Nathan Page

Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (2020, Tony Tilse)

At no point does Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears introduce viewer unfamiliar with star Essie Davis’s television show, to which this film’s a sequel, “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.” The movie opens with an action sequence setting up Davis as an exquisitely dressed combination of Indiana Jones and James Bond. The action—a title card tells us—starts in 1929 Palestine, where the British are mucking things up for the native people… Crypt of Tears is anti-British Imperialism… but from an Australian bent.

Davis rescues Izabella Yena, who’s in British jail for snooping around the destruction of her village ten years before. During the rescue sequence, Davis evades police in a rooftop chance and has a bunch of costume changes. It’s overindulgent and flamboyant but enthusiastic. It’s fun to watch Davis get to do an exaggerated character schtick thanks to the bigger movie budget.

Until they get to the CGI train sequence and it’s clear while Crypt of Tears might have a “movie budget,” it doesn’t have anywhere near a big enough one. The film tries and tries with the desert visuals, which does showcase Margot Wilson’s costuming, albeit not so much in the digital extreme long shots, but they’re always just there. Production designer Robbie Perkins does well, so at least Tears always looks good.

Until the end, which is more cinematographer Roger Lanser and director Tilse’s fault.

Anyway. After Yena’s rescue, the movie goes through some plot hoops to bring series love interest and Davis sidekick Nathan Page to England. There’s a single scene in Australia with the TV show’s cast, but since the movie’s not really a direct sequel to the series… they’re all just doing forced cameos. The movie’s not going to involve the TV cast (save Page, and him in very supporting role), though it’s fun seeing Miriam Margolyes if you’re a TV fan.

Once Davis and Page are reunited, there’s a laborious setup with the… residents of the house where Davis is staying in England. It’s as exciting as it sounds, as Tears becomes a traditional location-bound mystery, kind of a protracted, but somewhat suspect limited Agatha Christie.

Somehow the movie, with its TV show-experienced director and screenwriter (Deb Cox), manages to avoid all the show’s familiar tropes and go instead with bland mystery movie ones. Page being background would be understandable if they were spotlighting Davis as an action hero, but they don’t. We get a bunch with the suspects, who are extremely flat.

Maybe because they’re shooting Australia for England? Rupert Penry-Jones is the single Brit in the cast. Or is it just the suspects aren’t movie dynamic enough? Yena seems like she’s going to have a very obvious woman’s empowerment arc with Davis as her mentor but then she’s just… around. The movie doesn’t do anything with her. There aren’t any subplots for the suspects, if any questions do get raised outside the main plot, they don’t get answered.

The mystery is… blah.

To someone unfamiliar with the show, Tears is just going to be a confusing and often very charming—it’s not like Davis isn’t great or Page isn’t adorable—not great period mystery with TV movie CGI special effects (think CW, not HBO), but as a “big screen” effort from the show creators… it’s a disappointment. It’s like they targeted a very specific audience and gave them something intended for the general audience they decided to exclude.

Also most frustrating is how the fumble is probably going to kill any sequel possibilities. More Davis and Page isn’t going to ever be a bad thing, you just wish it had been a good thing in Tears.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Tony Tilse; screenplay by Deb Cox, based on characters created by Kerry Greenwood; director of photography, Roger Lanser; edited by Stephen Evans; music by Greg Walker; production designer, Robbie Perkins; costume designer, Margot Wilson; produced by Fiona Eagger and Lucy Maclaren; released by Roadshow Films.

Starring Essie Davis (Phryne Fisher), Nathan Page (Detective Inspector Jack Robinson), Rupert Penry-Jones (First Lieutenant Jonathon Lofthouse), Izabella Yena (Shirin Abbas), Ian Bliss (Professor Linnaeus), Daniel Lapaine (Lord Lofthouse), Jacqueline McKenzie (Lady Eleanor Lofthouse), Kal Naga (Sheikh Kahlil Abbas), John Waters (Vincent Montague), John Stanton (Crippins), and Miriam Margolyes (Prudence Stanley).


Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s03e08 – Death Do Us Part

I didn’t realize until five episodes into Season Three there were only eight episodes this season. I knew it was the final season, but I didn’t realize it was a short final season. Director Daina Reid handles the series finale with aplomb; there’s a list of things the show seems like it’s going to get done in the last episode and then the list of things we hope it’ll get done. Writer Kris Wyld creates a lot of tension between the two, with Ashleigh Cummings and Hugo Johnstone-Burt’s nuptials seemingly the only positive guaranteed element. Not because it’s really part of the plot, just because… well, just because.

