Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Greg Wise and Juliet Stevenson
PLACE OF EXECUTION PBS Masterpiece Contemporary/2008. Director: Daniel Percival.

This was shown in three parts in the U.K. and in two parts here in the U.S. Based on a novel by  Val McDermid, this concerns a journalist, Catherine Heathcote (Juliet Stevenson), who is putting together a television documentary about the disappearance of a 13-year-old girl forty or so years earlier in the isolated town of Scardale. Her chief witness to these events is the former Detective Inspector George Bennett, who is played by Lee Ingleby in the frequent flashback sequences and by Philip Jackson as his older self [both are excellent, and indeed the acting in the mini-series in general is very good]. The chief suspect back in the day was the girl's stepfather, the snide Philip Hawkin (Greg Wise), but there were others as well. But now the formerly cooperative Bennett suddenly wants to pull out of the film, and Catherine doesn't know why, only that the townspeople seem to know more than they're telling. This is an absorbing, well-made telefilm for the most part, but it sort of falls apart with an ending that stretches credulity. Fans of the novel who were surprised by the final twist SPOILER ALERT have probably never seen Laura. Instead of being a real clever surprise that makes sense, the ending is merely contrived.

Verdict: Not bad, but was the novel [or this film] really a masterpiece? ***.

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