Midsomers Murders: The Killings at Badger’s Drift (1997)

“Two unnatural deaths in the same small area involving the same set of people.”

The Killings at Badger’s Drift is the pilot episode for the made-for-British television series Midsomer Murders. DCI Barnaby (John Nettles) and his sidekick Sgt Troy (Daniel Casey) investigate the mysterious death of an elderly spinster, Emily Simpson (Renee Asherson). While Miss Simpson’s friend, insists it’s a case of murder, Barnaby isn’t so sure. But the autopsy results reveal that this gentle spinster met a violent death, and so the investigation begins….

The fictional village of Badger’s Drift is–like many villages–a place where everyone knows everyone else. It’s not easy to hide personal business, or even create alibis–especially when town snoops, Iris Rainbird (Elizabeth Spriggs) and her peculiar undertaker son, Dennis (Richard Cant) are poking into everyone’s business with a well-placed pair of high-powered binoculars. As Barnaby digs deeper into the case, he reopens another mysterious case that may well be connected to the murder of Miss Simpson.

As a pilot, The Killings at Badger’s Drift sets the tone and the style for the series, and it also introduces the character of DCI Barnaby–a man who’s forced to endure his wife’s culinary experiments and his sergeant’s spotty driving skills. The suspects–and there are several of these–are an interesting bunch: the weasely local doctor and his adulterous wife, the nauseating Rainbirds who frequently reward themselves with orgies of food, and the orphaned siblings, Catherine Lacey (Emily Mortimer) and her temperamental artist brother, Michael (Jonathan Firth). Some of the characterizations are overdone (the Rainbirds, and Phyllis Cadell) and while definitely making the film more entertaining, the Rainbirds’ grotesqueness, is a little over the top–almost campy, and as such it’s too much for the confines of the film. Based on the novel by Caroline Graham and directed by Jeremy Silberston, The Killings at Badger’s Drift is a pleasant introduction to the highly popular British detective series.

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