Thursday, 28 September 2017


Aired on TF1 between 1976 and 1978, Minichronique (aka Les Minichroniques) is a 26 x 13-minute comedy/social satire series written by French comics editor and writer René Goscinny, the co-creator of Astérix, and directed by Jean-Marie Coldefy.

It will be available next tuesday on French Region 2 DVD, in a restored version, thanks to L'Atelier d'images.

Produced by TF1 (then a public broadcaster), Minichronique/Les Minichroniques stars stage, movie and TV actor Jean-Claude Arnaud as Georges Bouchard, the quintessential "average Frenchman". Each episode, introduced by René Goscinny himself in the manner of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, shows Bouchard's everyday life in humorous and often surreal situations.

Familiar faces of the era, like Jacques Monod, Paul Mercey or humorist Pierre Desproges, pop up in these little gems reminiscent of Les Dingodossiers by Marcel Gottlib and Goscinny, or even the sitcom Les Saintes chéries. Music by Gérard Calvi. The 4-Disc "Digibook" DVD set of L'Intégrale des Minichroniques de Goscinny contains the 26 episodes, plus a 20-page booklet and an interview of Jean-Claude Arnaud.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017


In the beautiful Black Forest region of West Germany, Professor Klaus Brinkmann runs the Schwarzwaldklinik, a prestigious private hospital.

The first half of the second series of Black Forest Clinic (Die Schwarzwaldklinik, 1985-1989), the German cult medical drama, is now available on French Region 2 DVD from Koba Films as "La clinique de la Forêt-Noire - Saison 3".

Die Schwarzwaldklinik originated from an idea by TV producer Wolfgang Rademann, the creative force behind the lighthearted ZDF series Das Traumschiff ("The Dream Ship") for Polyphon Film- und Fernseh GmbH. This German answer to The Love Boat (1977-1986), which premiered in November 1981, still exists today. For two years Rademann tried to convince the channel to air something in the vein of the Czechoslovak medical drama Nemocnice na kraji mesta (1978-1981), shown in both East and West Germany under the title Das Krankenhaus am Rande der Stadt. Produced by Polyphon, Die Schwarzwaldklinik finally started filming during summer 1984 in the district of Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald.

Crime drama scriptwriter Herbert Lichtenfeld (Tatort) wrote all the episodes. Veteran movie and television director Alfred Vohrer helmed the 90-minute pilot (Die Heimkehr) and 11 episodes of the first series. His impressive filmography includes a long string of Edgar Wallace movies and some Winnetou films but also several episodes of producer Helmut Ringelmann's hits Derrick and Der Alte. Experienced TV helmer Hans-Jürgen Togel took over from Vohrer until the end of Die Schwarzwaldklinik in 1989. Launched in October 1985, Die Schwarzwaldklinik quickly became highly popular and attracted up to 28 million viewers. The first series ended during Winter 1986 but German viewers had to wait until October of the following year for new episodes.

Pr. Klaus Brinkmann (Klausjürgen Wussow) is at rest since his infarct. He'd like to return to work, contrary to the opinion of his son Udo (Sascha Hehn) and there's some tension between him and his wife Christa (Gaby Dohm). Klaus goes to San Francisco in order to see a heart specialist. In the plane, he meets a free-spirited and seductive German tourist named Maria Rottenburg. Dr. Vollmers (Christian Kohlund) says goodbye to Christa before leaving for Africa. The womanizing Dr. Schübel (Volker Brandt) is overtaken by his personal issues. Struck by a tragedy, Udo Brinkmann join Vollmers and the German Red Cross in an African country torn by a civil war.

