Georges Simenon's Maigret: Series 4 (TV) (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Network
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (23rd July 2021).
The Show

Long-awaited, much sought after, never previously released and unseen anywhere for decades ...
... this definitive adaptation of Georges Simenon's world famous novels stars Rupert Davies as Commissaire Jules Maigret, the dogged French detective. Though Simenon's books have been adapted many times for film and television, Davies's celebrated, BAFTA-winning portrayal was Simenon's favourite, stating "At last, I have found the perfect Maigret!".

Running to 52 episodes and a feature-length play, this complete 1960s series has been remastered in High Definition from original telerecorded film elements and is featured here in its original fullscreen TV format.

This deluxe, limited edition release features:

Special packaging
Book on the making of the series by archive television historian Andrew Pixley
Collectable postcards
CD of Ron Grainer's Maigret soundtrack LP

Please note that this packaging and special features are only available as part of this advance pre-order Blu-ray version of Maigret.

Video

Maigret, like most UK television of it's era was produced on 405 line, 50 fields per second videotape for all studio sequences (referred to by some as Electronic Theatre) with film inserts for all location sequences or which there are usually between 5-10 minutes worth per hour. Somethings a bit more, sometimes a bit less. In the case of Maigret, the film format was 35mm and the episodes were apparently assembled directly onto, and broadcast from, 35mm. A mostly unusual practice because most programmes were assembled on videotape and broadcast from those masters.

Technical information from Network:

Most of the episodes were derived from pre-existing HD transfers from 35mm but there are examples, such as a "Crime for Christmas" where only 16mm exists. It is mainly a genuine HD presentation not an upscale, although the tele-recording / video source of that era is limited in terms of resolution. Some new scans were made on occasions where it was felt the image on the current transfer was too cropped. Quality varies between episodes as per the original source and existing materials.


Discs 1-10 contain film copies of the original broadcast masters and they've been cleaned up so there are no signs of age related damage on the prints. However, they are highly variable in sharpness with some episodes having sections where the image looks like rougher (2.10: A Crime for Christmas). Detail is limited although present but these are after all, vintage so alter your expectations accordingly. The superior codecs for Blu-ray ensure that the artefacts we used to get with DVD compression are not present. Encoding is decent; I could see little to no grain and, on occasion, a small amount of noise. Given the source, it's difficult to know if these issues aren't baked in to the masters.

Gamma is perfectly balanced with no colour bias creeping in as we used to get in TV broadcasts (usually a green cast in my experience). Black levels are very true but there are some moments of crush due to the way the masters were created (we're not watching native videotape or film here). Shadow detail can be present but is not as strong as a genuine HD presentation or if Network had access to the long junked tape masters. Contrast is generally supportive although occasionally a white gets a little hot.

I've watched a handful of episodes all the way through and tested every single one playing about thirty seconds at every chapter point*. The overall experience is similar to the Studio Canal DVDs of series 1-3 of The Avengers only with superior encoding. Sadly, no VidFIRE process has been done ala the BBC's celebrated Doctor Who releases of episodes taken from a 16mm film source. The process returns the more fluid 40/50 fields per second look to all video sequences that would've been evident on first broadcast for most programmes made in this way (tape and film combos). I suspect it was too expensive for an undertaking of this size; 52 episodes (ditto Avengers). In any case, some have expressed the feeling that because Maigret was broadcast from 35mm assemblies that the process would not be appropriate. My feeling is that VidFIRE would've improved the image a notch or two, but we have what we have.

The Play of the Month - the final episode, a one-off from 1969 - looks much more stable and strong having had all of it's 35mm sequences actually dropped back in to the telerecording so the image quality is the best to be had on this set. They're are in genuine HD with all the benefits one expects such as plenty of detail, no black crush, decent contrast and a fine grain field. Encoding is decent.

The fact that Georges Simenon's Maigret (to use the full onscreen title) exists at all is a miracle and a wonder that we've actually got a spanking new BD set with all the superior compression is a wonder to behold. Had VidFIRE been applied this would be an 'A+' because the image would look as good as it would possible to get it given the masters and current technology, but I acknowledge that VidFIRE would've blown Network's budget. So, we are where we are and as such image quality rates a solid 'B+'.

