Georges Simenon was an insanely prolific writer. His fiction output dwarfs even Isaac Asimov’s with over 500 novels and uncountable short stories and novellas. He was able to write up to 80 pages a day! I can’t even type that fast. Seventy-six of the novels were about his beloved character Jules Maigret, a detective with the Parisian Police Judiciare. Maigret stories have been adapted to film and TV around 75 times. These are the most recent. They are four full-length movies, made for TV, all taken from the novels. They are Maigret Sets a Trap, Maigret’s Dead Man, Maigret’s Night at the Crossroads, and Maigret in Montmartre.
This production is kind of funny when you know all about it. I mean, here are a bunch of English people playing French people, and it was all shot … in Budapest! The budgets were not huge, so the same locations had to do double or even triple duty. There is a “Tabac” sign that appears in way too many different streets. But it works okay as Paris, with French posters plastered over all the old walls.
These four movies are all excellent, well-written and well-acted by the British cast. And of course the critical thing in stories like these is, who is playing Maigret, and how well is he doing it? The answer to the first is almost shocking. Who would you get to play this quiet but deadly man? Why, how about one of the funniest men on the planet, best known for the acerbic Blackadder and the insane Mr. Bean? Rowan Atkinson! It seems he is a major Maigret fan, and he does a splendid job. It only took me a few minutes to accept him in the role, forgetting about all his previous comic antics. It is his first “serious” role and he plays it just perfectly. I couldn’t have asked for better. We enjoyed these four stories immensely, and wish there were more.