Maigret: Complete Collection. Acorn Media. 12 episodes, 4 discs, 645 minutes. DVD, $59.99
The old-style detective never goes out of style.
Contemporary detectives may have an arsenal of gadgets, electronics and social media at their disposal, but their methods, in the end, are the same.
Cell phones batteries run down; iPads are bulky to carry and everyone lies on social media.
But good old instincts, interrogations and face-to-face investigations still work.
Take Maigret, for example.
The French detective Jules Maigret appeared in 75 novels and 28 short stories written by Belgium author Georges Simenon. The Maigret oeuvre was published between 1931 and 1972 and the plots and characters are as much in style today as they were when they first came out.
The novels remain popular and Penguin Books has been reprinting these classics since 2006.
And there is the highly entertaining Maigret series starring Michael Gambon (Harry Potter, The Singing Detective) as the commissioner of the Paris “Brigade Criminelle.”
Maigret: Complete Collection with Gambon has now been released on DVD by Acorn Media.
The new boxed set features the 12 episodes that were shown on PBS in 1992 as well as an eight-page booklet with essays about Simenon, the character Maigret and the series.
Gambon gives a subtle yet forceful performance as the pipe-smoking detective whose eye for details never fails him.
In many ways, Gambon gives the same type of performance he did as Hogwarts Headmaster Dumbledore in the Harry Potter novels. Both Maigret and Dumbledore are wise, patient, intelligent and given to wearing a uniform; in Maigret’s case it’s his fedora while Dumbledore has his robes.
A hallmark of the Maigret collection is the variety of the type of cases that the detective investigates.
In “The Patience of Maigret,” the detective investigates the murder of a suspect the detective has tried for seven years to prove was the head of a prolific jewelry theft ring.
Why did the murdered wife of a wealthy American have a gun in her purse in “Maigret and the Hotel Majestic”?
A burglar claims he saw a dead woman when he broke into a doctor’s home in “Maigret and the Burglar’s Wife;” but where is she?
You’ll also spot appearances throughout the collection.
For example, “Maigret and the Night Club Dancer” is quite star-studded with Brenda Blethyn (DCI Vera Stanhope in Vera, also released by Acorn, Pride & Prejudice), Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting, The Phantom of the Opera), and Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, 30 Rock, The Queen).
The Maigret episodes are beautifully filmed with a breathtaking view of Paris. The opening credits in black and white are an almost sentimental look at Paris in much the same way that Woody Allen views New York City in Manhattan.
Photos: Michael Gambon as the pipe-smoking Maigret, center, contemplates a case. Minnie Driver has a cameo in one episode. Photos courtsey Acorn Media