While going through the DVD section of the Berkeley Public Library, I lucked out and found Michael Gambon in ITV’s Maigret (1992-1993). Since the mental image of Dumbledore as a detective earlier captured my imagination, I just had to borrow it.
I’ve been watching the twelve episodes all out-of-order since not all of the DVDs are available at the same time. Still, I have to say that the series is a perfectly corking bit of work. Gambon’s expressive voice is crisp even if the video quality (alas!) is not.
Gambon makes an excellent Jules Maigret, whether he’s chasing criminals or the freshest seafood and local wines. Gambon just makes it seem natural that a French Chief Inspector should speak so authoritatively in English.
I’ve had the pleasure of reading some Simenon, but not enough to make me a hardcore fan. This adaptation brings to life all the minor officers in the books, from Sergeant Lucas to all the young detectives who flock to Maigret for mentoring. Madame Maigret was cast a bit younger than how I mentally pictured her, but the actress does well so I have no complaints.
From the six episodes I’ve seen, my favorite is currently “Maigret’s Boyhood Friend.” Edward Petherbridge is excellent as the sleazy Leon Florentin, whose been living off his mistress and the cash gifts of her four other lovers. Of course when the woman is murdered, Maigret spends a lot of time wondering if his loser buddy is the real killer!
I know Petherbridge mostly from his romantic portrayal of one of my favorite detectives—Lord Peter Wimsey—so I couldn’t help from sniggering with joy with his character in this episode. He’s such a good, solid British actor, I hope I can dig out more of his work.
Now, some mystery lovers insist there are only two types of fans: the hardboiled and the cozies, and never shall the two types mingle. It’s rather silly, seeing how much I love the genre.
In my mind, the Maigret books represent the beginnings of contemporary police procedurals. Here’s a guy who’s not an amateur genius, but an honest, working man of the official police. He’s not a Golden Age silly ass with arcane habits and hobbies. Yet he’s also not a cynical private eye who boozes up in speakeasies with double-crossers and corrupt cops.
Upright but not uptight, Maigret is the kind of police officer whom you’d actually want to live across your street. Michael Gambon plays the character so well, I almost wish he hunted out bad guys for real—especially when the bad guys turn out to be murderous little grannies.