But the other inevitability is villain Colin Moody. His vendetta against Essie Davis’s no account, albeit royalty and wealthy father, Pip Miller, is drawing a lot of blood and quite viciously. Moody’s physically imposing, but he has this standing energy about him. Moody’s dangerous in every frame in every scene, even when he’s hanging out with an old friend. Like, sincere friend. It’s incredible what the show’s able to get away with as far as performance sincerity when the viewer’s got more of the facts to Moody’s violence.

There’s also a regular mystery—with Moody somehow involved—with a noted scientist (David James), who plays a character named Tode but it’s pronounced toad so the whole episode is the cast talking about Professor Toad. It’s very Wind in the Willows. Anyway. He gets killed off in some strange way by someone, possibly even local Catholic priest, Dennis Coard, which would be one hell of a twist, wouldn’t it?

Cummings is beside herself—even with everyone in danger, including herself—at the idea of now revealed to be un-Christian to scientists Coard being the one to marry her. It’s very cute. There’s only so much time for Cummings this episode and she does get a very nice finish to her series arc, so the cute little moments are nice to have.

The episode’s so full there’s no time for Miriam Margoyles and Tammy Macintosh didn’t get her episode this season. Having her around more was okay but not a substitute. Ruby Rees never made it back, leaving Jane the either.

As for Essie Davis and Nathan Page… how do the Honorable Phryne Fisher and Inspector Jack Robinson leave things? As successfully as they can. Wyld finds a certain way of framing things to get it done. Maybe not the hoped for, but better than the good enough. I’m sitting here with a smile thinking about it.

It’d be preferable to have more “Miss Fisher’s,” but as is… it’s just right. Enough.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s03e07 – Game, Set & Murder

Given it’s the penultimate episode, I don’t feel too bad about generally picking the murder from the opening scenes. There are just certain “Miss Fisher’s” tropes in play—it’s episode thirty-three overall—and there are certain things the show’s never done and if it’s going to do them, now’s the time.

And I didn’t have any predictions on motive or whatnot. It was just… a sense of how things were going to go.

Essie Davis is throwing a tennis tournament at (away) Aunt Prudence’s estate, hosting old friend Jeremy Lindsay Taylor and his new wife, Lauren Williams. Williams is one of the best tennis players in the country, second only to American Ella Scott Lynch (who’s not American but better than usual with the Aussies playing Americans on the show). Ashleigh Cummings is a big fan of Williams, which leads to some fun awkward scenes.

But another thing the show finally gets around to addressing is whether or not Davis has an actual fears. It finds one for her in the murder method, leading to some more fantastic scenes for Nathan Page and Davis. Speaking of Page and Davis, there’s a really nice subplot about his support of her professionally when they get in trouble thanks to a lurking paparazzi (Fletcher Humphrys). Page also goes out in support for finally back Hugo Johnstone-Burt—was he busy during filming this season or something—as Johnstone-Burt and Cummings get to prepare for their impending nuptials with a little more security.

It’s a complicated plot involving mistaken victim targeting, some women’s rights issues—Australia doesn’t pay for women’s international sports travel but does pay for the men’s—old romances, and so on. There’s also Scott Lynch coming on to Page with an intensity to do rival Davis.

Elizabeth Coleman’s script is thorough and careful—the mystery and red herrings all get unpacked with just the right amount of detail—and the finish is sufficiently complicated for the characters involved. Really good supporting performance from Williams.

And Davis and Page finale is quite cute.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s03e06 – Death at the Grand

It’s a single location mystery, which is always a lot of fun on “Miss Fisher’s.” Though this single location mystery turns out to be an incredibly dangerous one. It’s the local Grand Hotel, which is no longer as grand as it used to be; someone throws the concierge (Nick Mitchell) off the roof and he’s holding onto a bag belong to one Miss Phryne Fisher, which is a big surprise to everyone. Including Essie Davis, who didn’t even know the bag was missing.

It doesn’t take long for Davis and sidekick Nathan Page—seriously, it’s fine, but Page really doesn’t get anything his own this season—to discover the mystery involves theft, gambling, and one Baron Henry Fisher (Pip Miller). Miller’s Davis’s estranged father, who’s supposed to be being responsible with his money but instead losing it in a rigged poker game to intensely creepy poker hustler, Goran D. Kleut.