While the personnel of the Schwarzwaldklinik remains confronted with all sorts of patients and situations, the first half of this second series reshuffles the cards with some emotion, a bit of action and a handful of effective dialogue lines. It also borrows to the proven formula of Das Traumschiff with some episodes partly filmed abroad, in places like San Francisco, the Grand Canyon and Kenya. Anja Kruse (Claudia Schubert), Evelyn Hamann (Carsta Michaelis), Ilona Grübel (Katarina), Franz Rudnick (Dr. Wolter), Eva Maria Bauer (Head nurse Hildegard), Barbara Wussow (Klausjürgen Wussow's daughter) as Nurse Elke, Olivia Pascal (Carola) and Jochen Schroder as the sympathetic Nurse Mischa are amongst the other regulars.

Guest cast includes Hannelore Elsner (who later starred in Die Kommissarin) as Maria, Gustl Bayrhammer, Raimund Harmstorf (well known in France for Michel Strogoff) as Florian Brinkmann, and Lisa Kreuzer. Die Schwarzwaldklinik ended in March 1989 after 70 episodes (pilot included). Sold in 38 countries, the series was shown in France on M6 in 1987 as La clinique de la Forêt-Noire, and in the UK on Channel 4 (dubbed) in 1988 under the title Black Forest Clinic. The characters of Black Forest Clinic reappeared in a 1991 Christmas crossover between several ZDF series. In 2005, the German pubcaster aired a 20th birthday special titled Die Schwarzwaldklinik - Die nächste Generation. It was followed the same year by Die Schwarzwaldklinik - Neue Zeiten. Both TV movies were helmed by Hans-Jürgen Togel.

The exterior of the "Black Forest Clinic" is actually The Carlsbau, a building which houses a health clinic in Glottertal. The outside of the beautiful "Villa Brinkmann" is the Hüsli local history museum in Grafenhausen-Rothaus. Film and TV composer Martin Böttcher (the Winnetou movies) was initially hired for the music of Die Schwarzwaldklinik and wrote a main theme but he was replaced by Hans Hammerschmid, who composed the famous Hallo - Dr.B. and the rest of the soundtrack. Böttcher's theme served as the intro of ZDF's Forsthaus Falkenau (1988-2013). The song California Dream, heard in the episode Die Reise nach Amerika (the 90-minute second series opener) is performed by Jim Dawson. The four-disc DVD set of the first half of Series 2 is in French only.


[Spoiler-Free] Patricia Nollet, the assistant of Haute Couture designer Édouard Paget, wakes up in an alley near the dead body of a a murdered man. She confesses the crime to Commissaire Laurence.

With this confession and a judicial record, this fragile woman is a (too) perfect suspect. Laurence investigates while Alice Avril gets a seamstress job at the Paget dress shop to find out the truth. Marlène considers a career change.

Penned by  Jennifer Have and Zina Modiano, writers of the interesting Le miroir se brisa (1), the very good Crimes Haute Couture is adapted from Agatha Christie's novel Third Girl. It's the first of the two episodes of Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie (Agatha Christie's Criminal Games) directed by series newcomer Nicolas Picard-Dreyfuss (Candice Renoir, Nicolas Le Floch) between May and July 2017. Swiss TV channel RTS Un aired it yesterday ahead of French pubcaster France 2. The second one is Drame en trois actes, based on Three Act Tragedy.

Commissaire Swan Laurence (Samuel Labarthe) has a very special present for Marlène (Élodie Frenck) to celebrate the 5 years of their collaboration but the secretary expected more. As Alice Avril (Blandine Bellavoir) involuntarily stirs up this frustration, Marlène rebels against her boss. She accepts to become a fashion model for Édouard Paget (his "muuuse"!) and quickly jeopardizes her friendship with Alice. A mysterious woman seen at the launch of Paget's first perfume is brutally murdered and Patricia Nollet is accused. 

Pathologist Timothée Glissant (Cyril Gueï) has his own idea about the case. Laurence is the subject of the unrequited attention from a young model.  Avril turns into the Rosa Luxemburg of the fashion industry. Why is Tricard (Dominique Thomas) so convinced of Patricia's innocence? Crimes Haute Couture patiently unfolds the plot in a style close to the Larosière-Lampion era until an hilarious incident involving Laurence and Bubulle, Marlène's goldfish. Then it's pure Laurence/Avril/Marlène, with some of the best dialogue lines in the history of Les petits Meurtres delivered by the main actors in top shape.

