Prime Suspect (Box Set) (1991)

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Released 15-Mar-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1991
Running Time 1154:31 (Case: 1134)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (7)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Christopher Menaul

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Helen Mirren
Tom Bell
John Benfield
John Bowe
Zoë Wanamaker
Bryan Pringle
Tom Wilkinson
John Forgeham
Gary Whelan
Jack Ellis
Craig Fairbrass
Ian Fitzgibbon
Mossie Smith
Case ?
RPI $99.95 Music Stephen Warbeck

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Prime Suspect is not your average crime drama series. Beginning in 1991, Prime Suspect set a new benchmark for crime dramas in general and the mini-series format as well. While it may seem somewhat dated now, there is still enough spark in it to elicit some excitement from even the most hardened crime fan, and makes shows like The Bill look tawdry by comparison.

    This collector’s edition set of the first five instalments of the series is split up over 7 Discs as follows:

Disc 1: Prime Suspect 1 (200:36)

    When the lead detective on a hot murder case dies suddenly of a heart attack, DCI Tennison (Helen Mirren) demands to be put on the case as the detective in charge. Although she gets her wish, she faces the hostility of her team, not only for replacing a man they all respected, but also for being a woman.

Disc 2: Prime Suspect 2 (202:55)

    The discovery of a badly decomposed body in the backyard of old flats uncovers racial tensions in DCI Tennison’s district. But what looks like an old murder case quickly evolves into something far more complex.

Disc 3: Prime Suspect 3: Part One (103:11) & Part Two (103:33)

    The murder of a young male prostitute coincides with DCI Tennison’s transfer to vice after working homicide in the previous years. However, she finds herself paired up with Sgt. Bill Otley (Tom Bell) who was a thorn in her side during Prime Suspect 1. But the hunt for the killer soon brings these two investigators deeper into the seedy world of male child prostitution.

Disc 4: Prime Suspect 4: Part One – “The Lost Child” (101:33)

    The apparent abduction of a child leads newly promoted Detective Superintendent Tennison to suspect the involvement of a convicted paedophile now living with a family with two young daughters. But will her aggressive tactics lead to a confrontation that will backfire on her?

Disc 5: Prime Suspect 4: Part Two – “Inner Circles” (101:44)

    An apparent bungled burglary that ends in a murder becomes the lead case for Supt. Tennison. However, the burglary motive is quickly discounted and Tennison finds herself plunged into a world of privilege and money with all the secrets that come incumbent, and a class war in the brewing.

Disc 6: Prime Suspect 4: Part Three – “Scent Of Darkness” (101:15)

    A spate of killings reminiscent of those in Prime Suspect 1 leads Supt. Tennison to the unpleasant conclusion that she may have convicted the wrong person. But will her obsession with the case lead to her to errors that may cost her her career?

Disc 7: Prime Suspect 5 – “Errors Of Judgment” (239:44)

    After the events of “Scent Of Darkness”, Tennison moves to Manchester where she is quickly caught up in gang warfare. However, as she tries desperately to convict those responsible for the heinous series of reprisal killings, she becomes increasingly more suspicious that there is a leak inside her unit.

    The verdict? (no pun intended)

    Prime Suspect 1 and Prime Suspect 3 are by far the best, having been penned by series creator Lynda LaPlante herself. While the others certainly have their moments, they seem very drawn out by comparison. Prime Suspect 5 is probably the best of the non-LaPlante instalments, but it has a different feel to the others.

    Helen Mirren is her usual intense self, and plays her role very well, although there is little progression in her character – she stays just as hard edged and driven as she is at the outset and keeps on sleeping with all the wrong people right up until the end.

    Overall, if you are a fan of British crime, this is really top of the line stuff, even if it pales by comparison to modern American crime shows such as C.S.I. (the Las Vegas incarnation, not C.S.I.: Miami) and the stunning spy thriller series Spooks which pumps everything up a notch and makes Prime Suspect look slow and procedural. While I am still more a fan of the crime writing of James Ellroy, Prime Suspect does what it sets out to do by illustrating that most police work is quite dry and requires persistence more than anything else.

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Transfer Quality


    This transfer is presented in 1.33:1, Full Frame, which was the original broadcast aspect ratio, except for Prime Suspect 3 which is presented in 1.77:1 Letterbox, non-16x9 enhanced.

    Colours are fairly well balanced, but this show has a definite ‘real world’ feel, much like the British TV mini-series Traffik, and so it is not meant to have that Hollywood gloss effect. The richness of the colour does increase, though, as the technology used to film the series progresses.

    The image is surprisingly well rendered with rich detail and excellent clarity. My only criticism is that at times the picture seemed a little soft, and there was some very faint film grain noticeable in the background of some shots. However, this was never terribly distracting and it is obvious that much effort was made in order to achieve the best possible picture.

    Shadow detail is very good, but some texture detail is nevertheless lost, though this fault is largely due to the darkness of the source material and the insistence on the use of natural lighting to give the ‘real world’ effect the producers were after.

    Thankfully, there are no MPEG artefacts, and film-to-video transfer artefacts are extremely minimal with only some rare aliasing that does not really rate a mention.

    Dirt was a bit of a problem, especially during the opening credits of each show. The title cards used must have been dropped on the floor prior to being used because they are filthy. The image cleans up a lot throughout each of the shows and after the credits dirt is rare and non-distracting.

    The dual-layer pauses are at:

Discs 4, 5, & 6 are all single-sided, single-layered discs, and hence do not have dual-layer pauses.

    Oddly enough, there are no subtitles, and I can only surmise that this may have been an omission to save space on the discs and thereby fit each of the movies on one disc (they are generally split across two discs in Region 1).

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Audio is available in English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo only. Given that this is a dialogue and dramatic performance driven series scripted and made for TV, these audio limitations are hardly a surprise.

    This transfer is reasonable, with the clarity in the dialogue reproduced very well. There were no real audio sync issues that I noticed.

    The score, which is infrequently used in the early instalments, but progressively more relied upon, has a generally well-rounded feel.

    There is very limited use of directional cues in the early mini-series, but the later instalment get progressively better, and there is a fair amount of left-right directional use in Prime Suspect 5.

    There is no subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    All menus are presented in 1.33:1 Full Frame. They are static and silent.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Currently, the Prime Suspect series is not available in a box set in R1 and each instalment must be purchased individually. The 6th and final part of the series is to be released in the US on 18 May 2004. As yet there do not appear to be plans to release the 6th series in R4. Other than that, the R1 version has been censored (see below) and is formatted for NTSC playback. Although there is a benefit to being able to choose which of the instalments you might want to own, I am still going to give this one to the R4 release.


    Prime Suspect is an intense and quite realistic set of mini-series. The first and third are by far the best, but the others still have their merits and are certainly worth a watch if you are a crime drama fan.

    The video transfer is different for each instalment in terms of quality and style, but on the whole is consistently good, particularly for a series this old.

    The 2.0 Dolby Stereo audio track suffices but a creepier tone could have been achieved with a 5.1 Dolby Digital audio mix.

    Sadly, there are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

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