05/31/2016  
Take Me To The River on Blu-ray & DVD Feb 5Phantom From 10,000 Leagues (1956) on Blu-ray & DVD Jan 5Condemned on DVD & Blu-ray Jan 5Broad City: Season 2 on DVD Jan 5McHale's Navy: The Complete Series on DVD No 17Return to Sender on Blu-ray & DVD Sep 29The Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney Blu-ray & DVD Oct 13

follow us on twitter

dOc on facebook

NE News Editor

Roots Premiere: Why It Was the Right Time for a Remake ...
Josh Duhamel Celebrates Memorial Day by Helping Veteran...
'Nashville': 12 Best Music Moments From TV Series ...
The Voice Finale: Alisan Porter Wins Season 10 ...
Pink's Hairstylist on Her Billboard Music Awards Look...
Adele's Send My Love to Your New Lover video: Director ...
Bryan Cranston Mesmerizes as LBJ in HBO's 'All the Way'...
Kristin Chenoweth takes on a different kind of role ...
Survivor: Kaoh Rong: And the winner is... ...
Ghostbusters Are Desperately Trying to Save New York Ci...





Microsoft Store

Share: email   Print      Technorati.gif   StumbleUpon.gif   MySpace   digg.gif delicious.gif   google.gif   magnolia.gif   facebook.gif
Permalink: Permalink.gif



Buy from Amazon

Buy from Amazon.com

HBO presents
Dandelion Dead (1993)

"But he's a solicitor, father, professional men don't do that sort of thing."
- Connie (Lesley Sharp)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: August 25, 2002

Stars: Michael Kitchen, Sarah Miles, David Thewlis
Other Stars: Lesley Sharp, Diana Quick, Peter Vaughan, Chloe Tucker
Director: Mike Hodges

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 03h:22m:44s
Release Date: August 27, 2002
UPC: 026359184420
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C C+CC- C-

DVD Review

A curious fellow, that Major Armstrong. Always so proper, but with such a bad head for business; he seems so much more interested in ridding his precious garden of the evil dandelions than in his work as a solicitor. And he does seem to pop into the chemist's rather too often for arsenic, don't you find?Dandelion Dead is based on a notorious British murder case from 1921, in which Major Herbert Rowse Armstrong (played here by Michael Kitchen) was tried for poisoning his wife and trying to do the same to a principal business rival. This 1993 British mini-series comes to DVD stateside courtesy of HBO, and it's unlikely to make your hair stand on end.

Mrs. Armstrong (Sylvia Miles) bullies her husband, persistently reminding him that it's her family money he's squandering, and recoils at any sort of physical contact with him—it's easy to sympathize with his desire to get rid of her. The Major's fixation on purging his lawn of dandelions plus his gardener's remedy for them—arsenic—plus his professional and financial problems plus his shrew of a wife—it's not too tough to do the math, and figure out where this is headed.

There are a couple of times when the film produces the hope that it will go in the direction of Hitchcock—early on, we cross-cut between a tennis match and some nefarious doings at home, and you may start thinking that you're in for something akin to Strangers on a Train. But no such luck, as there's just an accumulation of boring detail, nothing at all fetishistic or dramatically compelling.

Even after he springs the idea, it takes the major a good long time to summon up the courage to finish the deed, and because Mrs. Armstrong is such a horrible woman and because you're eager for something to happen, you may find yourself pulling for him—just how much arsenic does he have to force down the gullet of the old bag to get her to kick off? After ninety minutes of nothing much happening, it's hard not to hope: Good God, kill her already. And even after he starts lacing the cocoa, her tolerance for the arsenic is Rasputin-like—she survives a first poisoning attempt and a subsequent trip to the sanatorium, but Armstrong finally takes care of business when she returns home. (The first of two parts ends with the murder.)

The parallel story concerns Oswald Martin (David Thewlis), the newest barrister in town and therefore Armstrong's competition, and his courtship of Constance Davies, the pharmacist's daughter. Martin's office is across the street from Armstrong, and they play some unintentional peek-a-boo to see whether or not the other is at his desk. It's the kind of thing that's effective the first time out, but soon grows tiresome, and the film goes to the well many times too often. In Part II it's Martin who is in Armstrong's crosshairs, and after two and a half hours, it takes the characters all of thirty seconds of detective work to figure out that Armstrong is spiking the scones with something more than raisins.

The historical material obviously provides some rich dramatic possibilities, but it's extraordinarily difficult to empathize with Armstrong—as Kitchen plays him, he's little more than extreme propriety and moustache wax who takes a wrong turn, but we share almost none of his emotional life. Kitchen is convincing as a proper chap nudged by circumstance into offing the wife, but this Armstrong is not an especially compelling hero (or anti-hero), and so the enterprise rather sags around him.

Even more troublesome is that the pace is so leisurely as to cross over frequently into stultifying. It feels like this is better than three hours long not because there's a lot of ground to cover, but because the running time needed to be padded out for so many slots on the television schedule. And so nearly every scene begins with someone opening a door, walking through it, hanging up a coat, wishing another character a good morning, and so on. It is very polite, yes, but as cinema it's astonishingly boring, and there's not a lot of interesting behavior on display to hold our attention in the absence of narrative drive.