Dominique Thomas is given another particular occasion to showcase his talent after L'homme au complet marron (2). The production values look incredibly lavish under the astute direction of Nicolas Picard-Dreyfuss. The excellent guest cast includes Yannik Landrein (Édouard Paget), Camille Claris (Patricia Nollet), Raphaëline Goupilleau (Louise Charpentier), Charline Paul (Gigi), Clara Antoons (Françoise Vermeer) and Laurent Richard (Narcisse Vermeer). Émilie Wiest, who plays Julie Lemon, had another part in Un meurtre est-il facile?, a 2015 episode. Éric Beauchamp plays Agent Martin. Produced by Escazal Films and France Télévisions, with the support of Pictanovo and Région Hauts-de-France. Produced with the participation of TV5 Monde

Sophie Révil is the producer. Laurent Chiomento exec produces. Main characters created by Sylvie Simon and Thierry Debroux. Music composed by Stéphane Moucha. Bertrand Mouly is the cinematographer. Crimes Haute Couture is in competition at the La Rochelle Festival of TV fiction and will be shown by France 2 this Friday, followed on the same evening by a Behind-the-Scenes documentary  (3). The next brand new episode aired by the channel will be Le crime de Noël, a Christmas special. In the meantime there will be repeats. Drame en trois actes will surface in France on a later date. Agatha Christie's Criminal Games is available in the U.S. on VOD service MHZ Choice.

(1) Aired after L'homme au complet marron on France 2.
(2) It's about time for an animated Dominique Thomas/Tricard in the title sequence.
(3) After a repeat of a Larosière-Lampion.

See also: (L'homme au complet marron) (Le miroir se brisa)

Tuesday, 5 September 2017


DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) investigates bizarre and imaginative murders in the picturesque Midsomer County with his new DS, Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix), and pathologist Dr Kam Karimore (Manjinder Virk). From december 2016 to January 2017, ITV aired four out of the six feature-length episodes from the 19th series of Midsomer Murders. However, the channel decided to keep the remaining two for "later in the year".

Last spring French pubcaster France 3 didn't show them either but these episodes are in the French Region 2 DVD set from Koba Films, now available. Past a soporific premiere, Series 19 is in fact full of pleasant surprises.

- The village That Rose from the Dead: A 1940s themed party celebrates the reopening of Little Auburn, a derelict village left untouched since WW2, while three camps fight about its future. A young man behind an eco-village project, leaves the party on a bike when he's crushed by a tank (no less!) Unfortunately, the rest of the episode doesn't fulfill the promises of this scene. The only real drama is that Sykes, the Barnabys' beloved dog, has gone to Heaven. Paddy, his replacement, is brought rather predictably but at least the transition is better than for the DS.

Neil Dudgeon interrupts a placid mode for a short moment when his character has an encounter with a snake. Guest starring Caroline Blakiston, David Burke, Anthony Calf, Christopher Colquhoun, Hugh Dennis, etc. Written by Rachel Cupperman & Sally Griffith and directed by Nick Laughland.

- Crime and Punishment: The butcher of Bleakridge, the most remote village in Midsomer, is found dead in the cold room of his shop by his fellow members of the local Neighbourhood Watch group. The man was investigating a wave of burglaries in the village, but hadn’t identified the culprit yet. It's a little bit like Hot Fuzz without the comedy in this episode written by Paul Logue and directed by Renny Rye, though we could do without the production's insistence to match up the DS with the pathologist.

Frances Barber plays the leader of "the rural Stasi" (as Barnaby calls the Bleakridge Watch).  Katy Cavanagh, Neil Morrissey, Vicki Pepperdine, Sara Powell, Clive Swift  and Sam Troughton are amongst the other guest stars.