Kleut wants the money Miller owes him and is apparently willing to get violent to get it. Hotel owner Nell Feeney is little help to the investigation, so Davis installs Ashleigh Cummings in the lobby to actively snoop. And this time, new constable Henry Hammersla is more than willing to learn from Cummings’s superior detecting abilities. Maybe a little bit too willing to learn… especially since Cummings hasn’t heard from Hugo Johnstone-Burt lately.

But while Davis and Fisher are convinced the murder has something to do with hotel-related Feeney, Kleut, or maid Michala Banas, the audience knows it’s creepy Colin Moody. Moody always in the background, lurking, as he starts stalking Davis, who’s got zero idea she ought to be worried about him. Moody’s less creepy than Kleut, which affects the tension, but not necessarily in a bad way—delaying Moody’s extremes just make them all the more effective later on.

Excellent direction from Mat King. There’s a phenomenal poker game sequence and he really does well giving the hotel a personality.

There’s a charming finish and a surprising development in Cummings’s lessons—it starts with her picking out her preferred gun for her adventurer career; plus Miriam Margoyles is around quite a bit, including some wonderfully comic moments.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s03e05 – Death & Hysteria

Even for an episode dealing with institutionalized misogyny, which are often the heaviest “Miss Fisher’s,” Death & Hysteria is close to the heaviest because it’s about a group of women being persecuted and threatened with forced hysterectomies for… enjoying orgasms. Ysabelle Dean’s script never gives a full exposition dump—in fact, the foreshadowing to what’s going on is just an expression from Tammy Macintosh—but once it’s clear what’s actually going on, the whole episode changes gears quite a bit.

It starts with Essie Davis very suspicious of doctors Philip Quast and Damon Gameau, who have set up in Miriam Margolyes’s house and turned it into a sanitarium for women suffering “female hysteria.” Margolyes—Davis’s aunt and one of the show’s most successful recurring characters—is loaning it to them following Quast’s successful care of her son, who’s recently passed away. We met the son in an episode first season. It’s real sad, particularly since we find out about it three weeks or so after his death; we don’t get to see Davis’s mourning, for instance. Instead, she’s just suspicious Quast is taking advantage.

Quast’s immediately suspicious because he and sidekick Gameau don’t charge any fees—they only take donations from their patients, who are exclusively wealthy women. More, once one of the patients dies, it turns out they’re also really big into getting estates left to them. For various reasons, no one is being forthcoming in the investigation—Quast and Gameau immediately lawyer up (a perfectly icky Gareth Reeves)—and Nathan Page’s breaking in a new constable, Henry Hammersla, who screws up the investigative team.

Hammersla believes women are inferior to men and doesn’t think Page ought to be listening to Davis, much less telling him to work with Ashleigh Cummings (Hugo Johnston-Burt doesn’t appear this episode, off somewhere fishing and trying to figure out his life).

It’s a complicated mystery, with lots of unsettling historical details about the “medical” treatment of women in 1920s Australia, high society or not.

The best part of the episode is Margolyes and her mourning arc. The show may’ve skipped the straight drama but integrates its aftermath quite well here, also giving Travis McMahon some to do. Davis had McMahon and Anthony J. Sharpe helping out Margoyles and there’s some wonderful stuff with McMahon and Margoyles.

There’s also a fantastic moment when Macintosh embarrasses Page for Davis’s benefit. The episode ends positive but it’s a heck of a trip getting there.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s03e04 – Blood & Money

“Miss Fisher’s,” as a rule, doesn’t do children in danger episodes. There’s been at least one other one, maybe another (but I don’t think really think so), but this episode opens with a kid buried in a shallow grave. It’s very intense right off.

Though it’s also got some post-war things to work through and they’re not as intense as usual so it sort of evens out.

Essie Davis’s client this episode–though Dr. Mac (Tammy Macintosh) is also going to have need of her)—is young Jarin Towney. He and his brother live on the very mean streets of Collingwood, where they hear of heroic Miss Fisher and her golden revolver. It’s pretty awesome to hear about the lore; Davis is a real-life (non-powered) superhero, she should have a fan club.

Towney’s aforementioned brother is missing; will Davis take the case and find him? Pretty soon, Macintosh is calling with some bad news—that dead boy in the shallow grave from the cold open? They find him near her hospital.

And it turns out there are three boys missing in total, so even if it’s not Towney’s brother, there’s still something very unpleasant going on.

