Alexandre Brasseur wore the raincoat in Crime sans ordonnance (2013), another gaullic adaptation, directed by Didier Caron with Delphine Piard and written by Pierre Sauvil.

Created at the Théâtre Michel in September 2016, Columbo: Meurtre sous prescription is a new adaptation set in 1971's Los Angeles. It is written by Didier Caron (who directs with Delphine Piard) and Laurence de Villeneuve. Renowned psychatrist Roy Flemming thinks he has committed the perfect crime with the complicity of his patient and mistress Joanne Hudson: the murder of his wife. Unfortunately for him, Lieutenant Columbo investigates. Flemming doesn't pay attention to this disheveled, faux naïf homicide detective who smokes cigars and wears a creased raincoat. Same for Deputy DA Dave Gordon, Roy's good friend. Except that Columbo rapidly notices some inconsistencies in Flemming's story. Columbo: Meurtre sous prescription brings back the legendary lieutenant in a bona fide murder mystery play (with a fine humour) but the elements so appreciated by the fans are there.

Columbo never has a pen. He always talks about his wife and family. The dog and the Peugeot are mentioned. Many lines sound familiar to those who know well the 1968 Prescription: Murder. The play even opens with a title sequence modeled on the one from the TV movie, including the jazzy theme composed by Dave Grusin. Martin Lamotte marvelously captures the spirit of the lieutenant without trying to imitate Peter Falk or Falk's French dubbing voice Serge Sauvion (3). The talented Pierre Azéma plays the quintessential Columbo murderer. Karine Belly is excellent as Joanne. Stéphane Boutet is a pleasant surprise as the pious Gordon, quite different from the Burt Gordon played by William Windom in 1968. Dr. Flemming's wife Carol, played by Nina Foch in the TV movie, isn't seen in this version.

Recording of the play for television directed by Antoine Galey and produced by Le Théâtre Michel and La Compagnie des Indes, with Paris Première and France Télévisions.  Sets designed by Sophie Jacob. Costumes by Virginie Houdinière. Stage lighting by Sebastien Lanoue. Titles by Stéphane Pinot. Play produced by Le Théâtre Michel.

(1) The script took some of its elements from their short story Dear Corpus Delicti, published the same year in The Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.
(2) Where the crime is described and the criminal (usually) shown right from the start.
(3) Serge Sauvion definitely contributed to the popularity of Columbo in France. 

Friday, 2 June 2017


Forget the US copycat, El Ministerio del Tiempo, one of the best contemporary television series, returns in all its glory. And even more glorious.

Series 3 of El Ministerio del Tiempo, the acclaimed Spanish sci-fi/adventure drama, premiered this week on pubcaster TVE's main channel La 1. Though ratings suffered last year, the creation of Pablo Olivares & Javier Olivares (Victor Ros, Isabel) got this third series thanks to its pop culture phenom status in Spain, a solid fanbase outside its country, format sales, and a decisive deal between RTVE and VOD giant Netflix. Hence an increase of the production budget.

Regrettably, Rodolfo Sancho and the producers couldn't reach an agreement so his character Julián Martínez is absent of these 13 new episodes (1). That's why El Ministerio del Tiempo welcomes back Pacino, played by Hugo Silva. Silva replaced Sancho during the previous series when the latter wasn't available (2). The title of this series premiere, Con el tiempo en los talones, is a nod to Con la muerte en los talones, the Spanish title of Alfred Hitchcock's movie North by Northwest (1959). Written by Carlos de Pando & Javier Pascual and directed by Marc Vigil, the episode is a brilliant tribute to the Master of Suspense.

A mission in the middle of the Battle of Teruel in 1937 ends dramatically in the epic opening scene. Later, in 1958, Pacino and his colleague/love interest Marta Sañudo are in San Sebastian, where Alfred Hitchcock attends the film festival with his wife Alma. After a confrontation with a Soviet agent, Pacino finds Marta dead at the bottom of the stairs and he calls Amelia and Alonso. The team tries to prevent the KGB to kidnap Hitchcock as Soviet Union wants to turn the director into the new Eisenstein! Meanwhile, in 2017, the courtyard of the Ministry is under renovation. Stuck in a wheelchair because of a leg in a cast, Salvador notices a curious construction worker with a walkman.

Vertigo, Rear Window, Rope, Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock who wants to make Amelia a star (which could have consequences for Antonio Banderas...) Add Kirk Douglas, a X-Men joke, a traitor a la Mendieta, etc. The wait is over and it was worth it:  El Ministerio del Tiempo is back. Also starring Aura Garrido (Amelia Folch), Nacho Fresneda (Alonso de Entrerríos), Cayetana Guillén Cuervo (Irene Larra), Juan Gea (Ernesto Jiménez), Francesca Piñón (Angustias Vázquez) and Jaime Blanch (Salvador Martí). Guest starring José Ángel Egido as Alfred Hitchcock, Belén Fabra (Marta), French-German actor Pierre Kiwitt as Petrov, Óscar de la Fuente (Francisco Morales), Julia Fossi (Alma Hitchcock) and Álex Piñeiro.

Produced by Cliffhanger TV, Onza Entertainment and RTVE. María Roy & Maite L. Pisonero (TVE), Juan Mayne & Augusto Rovegno (Netflix), José María Irisarri & Gonzalo Sagardía (Onza Entertainment) and Javier Olivares & Abigail Schaaff (Cliffhanger TV) exec produce. Luis Gutiérrez is the production manager.  Anaïs Schaaff and Javier Carillo are the associates producers for Cliffhanger TV. Isaac Vila is the cinematographer. Music composed by Dario González Valderrama, in full Bernard Hermann mode for the occasion. 

(1) Though Javier Olivares doesn't rule out the possibility of a return.
(2) Rodolfo Sancho was filming crime drama Mar de Plastico.