THE SINGING DETECTIVE
(1986, Six Episodes each of about 60 Minutes)
Dennis Potter’s compelling, wonderfully surreal six-part musical miniseries probes the mind of cynical mystery writer Philip E. Marlow, who’s bedridden in a hospital with a debilitating case of psoriasis when he begins to fantasize that he’s a crooning 1940s gumshoe in one of his pulp novels. Blurred with his hallucinations are reflections from his troubled childhood. The Peabody-winning production first aired on the BBC in 1986.
TRAILER . . . . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UlPzVzf8rA#t=33s
WIKIPEDIA . . . . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Singing_Detective
IMDb . . . . . . . . . https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090521/?ref_=nv_sr_2
REVIEW . . . . . . https://www.theguardian.com/singing-detective-bbc4
EPISODE 1 – SKIN (Click on for full screen in YouTube, Esc to return)
Writer Philip Marlow is in hospital being treated for a severe skin affliction, something he has suffered from for 25 years but is now worse than it has ever been. He finds himself in a general ward with a group of other men being treated for a variety of ailments. Marlow’s psoriasis covers him from head to toe and even the slightest movement proves extremely painful.The doctors have tried numerous treatments and medication, but to no avail. His only relief, ever so slight, is to have his body greased from head to toe even though he is embarrassed at his reaction when the pretty Nurse Mills tends to him. Unable to use his hands, he nonetheless keeps working on a novel by imagining the events. In wartime London, Mark Binney goes to a sleazy nightclub where he leaves with two of the girls working there. One of them is later fished out of the Thames.
EPISODE 2 – HEAT (Click on for full screen in YouTube, Esc to return)
After 10 or 11 weeks in the hospital, Marlow has a session with a psychiatrist, Dr. Gibbon, that does not go well. Gibbon believes that the root of Marlow’s skin disorder is psychological and that he will not heal until he deals with his inner demons. Marlow recalls events, real or imagined, from his childhood growing up in a coal mining community. His father’s singing, his beautiful mother’s piano playing and the taunts from classmates. He also recalls encountering his mother in the woods with a man. In his novel, Mark Binney hires Marlow the private detective on the recommendation of his solicitor. He’s spent the night with the Russian, Sonia, and now she’s nowhere to be seen. He’s even been told by the police, who didn’t believe him when he said two men were watching his flat, not to disappear.
EPISODE 3 – LOVELY DAYS (Click on full screen in YouTube, Esc to return)
Marlow recalls the last days of World War II and a train journey with his mother when they visited her family. He again recalls his mother going into the woods and having sex with a man they know, Raymond. When soldiers on the train try to get friendly with her, he lashes out. At the hospital, he has another session with the psychiatrist, Dr. Gibbon, who questions if Marlow really wants to get better. His condition is slightly improved however and he’s now able to light his own cigarette. In his re-imagined novel, Marlow and Mark Binney have a row after the investigator questions his source of income. Binney pays him off and tells him to take a hike. When a woman who wants to speak to him urgently is shot, he learns that the sleazy nightclub Binney visited is a front for something sinister.
EPISODE 4 – CLUES (Click on for full screen in YouTube, Esc to return)
In his novel, Marlow has contacted the police and they have taken the dead woman away. He suspects that Mark Binney, who admitted that his visit to the nightclub wasn’t entirely by chance. Marlow decides to test Amanda as she leaves the club and he now finds himself under surveillance by the two trench coat-wearing hoods who were keeping an eye on Binney. As a young lad, Philip and his mother are visiting her parents in London. His mother tells him that his father will be joining them soon but the reaction of the others suggests otherwise. At school, Philip’s teacher is aghast at what one of the student has left on her desk. Philip becomes the object of her interrogation. At the hospital, Marlow’s psoriasis is showing constant improvement. His ex-wife Nikola visits him with news that a film company wants to option his novel, The Singing Detective. He really doesn’t want to see her and tells her he had already written a screenplay. She knows that already, but doesn’t let on as she is quite obviously hiding something.
EPISODE 5 – PITTER PATTER (Click on full screen in YouTube, Esc to return)
In the hospital, Marlow’s ex-wife pays him another visit clearly intent on getting him to sign a contract to option his book The Singing Detective, the screenplay for which her friend Mark Finney will try peddle as his own. Marlow begins to wonder if paranoia is setting in when when he sees two trench coat-wearing hoods – characters as imagined in his novel – in the ward. One of the ward patients, Reginald is impressed that the author of the book he’s reading is a fellow patient. Philip’s psoriasis is also getting better but he disagrees with Dr. Gibbon about whether their sessions are worthwhile. He also recalls when, as a 10 year-old, he first developed his psoriasis and his mother finally admits to him that his father will never be joining them. He in turn asks if it’s because of what she did in the woods with Raymond Binney, father of Mark Binney the boy he identified as having left a little surprise on the teacher’s desk.
EPISODE 6 – WHO DONE IT (Click on for full screen in YouTube, Esc to return)
In the final episode of the series, memories of Marlow’s childhood, his dreams and the events in his re-imagined novel collide with present day reality. Marlow continues his sessions with the psychiatrist, Dr. Gibbon and recalls his return to his Dad after the death of his mother. He reveals the lie from his school days that lead to a classmate, Mark Binney, being severely beaten by their teacher. The events and characters in his re-imagined novel are blended into his childhood memories, his fantasies about his ex-wife and her lover, the outcome of the novel and his medical condition.