Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

Armchair Thriller
Vol 2 - A Dog's Ransom


Starring: Benjamin Whitrow and Gina Reynolds
RRP: £12.99
Certificate: 12
Available 21 January 2008

When a middle class couple’s dog is stolen and held for ransom by a polish psychopath, Kowajinski, the police appear to be disinterested in solving the crime. Thankfully an ambitious police constable, Clarence, decides to go behind the back of the local CID to solve the crime on his own. But even when he finds the dognapper things do not go as planned...

A Dog’s Ransom (1978), directed by Donald McWhinnie, is another tale from the hugely successful Armchair Theatre series which ran from 1956 and continued in various guises, producing 457 plays, until it finally ended in 1980.

The series became the jumping off point for many of the famous shows from the seventies such as Callan and The Sweeny. Originally transmitted live, this was stopped when an actor died during a broadcast.

The story was adapted by John Bowen from a novel by Patricia Highsmith, although the action has been moved from Manhatten to London.

The six part story is not what you would think. The kidnapping of the dog and the subsequent arrest of the criminal is only the starting point for a story about police corruption, the inefficiency of the court system and murder. The focus shifts to Clarence, the PC with good intention. The CID, having been made to look bad after Clarence solves the case, make a false accusation against him - that he took fifty pounds as a bribe to let Kowajinski go. When the court lets Kowajinski free, he starts to harass Clarence and his girlfriend, this ends their relationship and in a moment of madness Clarence accidentally hits Kowajinski, who is subsequently found dead. But did he do it? And if so can he get away with it?

Oddly enough the show reminded me very much of Life on Mars, with the ambitious university educated PC being accused of being a homosexual just because of his background and the CID coming over as blunt sexist racist thugs who call Clarence "girly". Clarence’s girlfriend, Marion, a social worker, refers to the police as "fuzz" and displays an automatic dislike for them, even though she is dating Clarence and helped him find the dognapper.

Overall this is a great drama, full of well acted parts, that keeps you on your toes. Just when you think you have a handle on what is going on the plot takes another twist and you’re off in a different direction. One of the nice things about the story it that the six part format allows the tension to build up very slowly, which enables the production to layer the tension to a spectacular end, that you’re never going to figure out before it happens.

The 4:3 picture is surprisingly good given the age of the show, audio is mono. There are no extras on the DVDs.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£12.74 (
£9.99 (
£8.49 (
£11.99 (
£10.93 (
£10.43 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.