Monday, 8 January 2018

Maelstrom - DVD review

Image result for maelstrom bbc 1985

Maelstrom was a six-part BBC series screened in 1985. I didn't see it then, but I'd read good things about it, and I've developed an interest in the writer, Michael J. Bird, who wrote a number of very popular TV series in that era.. So I was delighted to receive the DVD two-disc set as a Christmas present, and quick to watch it. And I found it very enjoyable.

In essence, it's a Scandi-crime show written by an Englishman. The premise is interesting. Catherine loses her job only to fall on her feet. A summons to a solicitor's office results in her discovering that she has inherited valuable property in Norway. The benefactor was a wealthy Norwegian, but she knows nothing about him, or why she has been mentioned in his will. She sets off to Alesund to learn more about her inheritance and meets an enigmatic bunch of characters.

Most enigmatic of all are the two daughters of her mysterious and recently deceased benefactor, who welcome her warmly (and are wealthy in their own right, so have no need to be jealous of her inheritance). Yet there's something very odd about the situation. And does the local doctor know more than he's letting on? She is befriended by a handsome local journalist, who believes there was somethiing suspicious about her benefactor's death. And what is the secret of the island house she has inherited, where one of the rooms is inexplicably locked, and to which a hundred or so dolls lend a certain spookiness?

By the standards of modern TV crime dramas, Maelstrom doesn't move at a fast pace, but the scenery is gorgeous, and the story builds suspense very well. I was interested to study Bird's technique. His plot is sound, and although I figured out the  main twist early on, he still kept one surprise up his sleeve. The cast does a decent job, especially Tusse Silberg as Catherine, and Northwich-born Ann Todd, who plays Astrid. And although the creepiness of dolls has been explored in other films and TV shows, Bird uses them very well here in creating a macabre atmosphere. I can recommend this one.


Juxtabook said...

Gosh I loved that series! It was probably my first grown-up thriller series and I was gripped. I have often thought about it since and wonder how it stood the test of time - it is good to know it has done ok. I remember watching a TV version of Bratt Farrar at about the same time - all very glossy and 1980s. I bet that hasn't fared well over the years and have never been tempted to try it but I had always wondered about Maelstrom. I shall have to get the DVD.

Martin Edwards said...

Nice to hear from you again! Yes, I really enjoyed it. A bit slow in parts by modern standards, but none the worse for that.