Inspector Morse (Volume 7: The Sins of the Fathers / Driven to Distraction) Review
This double-disc set is Volume 7 in the latest series of Inspector Morse DVDs to be released by Carlton. The show itself needs very little introduction to anyone who was in the UK in the late 80s and through the 90s, as Morse became a household name during that time. The concept adapted from a series of novels and ideas by Colin Dexter, Inspector Morse follows the eponymous opera- and beer-loving detective and his sidekick Sgt. Lewis through a series of cases in and around Oxford. For more of an insight into the series and its background, read DVD Times reviews of previous releases in this collection (Volume 1, Volume 3, Volume 4, and Volume 5).
The two episodes included in this volume are both based on actual novels by Dexter, and while neither of them score highly on a poll of all-time fan faves (Morsemania.co.uk Favourite Episodes Poll) they are both fairly enjoyable and good standard Morse fare.
The Sins of the Fathers
When Trevor Radford, Managing Director of Radford Brewery, is found dead in one of his casks, Morse and Lewis are called in to investigate. As it happens, the brewery is undergoing a hostile take-over bid at the time, and members of the Radford family seem at odds with one another as to which course of action to adopt regarding the family business. So it is up to our beer-appreciating detective to unravel the clues and throw open the mysteries. I'm not sure why, but as I watched this I was strongly reminded of the works of Agatha Christie... at least, until the ending. As I've never really felt that way about Morse before, either this is a real classic mystery case, or it's a little clichéd. The acting even seems a little hammed-up for once, when usually it is a real pleasure to watch. Nonetheless, it's a fun episode – not the least of which because it deals with beer and you get to see Morse actually refuse a drink!
Driven to Distraction
Screenplay: Anthony Minghella
This is the third Morse episode featuring a screenplay by Minghella (and by quite a chance I seem to have reviewed all three of them!). It starts with an apparently motiveless murder of two young women. Morse's initial investigations lead him to a primary suspect, who knew both girls. Combining a dislike for the man with his gut instinct, Morse pulls out all stops to gather evidence to prove his guilt. It's an interesting case as it's not often a suspect is located and followed from such an early stage in the investigation... and also because the episode includes some great disagreements between Lewis and Morse on crime-fighting and protocol. The pair are assisted by a female officer, DS Maitland, an expert on crimes against women who shares many qualities with Morse. For its slightly different take on crime-solving – how often do you get to see Morse doggedly pursuing one suspect over the course of a whole show? – this episode is enjoyable to watch. Morse taking advanced driving lessons and fighting with Lewis are added bonuses that really breathe a little more life into the disc.
These Morse discs are again presented in the original 4:3 format, as we've come to expect for a television show of this age. The transfer is adequate with some graininess, though less than the other volumes I've seen in this series. As the shows get more recent (these two are from 1990) the picture quality appears to be improving slightly, which indicates that the poorer quality of older episodes is almost certainly to be blamed on the masters.
Sound is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. Dialogue is clear and background music pulses in and out without any obvious problems. Again, it's perfectly adequate while not pushing the limits in any way. Certainly don't anticipate much stereo separation; this is your bog-standard centre channel kind of TV show.
Each disc comes with a photo gallery and scene access and fairly simple menus with the Morse theme tune playing in the background. The photo gallery consists of 20 still pictures per episode.
This volume is a mixed bag – the episodes are certainly not the best of the Morse shows, but they do include the usual charming moments and character insights/development that made the show so easy to watch for the 13 years it was on air. In the end, choosing to watch/purchase this volume will largely depend on your level of love for the television show or need to collect/watch the entire set.