The prime suspects are a nurse (Diana Glenn) and a severely disfigured war veteran (James O'Connell), who Davis and Ashleigh Cummings espy being up to strange shenanigans but maybe not illicit ones. Macintosh and her boss, Dan Spielman, are trying to get a donation to the hospital to fund a veteran rehabilitation program and the dead kids thing is really not helping. So Davis is doubly on the case.

And not just because she’s the Collingwood girl made (quite) good.

It’s a good mystery, with some excellent twists, and a decent enough finish. Besides the danger to the kids, there’s also the surprising unpleasantness of Hugo Johnstone-Burt’s subplot. He’s been cast out of home because of his conversion to Catholicism (for Cummings) and he’s keeping that situation secret from her. It’s the darkest Johnstone-Burt’s ever had to go and it’s rather affecting.

No drama for Nathan Page and Davis this episode, just the comfortable flirting—though there is a touch of some significant, which Cummings interrupts. It’s a good episode; Towney and Davis are excellent together.

When you think about it, it’s kind of a surprise she hasn’t assembled The Esplanade Peculiars yet. She does live at 221B, after all.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s03e03 – Murder & Mozzarella

So I thought this episode was one of those pre-1980s Mafia stories where they never referred to the Mafia by name because they call it the Camorra here but the Camorra is actually a different Italian criminal organization. The more you know.

Miss Fisher (Essie Davis) and Inspector Jack (Nathan Page)—or should I say, Inspector Johnny—versus the mob was not an episode of “Miss Fisher’s” I was expecting. But I also wasn’t expecting Page to have another chaste love interest… you get the impression he spends most nights drinking with Davis.

But no. He’s off at an Italian restaurant making eyes at comely widow Louisa Mignone, who’s making just as many eyes back. We finally get to see Davis jealous. And Page reveling in it; well, at least as much as Page would revel in it. Until things get serious with Mignone, whose restaurant is part of a feud.

Mignone’s father-in-law Vince D'Amico is both chef and mob boss and he says the other Italian restaurant has been stealing their recipes. Given the other restaurant’s chef, Annette Serene, is super-mean, it seems possible. In fact, D’Amico and his family are sure Serene’s family had D’Amico’s son (and Mignone’s husband) killed. Because they take cooking very seriously.

There’s also kids Danielle Horvat and Paul Pantano—then Robert Mammone, who’s Horvat’s father and Serene’s son-in-law—he’s also a widower—plus enforcer Alex Andreas.

It’s a very full episode, which director Peter Andrikidis maneuvers quite well. Especially since there’s also the big subplot about Ashleigh Cummings finally convincing Hugo Johnstone-Burt to convert to Catholicism and it turns out he’s all for it once he discovers Cummings has to do whatever he says because he’s the husband. Cummings, on the other hand, thinks maybe the Church has got that one wrong.

Really good performance this episode from Page—the closest he’s had to a showcase maybe ever—and the finale’s excellent.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s03e02 – Murder & the Maiden

Season three’s Jack (Nathan Page) jealousy is a lot less morose than previously. He’s jealous for Essie Davis’s history with Royal Australian Air Force captain Rodger Corser but it takes a while before Page lets it hinder he and Davis’s working relationship. Even when Corser’s withholding evidence in a murder case—a woman’s body is found outside the fence and the RAAF’s official position is it can’t have anything to do with them.

The mystery is a very complicated one, involving White Russians and Red Russians and the local communists and Fisher agent Travis McMahon’s potential girlfriend, Kasia Kaczmarek, and a missing pilot. Turns out the missing pilot was knocking boots with not missing pilot Tom Hobbs and the rest of the base—Corser aside, apparently—suffered a mass wave of homophobia.

Meanwhile, Hugo Johnstone-Burt wants to set the date for the wedding with Ashleigh Cummings but he also doesn’t want her to keep her job, which isn’t cool with her.

Also this episode—for the first time, I think—Davis refers to Cummings as her assistant, not her companion, suggesting Cummings becoming a detective in her own right. Very cool.

Shame the year is 1929 and Black Tuesday is imminent.

Davis does an excellent job with the Corser subplot; it takes most of the episode for their full history to come out and even Page can’t fret about it once he hears the whole story. Corser’s… fine, though a little less compelling a Phryne fellow than usual. He’s a bland flyboy type, which makes sense since they knew each other during the war, but he hasn’t got any of the burning internal passion. Maybe because he’s a bit too much of a dick to Page in the RAAF vs. coppers peeing contest.