- Last Man Out: After the very good A Dying Art last year, scriptwriter Jeff Povey and director Matt Carter return to Midsomer Murders with this inventive and funny gem. Cricket is a ground for murder as DCI Barnaby and DS Winter investigate the death of a star batsman. They're about to interrogate the man who found the body: Jack Morris, the 12th player of the team. Except that "Morris" is actually Barnaby's old DS Ben Jones, working undercover to infiltrate a large-scale match fixing operation.

It's a pleasure to see Jason Hugues back as Ben Jones, former right-hand man of two DCI Barnaby. The reunion with John, the "duel" with Winter and Ben's confrontation with the match-fixer on the cricket ground are some of the great moments of this episode. John Bird, Susan Jameson and Natasha Little are amongst the guest stars.

- Red In Tooth And Claw: Death strikes in and around a pet show. There's an impressive number of rabbits and someone who plays with scissors in this most enjoyable episode, written by Lisa Holdsworth and directed by Steve Hughes.

Steve Pemberton is a champion rabbit breeder. Michael Obiora plays Oliver Marcet, the locum pathologist. English acting deity Susan Hampshire graces Midsomer County with her presence. Also with Aisling Loftus

- Death by Persuasion: A young woman slips away from a Jane Austen weekend dressed in period attire when she's stabbed in the woods with a feathered quill. A delivery drone becomes a most dangerous anachronistic element in this reconstitution of Georgian times where Barnaby and Winter must "blend in". John's wife Sarah (Fiona Dolman) is writing a novel and there's another temp pathologist, Petra Antonescu (Anamaria Marinca).

An excellent episode penned by a very inspired Chris Murray and directed by Alex Pillai. It seems that both (and director of photography Al Beech) had some fun with this Midsomer version of a period drama, filmed in superb locations. Susie Blake, Abigail Cruttenden, Nicholas Gleaves, Claire Skinner, Karl Theobald and Samuel West are amongst a perfect guest cast.

- The Curse of the Ninth: The winner of a music award is strangled with a violin string and a piece of paper is found in his mouth. Barnaby and Winter face "the Curse of the Ninth", a well-known superstition in the classical music world: once a composer performs his ninth symphony, he's destined to die. Sarah has writer's block. Kam returns and she has something very important to tell to Jamie.

Another excellent episode, which reminds of Death and the Divas (Series 15) at some point. The guest cast includes the great Simon Callow, Robert Daws, James Fleet, Caroline Langrishe and Cyril Nri. Written by new Midsomer Murders scribe Julia Gilbert (Holby City, EastEnders) and directed by Matt Carter. 

The 3-disc DVD box set from Koba Films contains the French dubbing and, fortunately, the original dialogue track (available with optional French subtitles). Based upon the books by Caroline Graham. Produced by Bentley Productions (part of All3Media) for ITV. Exec produced by Jo Wright and produced by Ella Kelly. Music composed by Jim Parker

Monday, 4 September 2017


Created and written by James Mitchell, Callan (1967-1972) is a British spy drama about the hitman of a shadowy government security service. Edward Woodward played the moody and cynical David Callan, an assassin with a conscience. A realistic secret agent closer to the job description by John le Carré or Len Deighton than to the image of James Bond.

The series turned Woodward into a household name. After Callan, he starred in the The Wicker Man (1973) and became  internationally famous thanks to Breaker Morant (1980) and the U.S. series The Equalizer (1985-1989). Callan spawned novels, a feature film (1974) and a 1981 TV special. Regarded as a classic, it is the subject of The Callan File - The Definitive Guide, an amazing book written by Robert Fairclough & Mike Kenwood and released by Quoit Media Limited in September 2016.

« Espionage is about people. » (James Mitchell)

Born in the North East of England, James Mitchell (1926-2002) had several jobs, including shipyard worker and teacher, before establishing himself as a novelist and scriptwriter. He published his first novel, A Time for Murder, in 1955 under the pseudonym of Patrick O. McGuire. Mitchell broke into television when he was asked to adapt his third book, A Way Back (1959), for an episode of Armchair Mystery Theatre  aired on the ITV network in 1960. He went on writing for series such as Z Cars, The Avengers and Crane while working his novels. Success came to the author with the character of John Craig, a reluctant British agent for the Department K featured in four books published from 1964 to 1969 (as James Munro) (1). Then came David Callan, James Mitchell's other antihero.

