As I keep saying in my articles, I can watch over and over the older episodes of Hercule Poirot with David Suchet (before they took all the fun out of his character) and of Miss Marple with Joan Hickson. But I never mentioned a third favorite, which has not suffered any remakes since its original showings in 1992-93. “Maigret” has now been reissued in a boxed set of 4 DVDs holding the 12 episodes that comprise Series 1 and 2 of this wonderful police drama.
Jules Maigret is the creation of French writer Georges Simenon and played here by an all-British cast led by Michael Gambon in the title role. The directors wisely chose to have all the characters speak without French accents. The outdoor scenes are mostly shot in “Paris” (actually Budapest, which didn’t modernize as quickly as did Paris). The pictures behind the opening titles perfectly establish the time and place. Gambon is ably assisted by an equally good cast, which includes Ciaran Madden (Series 1) and Barbara Flynn (Series 2) as his loving wife; Geoffrey Hutchings as his assistant, Sgt. Lucas; and John Moffatt, as his obstructive superior, M. Comeliau.
The guest stars who do exemplary jobs include Cheryl Campbell, Edward Petherbridge, Brenda Blethyn (the current lead in “Vera”), Minnie Driver (in a very strong role) and even Jane Wymark (the wife of Tom Barnaby in “Midsomer Murders, Series 1-20). And kudos to Campbell and Driver for playing two very tough women who are a match for Maigret himself.
Gambon plays Maigret not as a “character,” as are Poirot or Marple, but as a serious policeman who looks into the characters of his suspects before coming to conclusions. His sense of wry humor does much to make this series quite enjoyable.
Out of the 12 episodes, my favorite is “Maigret Sets a Trap” (Series 1, episode 6). Here a sex killer is terrorizing Paris and the story starts in media res with Maigret bringing someone into the station but refusing to say anything about him to reporters. There is a touch of “Psycho” in a certain mother-son relationship and more than a little painful suspense as a policewoman is put in harm’s way to lure the killer.
Yes, “Maigret” provides 645 minutes of intelligent and enjoyable police drama. And subtitles and a booklet are included to further enhance one’s enjoyment of this set.