But it all works out, with a very well-executed final action sequence—Tony Tilse’s direction is quite good—as well as a lovely finish.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s03e01 – Death Defying Feats

“Miss Fisher’s” season three premiered almost a year and a half after the second season concluded, so the opening run-through—confirming returning cast members and breaking the show’s usual murder sans Miss Fisher intro—makes sense. Ashleigh Cummings is at a magic show with Travis McMahon and Anthony J. Sharpe, Essie Davis is getting ready for her dinner date with Nathan Page; everything is as it should be.

Until Pip Miller (who isn’t Jon Voight but looks enough like him I thought they’d “scored” Voight as a guest star) shows up at Davis’s door and she cancels plans with Page… and when the guillotine act at the magic show results in an actual decapitation. Then everyone’s evening is ruined.

Davis and Page meet at the magic show and Page is in a bad mood because of the stood-up dinner date, which is going to be his subplot through most of the episode (at least until we find out more of the story with Miller, who’s the magic show’s new investor). But he’s glad to have Davis along, as she used to perform in magic shows and knows how the tricks work. So they can ascertain quickly the guillotine was tampered with and the magician’s assistant murdered.

Grant Piro’s the magician; he was also engaged to the victim. Other suspicious characters around the show are prop guy André de Vanny, contortionist Eloise Mignon (who’s gets a fantastic sequence), and Kate Mulvany. Mulvany’s father used to own the magic show and she’s been teaching de Vanny tricks, which suggests they might be trying to get the show back (to Davis and Page). But Mignon and de Vanny have something else going on too. So lots of suspects and entertaining ones.

Plus there’s Page being very jealous of de Vanny, Cummings taking her investigating up a notch—to the point beau Hugo Johnstone-Burt has to finally take notice of it and appreciate it—and then a fantastically tense conclusion.

Tammy Macintosh makes a couple appearances—she’s now the coroner, which is a great way to keep her around—and Miriam Margolyes, who’s also got history with Miller, is around. It’s a very fun, very steady episode, with some great twists and turns, both in the mystery and the subplots.

Though it really doesn’t seem like Johnstone-Burt and Cummings’s engagement has made much progress in the sixteen months since their last appearance… ditto Page and Davis, but with the latter it’s part of the charm, with the former… you just wish Johnstone-Burt would get his Protestant head out of his ass.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s02e13 – Murder Under the Mistletoe

Murder Under the Mistletoe is the “Miss Fisher’s” Christmas (in July) special I obviously needed but didn’t know I needed. The episode opens with Essie Davis taking the girls—Ashleigh Cummings, Miriam Margolyes, Tammy Macintosh—to a ski lodge; Southern Hemisphere, snowy summers. But when they get there, of course there’s a murder—people are finally giving Davis crap for finding murder wherever she goes—and then they get snowed in. So everyone’s trapped up there with a killer.

Lots of great suspects—Simon Burke, Greg Saunders, George Shevtsov, Alicia Gardiner, Sylvie de Crespigny. There’s also teenager Emily Milledge, who proves you can be Goth in the 1920s. There’s a big backstory—there was a mine collapse in 1919 and it killed a bunch of the workers; widow de Crespigny married mine co-manager Burke; who does he co-manage the mine with—Margolyes. There’s a lot of good Margolyes stuff this episode. Anyway… Milledge is de Crespigny’s daughter.

There are secrets and flashbacks and Ruby Rees coming home from school early and having to hang out with the boys (Richard Bligh, Travis McMahon, and Anthony J. Sharpe, which is adorable). Plus Macintosh gets a bunch to do and not just doctor stuff.

Great direction from Tony Tilse, really fun script from Elizabeth Coleman.

Nathan Page and Hugo Johnstone-Burt brave the snow storm to get to the lodge and assist in the investigation, but the episode focuses on the multiple suspects and the entire cast being in grave danger. There are numerous murders throughout, including one with a complicated Rube Goldberg setup to get the job done.

Really good villain.

Great postscript with the titular mistletoe figuring in.

It’s a perfect Christmas special.

Also—there’s a John Noble cameo; he plays Margoyles’s since deceased husband in the flashback scenes. It’s very cute to see Margoyles opposite a husband.

Oh, and Cummings—she’s doing the full investigating again. “Miss Fisher’s” season two—with this episode as its victory lap—did a lot of character development on Cummings. Did a little on everyone else, but a lot on her and rarely spotlighted it, just let it happen. Very nicely done indeed.

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