Sunday, September 24, 2017

Doctor Blake Mysteries: “Crossing the Line” (December Media, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ITC, 2014)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2017 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

I put on a Doctor Blake Mysteries episode on PBS: “Crossing the Line” from 2014, set in 1958 and depicting a fire in the projection room of the local movie theatre (which is showing, of all films, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo — not exactly a non-mainstream movie but still pretty recherché fare for a small-town theatre in the Australian outback) which kills its projectionist, Adam Summers (Ted Stryke). In an anachronistic mistake I red-flagged on, a firefighter tries to revive Summers with CPR — which didn’t exist until the 1960’s. The cops initially suspect the owner of the theatre trying to burn the place down for the insurance, but eventually Dr. Lucien Blake (Craig McLachlan) deduces that the fire was actually started because Patrick Tyneman (John Wood), spoiled son of local land baron Edward Tyneman (Lee Beckhurst), had formed a ring to make and show pornographic movies, shooting them at a local estate his dad had given him and forcing people, like the usher at the theatre (who, in a touch that really dates this movie, is shown walking the aisles of the theatre selling cigarettes as well as popcorn!), to be his on-screen talent by blackmailing them. In her case, Patrick had loaned her brother a large sum of money to start a business which had failed, and Patrick offered to “forgive” the debt if she would agree to let herself get fucked before his cameras. Adam Summers was part of this gang because he owned a 16 mm projector and provided the expertise needed to show the films, and though they promised they wouldn’t show them outside of the town of Ballarat, where the Doctor Blake stories take place, in fact they exhibited them all over the country — and the reluctant porn star’s dad happened to see one of them at a stag party he went to and, while everyone else was laughing and having a great time, he was so ashamed at seeing his daughter doing it on screen he determined to have his revenge, first killing Summers and then Patrick. When Patrick’s dad finds out what he’s accused of he pulls the family attorney he’d assigned Patrick and essentially disowns his son, leaving him on his own to face the consequences of his actions for the first time in his life. This wasn’t the best Doctor Blake episode I’ve seen but the show remains reliably entertaining and has that odd reticence that makes British mysteries so appealing (and it’s revealing that the one murder that takes place is committed by rendering the victim unconscious and then locking him in a sealed room and starting a fire — no gunplay or literal bloodshed).