October 7, 2019  (Web Review)

Captain Marleau: Volume 1

MHz, 3 discs, 582 min., in French w/English subtitles, not rated, DVD: $39.99

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

This French TV series, seen stateside on MHz, features Corinne Masiero as the most unusual police inspector in the National Gendarmerie. Her decidedly fashion-challenged appearance–complete with oversized hunting cap–may call to mind Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson from Fargo, while her eccentric manner in conducting investigations makes her seem like the Gallic sister of Peter Falk’s Lieutenant Columbo. But while Captain Marleau might seem like a hodgepodge of more famous investigators, the series offers a delightful and wonderfully crafted line-up of mysteries, with Masiero bringing deceptive humor and a decidedly forceful personality into cracking the crimes that baffle her dullish colleagues. And not unlike Columbo episodes from years back, this series places famous stars at the center of the stories, allowing them to revel in admittedly over-the-top villainy: Gerard Depardieu, Bulle Ogier, Victoria Abril, and Sandrine Bonnaire are among the French film world A-listers who match wits with the eponymous captain but never quite manage to one-up her. As both a brain-teaser for would-be mystery solvers and a jolly vehicle for a delightful leading lady who should become better known on this side of the Atlantic, this is a treat. Compiling the first six episodes from the 2015-17 debut and sophomore seasons, this is highly recommended. (P. Hall)