What's unclear to me is how well known the facts of the case are to a contemporary British audience, because that's the only reason I can think of to justify how stodgily the story moves along. But even then, that's really no excuse. It covers territory similar to Reversal of Fortune, and is a reminder of just how good that movie is, and how artfully it deals with issues of money, class and marital tension.

The venture isn't entirely without its virtues. There are some nice period details, for instance, such as the makeshift urinals, little more than sheets of canvas strung up on poles in a field, as the gentlemen, clad in their tuxedos, take care of their business. Armstrong's relationship with his oldest child, Eleanor (Chloe Tucker), has a certain fascination, too, for after her mother dies, Eleanor takes the reins as mistress of the house, and starts bullying her father in exactly the same manner his wife did.

But those few things aren't nearly enough to sustain an audience's interest through better than three hours. A tidier and more dramatically satisfying version of this story longs to be made, and this mini-series provides some lessons in how not to go about it.



Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The colors are terribly washed out, and the resolution is poor; it looks much worse than it should for something shot less than ten years ago. The reds fare especially badly, reading either as hot pink or muddy maroon, and nothing in between. Black level is more like gray level, but at least it's consistent.

Image Transfer Grade: C

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access


Audio Transfer Review: The ambient noise level is very, very high, and given that the actors take epic pauses between their lines, you'll find yourself listening to lots and lots of room tone. Otherwise, it's a pretty clean track, principally without buzz and hiss.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Production Notes
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:41m:57s

Extra Extras:
  1. Biographical information on the historical figures portrayed
Extras Review: The disc begins with an annoying quiz that I suppose is meant to be funny and saucy—it asks questions like, "Could Katherine's mystery illness be related to the near-fatal sickness of the Major's business rival?" Happily, there's an option to skip over these and get right to the main menu.

There isn't much by way of extras—the brief biographies are for the director, three principal actors (Kitchen, Miles and Thewlis) and the characters they portray. The brief production notes provide information on the wealth of dandelions required by the production, and how they were conjured up, given that the shoot wasn't during dandelion season.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

If you've plowed through each and every Agatha Christie novel and just have to have some Edwardian misdoings, Dandelion Dead may be for you. Otherwise, it's a long, long road to travel for meager rewards, though it may make you think twice the next time a professional opponent has you to tea.

 


Back to top

Search 10,000+ titles:

or Advanced Search

DVD REVIEW ARCHIVE


Get FREE Shipping on all orders at TimeLife.com! - 120x90

 



Microsoft Store

Keywords

television, history channel, roots, remake, anika noni rose, t.i., malachi kirby, movie, josh duhamel, transformers, fergie, black eyed peas, axl, double dutchess, nashville, abc, music city, grand ole opry, chip esten, lennon stella, the voice, alisan porterm, christina aguilera, ceelo green, ariana grande, sia, the little big town, 2016 billboard music awards, pink, just like fire, pamela neal, warrior princess, music, send my love (to your new lover), billboard music awards, adele, patrick daughters, hbo, bryan cranston, lbj, all the way, melissa leo, frank langella, todd weeks, hard sell, kristin chenoweth, wicked, survivor: kaoh-rong, reality, michelle fitzgerald, aubry, tai, jeff probst, comedy remake, ghostbusters, melissa mccarthy, kristen wiig, kate mckinnon, leslie jones, beach boys, pet sounds, brian wilson, bob dylan, blonde on blonde, cannes film festival, selena gomez, beyonce, crazy in love, lemonade, sorry, donÕt hurt yourself, daddy lessons, dancing with the stars, nyle dimarco, bruno tonioli, carrie ann inaba, len goodman, live! with kelly and michael, kelly ripa michael strahan, beyoncˇ, jay z, rachel roy, cheating, prince, little red corvette, purple rain, linus and lucy, the bourne supremacy, the bourne ultimatum, matt damon, alicia vikander, vincent cassel, tommy lee jones, julia stiles, paul greengrass, game of thrones, sansa, ramsay bolton, theron greyjoy, reek, petyr baelish, cersei, jaime, stephen colbert, hillary clinton, carnegie deli, the late show with stepen colbert, jungle book, disney, neel sethi, bill murray, rudyard kipling, captain america: civil war, captain america, iron man, black panther, scarlet witch, the jungle book, virtual productions, avatar, gravity, jon favreau, fantasy, james cameron, avatar sequels, avatar 2, christmas 2018, movies, tribeca film festival, the first monday in may, andrew rossi, justin bieber, anna wintour, met gala, 38 interactive and virtual-reality exhibits, the bomb, the meddler, j.j. abrams, chris rock, tom hanks, john oliver, elvis & nixon, mtv movie awards, dwayne johnson, kevin hart, warner bros. studios, will smith, suicide squad, jared leto, margot robbie, cara delevingne, kiss, freedom to rock, 35 date tour, july 7, caleb johnson, dead daisies, kiss online, merle haggard, died, okie from muskogee, sing me back, mama tried, the bakersfield sound, country music. willie nelson, waylon jennings, gram parsons, eric church, hungry eyes, jimmy fallon, the boss, brand new key, x gonna give it to ya

On Facebook!
digitallyOBSESSED!
digitallyOBSESSED!
Promote Your Page Too

Visit:

Zarabesque.com

Original Magic Dress.com

Susti Heaven

Become a Reviewer | Search | Review Vault | Reviewers
Readers | Webmasters | Privacy | Contact
Microsoft Store