1080i50 / 10 x BD50 + one CD (see below) / AVC MPEG-4 / 1.33:1

* I'm working my way through the set and will update this review if anything of import raises it's head.

Audio

English LPCM 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English HoH, French HoH

Maigret was made in very basic 1.0 which has been cleaned up as much as is possible and presented in 2.0 mono which expands the single source to the two front speakers. It's of very limited range and has a mildly hissy, echoey quality typical of UK television production of this era (see the likes of The Avengers and Doctor Who). I stress that this is inherent to the masters.

The recent animated versions of '60s Doctor Who episodes where the image is largely lost have had massive 5.1 rebuilds from the existing mono recordings created by fans by taping the sound off their TVs at the time so it's possible that a massive improvement could be gleaned given time, money and the talents of a genius like Mark Ayres who does those 5.1 tracks. That said, a single 6-part Doctor Who serial is a much easier and cheaper proposition than 52 episodes running approximately 50 minutes each. The budget simply isn't there for such a massive undertaking. Ayres seems to literally break the mono single down voice by voice, sound by sound and note by note and rebuilds the tracks; it's an amazing job that he does.

What we have here is essentially a very limited track which is predominantly made up of dialogue and on set sound. Music is extremely sparse and only makes key appearances in dramatic moments. I'm guessing, but bar the opening and closing them there would appear to be only about ten minutes of score per 50+ minute episode. Dialogue is generally very clear and easy to follow but there are the odd little bits where sibilances appears distorted. It's not much but it is there. On louder volumes mild hiss can be detected but, again, nothing most people will notice.

On the whole about as good as we can expect bar a Mark Ayres style rebuild because the original sound stems are unlikely to exist and in fact we're extremely luck to actually have every episode bar the 1959 one-off play in existence. Most programmes from this era are in complete or entirely missing. For example, the first series of The Avengers is reduced to three complete episode and a partial out of twenty plus; Doctor Who is missing 97 whole episodes from the 1963-69 period.

Excellent subtitles for the hearing impaired (English, French) are provided on all episodes. Overall mark is 'B'.

Extras

"The State of Maigret" 2021 featurette (2:20)

An excellent little restoration featurette that outlines some of the fixes to issues and techniques used to correct said issues found on the masters jsed for the transfers.

"The South Bank Show: Georges Simenon" 1978 TV episode (20:35)
"Simenon on Simenon" 2021 interview with John Simenon (33:12)
"Holiday Time No. 2" 1966 TV advertisement (3:49)


Vintage pieces of varying image and sound quality presented in standard definition. The South Bank show has been edited down to just the Simenon interview and none of the other segments from the 50 minute original. Lots of great information about his career and Simenon is a lively character.

Canadian Christmas Intros (4:11)

Some lovely little ditties used to promo the show at Christmas time in Canada. Maigret talks to the audience.

Ron Granier's Soundtrack (Play All - 30:59):

1. The Maigret Theme (2:10)
2. Bistro (2:23)
3. Night Prowl (2:27)
4. Petit Louis (2:12)
5. Arlette (2:17)
6. Golden Fleece (1:26)
7. Getaway (2:03)
8. Along the Boulevards (2:12)
9. Lost Memory (2:34)
10. Poker Face (2:03)
11. Ginette (2:17)
12. Thieves' Den (2:00)
13. Midnight in Montmartre (2:37)
14. The Maigret Theme (2:18)


Sadly, the CD was not provided for review.

A 136-page liner notes book on the making of the series "Maigret, Simenon and the Corporation" by archive television historian Andrew Pixley

If anyone has read Andrew Pixley's work in the last they will know what to expect: A highly detailed history of the series packed with information gleaned from surviving production paperwork and other official documentation. As a good as these things get worth the price of the set by itself.

Collectable postcards

Sadly, these were not provided for review.

Packaging

At this time it's not been confirmed the precise form of the packaging.

Overall

A classic series that by a miracle still survives in it's entirety has been presented upscaled on BD by Network in this wonderful set. Image and sound quality are variable but never less than decent and acceptable given the source materials available to Network. Extras are good capped off by the inclusion of the superb book by Andrew Pixley who tackles with his usual skill the background history of this classic series.

Without a shred of doubt this is one of THE boxed sets of the year and is not to be missed by any aficionado of classic TV. Highly recommended.

The Show: A+ Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: A+ Overall: A

 


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