A few months ago I wrote a post (here) that rounded-up all the interesting-sounding crime drama across Europe at the annual MIPCOM convention in France, where the movers and shakers in the TV industry get together and sell and buy TV programmes for their respective territories. One of the shows featured was from Iceland – The Valhalla Murders – but at the time I couldn’t find any information out about it. Now, there’s a bit more flesh on the bone.
Scotland in 1955 can’t have been the most exciting place to live, so the career of serial killer Peter Manuel (Martin Compston) must have at least broken the monotony in the curtain-twitching community of Uddingston, Lanarkshire. About the only other action would have been at the local Tunnock’s biscuit factory, clearly advertised on the double-decker buses. But the monotony is about to be broken.
Last week’s opening episode of Rillington Place was a stunner: a creepy, horror-like examination of a deceitful, manipulative psychopath who successfully preserved his veneer of quietly-spoken respectability. Tim Roth’s Alan Bennet-on-Tramadol take on John ‘Reg’ Christie was terrifying in its banality; the fact that a man so shuffling, unassuming and insouciant could be so calculating, so manipulative and so dangerous was at the heart of his portrayal and the man’s benevolent charm. Also key to that first episode’s success was Samantha Morton’s superb, nuanced performance as Christie’s doomed wife, Ethel, and the fact that 10, Rillington Place was portrayed as a character all in itself. It was Christie’s dank, airless lair; a dark, monochromatically beige vortex, seemingly cloaked in a mist of constant dread that sucked life out of everything and everyone who entered. Now it was to suck the life out of a young, vibrant couple, who made the mistake of moving into the upstairs flat. Downstairs, Christie was watching. And waiting.
Last week in Y Gwyll (Hinterland) we saw a change in structure and pace, and I felt it did the series good. We’ve been used to Mathias and Rhys trudging across the crags of Ceredigion, meeting the stoic, worn-down folk of the fatigued and wearied rural community. But last week, the latest case introduced us to the killer in the very first scene, which sent the team head-long into a cat-and-a-mouse chase against the clock before he killed again. There was no knowing how this one was going to shake out.
NB: Spoilers spilt
If you’ve been reading The Guardian, then Walter Presents’ French crime drama, The Passenger (Le Passager), sounds as though the best has been saved to the last knockings of the year. It’s set in Nice, has some ritualistic murders going on and sounds like a must-watch. I’ll be digging into it a bit later today (I have Christmas markets to go to, don’t you know), but until then, here’s what it’s all about…
Rillington Place certainly caused a stir last week, and the series continues this week. But… there’ another series based on a mid-century serial killer starting up this week. ITV’s In Plain Sight stars Martin Compston and Douglas Henshall, and focuses on the deeds of William Muncie. Elsewhere, Y Gwyll and Modus continues. Enjoy!
Any new Scandinavian or Nordic crime drama is greeted with much joy and fervour here in the UK, and Modus certainly has a fine pedigree to provide both – it’s based on the books by Norwegian best-seller Anne Holt, it stars The Bridge’s Melinda Kinnaman and Krister Henriksson, and, well, it’s Swedish. And it’s set at Christmas time. What more do you want? But the first two episodes, despite all its box-ticking, seemed to split viewers. I spoke to a number of people who really enjoyed it, while some readers of this site commented negatively. Me? I’m somewhere in between.
NB: Spoilers inside