Edward Woodward, a classical actor with a few guest roles in dramas and the lead part in BBC2's Sword of Honour (1967), originated the role in A Magnum for Schneider. Produced by ABC Television (Associated British Corporation) for ITV's Armchair Theatre and directed by Bill Bain, this play penned by Mitchell was shown in February 1967. Callan is an operative/killer for "The Section", sidelined for being curious about his targets. He's called back by its boss, Colonel "Charlie" Hunter (Ronald Radd), who asks him to kill a German businessman named Rudolf Schneider. David happens to share an interest in wargaming with the man. But he asks Lonely (Russell Hunter), a petty criminal who has halitosis and hygiene issues, to get him an illicit gun. Meres (Peter Bowles), Hunter's right-hand man, keeps an eye on Callan.

A Magnum for Schneider was well received, particularly because of the script and Woodward's performance. Developed by James Mitchell and scriptwriter Terence Feely, Callan, the subsequent series, premiered on ABC during summer of the same year. Edward Woodward and Russell Hunter returned. The relationship between David Callan and Lonely evolved to an unlikely partnership and later to the closest thing a man like Callan could afford for a friendship. Ronald Radd came back as Hunter (actually a codename). He was succeeded by Michael Goodliffe, Derek Bond and William Squire. Anthony Valentine replaced Peter Bowles as upper-class thug Toby Meres. Clifford Rose appeared as Snell, the Section's doctor. Liz March, Hunter's secretary, was played by Lisa Langdon. The melancholic theme tune was actually a 1960 library music piece titled Girl in the Dark by Jack Trombey (an alias of Dutch composer Jan Stoeckart).

Series 2, aired on Thames Television, concluded with Callan in a much talked about uncertain fate after he shot his boss dead. He survived for a third series made in colour and co-starring Patrick Mower as Meres' replacement James Cross. The fourth and final series, televised in 1972, ended with a three-part story called The Richmond File (2). James Mitchell wrote 18 episodes of Callan. Robert Banks Stewart (the creator of Bergerac) and George Markstein (The Prisoner) were some of the other writers. Edward Woodward, Russell Hunter and Clifford Rose reprised their roles in Callan (1974), a feature film directed by Don Sharp and written by James Mitchell, from his own novelization of A Magnum for Schneider (Red File for Callan, 1971). Callan and Lonely went back to the small screen in 1981 for Wet Job, an ATV 80-minute special written by Mitchell and helmed by Shaun O'Riordan.

Callan combined great writing and characterization with exceptional acting talents (starting with Woodward and Hunter). Robert Fairclough & Mike Kenwood celebrate this important British television programme, launched 50 years ago, in The Callan File - The Definitive Guide. They meticulously detail the creation and production of the different versions of Callan: the one-off TV play, the series, the film, the special. Even the novels, the short stories and the 2012 radio play. Their considerable work is enriched by biographies, words of many of the persons involved at different levels, an history of the broadcaster, as well as an analysis of the influences and legacy of Callan. There are appendices about the repeats, the recordings, home video, etc. The Callan File - The Definitive Guide also includes a photo section, an extract of a new Callan novel by Peter Mitchell (James Mitchell's son) and a foreword by director Bharat Nalluri (Spooks).

(1) The Innocent Bystanders (1969), the last John Craig novel, was adapted as a movie starring Stanley Baker in 1972.
(2) + +

See also: (In French)

Friday, 1 September 2017



- Midsomer Murders: Death by Persuasion + The Curse of the Ninth (Series 19, Episodes 5 & 6):


With some words about Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie (Agatha Christie's Criminal Games) and Midsomer Murders: