Orson Welles Great Mysteries (Vol2) – Review
by Sarah Morgan
He may have been one of the world’s greatest and most innovative film-makers, but Orson Welles wasn’t appreciated by Hollywood during his lifetime, so spent much of his career struggling to get the money needed to finance his own projects.
As a result, he was willing to appear in almost anything providing it came with a decent pay-packet; producers, in turn, were happy to have him add a little class to their project. Often he seemed to be almost winking at the camera during them, as if to say to the audience, “yes, I know I’m better than this, but we’ve all got to make a living…”
Anglia TV’s Great Mysteries series, which ran from 1973 to 1974, was ideal for him. Its makers wanted to use his name to bring in viewers, while he could give it minimal attention – he probably shot all his introductions and epilogues in a day. It also appears he didn’t bother to learn them off by heart either – he’s obviously reading from cue cards.
However, the show didn’t really need Welles at all. The episodes – which, once his segments are taken out last maybe 20 minutes each – stand up in their own right.
Last year, Network Distribution brought out volume one of the collection, featuring tales starring such luminaries as Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Donald Pleasence.
Now the remaining episodes are being made available. The casts aren’t quite so impressive, but there are still some gems to enjoy, including the sight of Joan Collins playing a working-class woman whose husband’s hoity-toity employers and their wives look down on her during a disastrous dinner party, or Dean Stockwell popping up as a man accused of murder.
But the best tale stars Patrick Macnee as a former British army officer brought in by the secret service to help them verify the identity of a Russian defector, played with his customary skill by Charles Gray.
This is the kind of show that the Talking Pictures TV channel has been resurrecting lately, but with no sign of it popping up on there yet, buying the series would make a good investment for anybody interested in offbeat 1970s series. Fans of British horror should enjoy it too – some of the stories have a supernatural or creepy element to them and both star and are directed by stalwarts of the genre.
I for one am very interested in seeing what the first volume has to offer; if the second collection is anything to go by, I’d say it’s one of the most intriguing entries in the second half of Welles’ career, even if he was nothing more than a hired hand.
‘Orson Welles Great Mysteries’ Volume 2 is released on DVD by Network, £19.99