Review for Beck - The Series Volume 1
Arrow films can do no wrong. Whether it’s their choice of cult horror, Italian giallo and spaghetti westerns or classic film noir, they just get it right time after time. They’ve also got behind Scandic Noir in a big way, a genre defined by its often cold brutality, its slow-burning and often complex storylines and its complex and quirky characterisation.
This release is a most welcome one. I’ve long been a fan of the Martin Beck detective series of novels by Swedish husband-and-wife writers Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (who tragically died in 1975 at the age of 48, bringing an end to their superb run of 10 novels). I remember picking one up in a second-hand book shop and devouring it in virtually a single sitting. Unlike other (excellent) crime writing by other favourite authors, like Elmore Leonard or James Ellroy, they were curiously cold and matter of fact, despite their often horrific content. Real police procedural stuff, often exposing the pomposity and arrogance of Sweden’s ‘ruling classes’. (Sjöwall and Wahlöö were hardened socialists after all). Martin Beck as a character was intriguing mainly due to the fact that he had so little character. But he was a good cop with a clever mind.
Aided and abetted by his more aggressive partner, Gunvald Larsson, the books always weaved a fascinating path through some of the darkest crimes ever committed to print.
This magnificent DVD set brings no less than five feature-length films together; four from the latest season and one from the previous season which actually got a proper theatrical release in Sweden. All have production values good enough for the big screen so it really does feel more like a movie set than a series set.
Of course they’re not for the faint-hearted. The first shows people being buried alive by a masked killer (looking very like the bad-boy from Halloween) and is full of enough twists and turns to have you second guessing all the way through. There are some jump-out-your-seat moments too.
We also see Beck having to endure investigations into the grim death of a young lady strangled in a hotel room; a gangster shot in front of his family with the in-laws the most probable suspects, a terrorist attack (I know – horribly prescient) and a highly suspicious hospital death – all of which are full of the kind of intricacies and plot twists that make these sorts of programmes so much fun to watch.
Peter Haber (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) makes a great Beck – all sorrowful eyes, a balding palate, a slight hunch and poor social skills. His colleague Larsson is also perfectly cast with Mikael Persbrandt (The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug) who communicates more with a single look than many actors could with a two minute soliloquy.
The set comes in a slim case housing three discs and image and audio quality are excellent throughout. Of course, all dialogue is in Swedish but I can’t emphasise enough how easy this is to watch and follow with excellent sub-titling throughout. The cast use words sparingly so you really shouldn’t be put off by that.
All in all an excellent set, highly recommended to fans of the genre and more widely to anyone who just enjoys really top-notch crime thrillers.