DVD Review: NERO WOLFE (MHz Realeasing)

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by Dale Reynolds on March 8, 2019



Crime shows do not always have to be violent, sexist or hyper-exciting to be loved. But if they’re not those, then they’d better have strong storytelling and visual acuity to make their mark. Rex Stout (1886-1975) created the character of Nero Wolfe, an overweight, misogynistic, gourmand and armchair detective in 1934, publishing 33 novels and 41 novellas and short stories — mostly using his renowned Wolfe and his bright and handsome assistant, Archie Goodwin — until his death in 1975; the books were a humongous triumph and Stout made a fortune off of his character, who has been the center of many different screen versions. This latest television adaptation — from Italy’s Rai Fiction production company — keeps the characters and the plots of the detective mysteries, but has made an unpardonable sin with them: they’re dull.

Certainly there is an audience for safe, non-swearing, non-sexual fare, such as the amazing success of the American series Murder She Wrote (starring Angela Lansbury) and the Italian Don Matteo (with Terence Hill). But by making the two leads be from New York City placed in Rome in 1959, the producers have kept the shell but softened the red meat of the books to something like gooey custard. Sweet but unhealthy, shall we say.

This one season of Nero Wolfe is decidedly in the vein of the previously mentioned homogenized TV shows. Beautifully shot and authentically acted — if lacking subtlety — these eight episodes still center on the mysterious tastes of the clever detective, fat, late 50s, a lover of food (much to the bewilderment of his put-upon chef), keeper of a fabulous orchid collection, and solver of mysteries, murder and otherwise.

Brilliant but grumpy, Nero (Francesco Pannofino), ably-assisted by Archie (Pietro Sermonti) and chef Nanni Laghi (American-born Andy Luotto), the duo solves crimes and eats well. The series only lasted one season in 2012. No audience? Dunno. Maybe it’ll do better streaming on MHz.

If the above-described is of your taste, indulge yourselves. Otherwise, stay clear.

Nero Wolfe
Rai Fiction/MHz Choice Releasing
Italian with English Subtitles
region 1 NTSC for use in U.S. DVD players
4 discs | 770 minutes | released April 24, 2018
available at MHz Releasing or Amazon

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