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Reviewed October 2nd, 2000 by Chuck Arrington


There’s just something about true stories put to film that really excites me! Prime Suspect is the story of Detective Superintendent Jane Tennison and her trials in becoming the first female DCI (Detective Chief Inspector) in the London police force. In this first entry, a young prostitute has been found murdered. The officers on site, mis-identify the body and set out after the suspected murderer. In their haste to beat “paxman’s” record in closing a case they provide the suspect with information regarding the victim thus tainting their investigation and resulting in the release of the Prime Suspect.

In a freak twist, John Shefford, the lead DCI is stricken with a heart attack and dies. The investigation now without a leader is handed over to the only DCI available…Jane Tennison. In shock at the loss of their leader and grossly unhappy with a woman in charge, the lads are stirred up to make it as hard as possible on Tennison by Bill Otley, Shefford’s best friend and the former second in command of this unit. With no help coming from her own, Tennison has to assess the situation, re-interview all of the witnesses and essentially start the case from scratch. With the mounting pressure for an arrest and her lack of support from her lads, Tennison’s life begins to unravel. Being the first in anything is never an easy thing, and Tennison has to do everything just to keep her head above water. Prime Suspect is a witty, engaging mystery that is among the best mysteries I have ever seen.

The audio as presented is a Dolby Digital Stereo platform that more than adequately conveys the aural textures of the film. Long on dialogue and short on audio effect, the Stereo platform is more than fitting for the disc.

The video for the film is something of a disappointment. The series originally ran on PBS here in the states and was grainy and muddy at times. The transfer for the disc is much the same as the series was shown in it’s initial American run. This is extremely disappointing as I was expecting a crystalline transfer of what has got to be the greatest mystery series of all time. As the film was made-for-TV it is presented in lackluster full frame pan and scan.

Extras? Non existent. Not even trailers or menus.

The Prime Suspect series is incredible. It’s all encompassing and grabs you from the start and never lets go. The film is 230 minutes in length so you’ll need to set aside a block of time to fully enjoy the feature. I have said it a couple of times and I’m gonna say it again, This is the best crime drama/mystery series I have ever seen! Helen Mirren is unbelievably well cast and totally embodies the character of Jane Tennison. Once you start watching the film, you’ll be unable to turn it off. Simply put, if you are a fan of mystery and drama, this is the one to watch. The initial film was so good that, it spawned several Prime Suspect entries. Each with their own charm and each very enjoyable. However, none of them can equal the intensity and tension of the first film. There was talk about an American Hollywood film about the series but, without Helen Mirren. Obviously, someone had some sense and the concept was scrapped. This is a good film even without all the clicks and whistles, this is a disc to own. I lucked into it for about $9.00 at a local grocery store but it’s worth every bit of $10-$15.


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