Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Day 58: "A Murder of Quality"

Director: Gavin Millar 1991
George Smiley, the brilliant spymaster created by John LeCarre, has been played by four actors over the years, most famously by Alec Guinness in the superb mini-series "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (1979) and "Smiley's People" (1982). Before Guinness, James Mason portrayed Smiley in 1966's "The Deadly Affair," based on LeCarre's first novel, "A Call for the Dead" (Mason's character was called Charles Dobbs). The year before, Rupert Davies briefly appeared as Smiley in "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold." Then Guinness stamped his genius on the role.
"A Murder of Quality" is close to a classic British mystery, set in the mid-1950s at a boarding school where a teacher's wife has been savagely killed. An old friend askes Smiley to investigate, which he does in his customary cerebral way. Denholm Elliott is terrrific as Smiley, bringing his own gifts to the role. The usual great supporting cast of Brit actors is present: Glenda Jackson, Joss Ackland and a teenaged Christian Bale. The film, made for British TV, feels like many of the imported productions seen on PBS's "Mystery." I'm not sure why it was never seen over here (as far as I know). It's new to DVD--well worth renting.


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