I'm watching a positive deluge of TV these days, compared to my usual baseline of zero - I started watching the BBC adaptation of Sayers' The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club
with another friend. It came out in the 1970s and stars Ian Carmichael as Wimsey.
They appear to be just available on youtube so the barrier to entry is very low.
I absolutely love Sayers, the Wimsey novels, and her writing generally - pretty much every aspect of the books. I actually think at this point, Gaudy Night
might be my favourite novel, and it's really rare for books to get that high up in my estimation anymore (I only read it a few years ago). Of all her books though, I think I like Bellona Club least, though. I know other people don't really like Five Red Herrings
but I love the setting, the fishing/painting duality the characters have going on, and I've always skipped over the timetables and mystery solving of mystery novels anyway, so it made no difference that Red Herrings had too many train timetable foolings. Plus there's the most enjoyable reconstruction that Wimsey and the Fiscal do at the end! Honestly, I think I dislike Bellona Club because I really hate George. I understand, I do: he feels humiliated and inadequate, because he got gassed in the war, clearly has PTSD/shellshock, and can't stick the things that the post-war world is requiring, living off his wife's earned income is humiliating, he sees the world has changed hugely and can't cope, etc. I get it. But he's so relentlessly unpleasant to
Sheila, and he recognizes he's being a beast, and he just keeps on doing it. It makes Wimsey, visiting them, acutely uncomfortable too. There's also not much of the novel I can point at and like in terms of set-up or setting. Books like Murder May Advertise
have the absolutely amazingly-drawn ad agency and its little politics as a backdrop, or the Nine Tailors
has a wonderful sense of quietness and vastness, almost, to go with the huge bell tones of the book. Ugh I never reviewed the books back when I read them the first time but I loved them so much I tried to stretch them out and not read them all at once.
Anyway, the TV show is all right. Since I know the plot, most of my interest and enjoyment is derived from the strengths of adaptation; for visual media like TV mostly I am looking for good acting and visuals, if possible. Ian Carmichael is a good person, acting-wise, to play Wimsey, but he really doesn't look right. He's way too broad shouldered and conventionally handsome - Wimsey calls himself "funny lookin'" and is slight, which cause his opponents to underestimate him - both in intelligence and in fights, I might add. I also think Carmichael looks a little too old, but that's more subjective, probably. Wimsey's born in 1890, I have always felt Bellona Club takes place only a few years after the Great War, so he's somewhere in his late 20s or early 30s. George, by contrast, looks very young indeed, and honestly the visual depiction of George in this version is making him a lot more sympathetic - he's going off the handle but he is
really painfully quite young for this. Murbles is pretty much EXACTLY the way I pictured him, it is amazing. I also quite like Pemberthy. He's a little soft-faced and very self-assured and confident, which rings quite right - just doesn't have the capital he needs.
I don't know if it's the poor quality on youtube or what but there's so little colour or resolution in the adaptation. Whew, everyone and everything grey, beige, black, or maybe grey again. It's cool to see all the 1920s decor. One of the joys of Wimsey is that he's filthy rich, it's not just the reader indulging in the fantasy of just having the money to do whatever he likes and be comfortable, Sayers actually talks about this herself, writing in the luxuries she couldn't afford - and despite the graininess of the footage I'm
enjoying looking at the set dressing. There's actual smoking with actual smoke, wow. The other really weird thing is it's shot with pretty much no
sound effects or music soundtrack backing it at all. The only music is the beginning and ending title sequences. It is absolutely dead silent otherwise, and that feels so alien. I'm so used to modern cinema subtly or unsubtly cueing my emotions - and frankly sometimes it's mostly the violins coming down on a big sweep that's doing most of the emotional heavy lifting.