Review: Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears

Miss Fisher

On Sunday evening, March 29th, we streamed the new feature film, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears from Acorn. This is a follow-on to the well-regarded Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries produced for Australian television. The “Miss Fisher” of the title is The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, played by Essie Davis. Phryne grew up rough, tough, and poor, until a distant cousin in England popped off, and an heir search found Phryne’s father the only claimant to a barony and sizable fortune. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries are popular with Steampunks because of the period biplanes, steam trains, motorcars, and motorcycles that provide the ambiance of whole episodes, and because of Phryne’s fabulous wardrobe, and fabulous attitude.

The TV series shows Phryne coming back to live in Melbourne, Australia, as a lady of leisure. However, she has a nose for trouble and a mind to help out, which leads her to set up an unofficial practice as a private detective. Thoroughly liberated, Phryne can fight, shoot, drive a car and fly a plane. She is rather a 1920’s version of Modesty Blaise, including having a long string of conveniently placed friends and lovers, in both high places and low, none of whom seem to be jealous of the others, or possessive of Phryne. That is, of course, with the exception of the strait-laced Dectective Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page) of the Melbourne Police, for whom Phryne goes from being an annoyance to an obsession. (Miss Fisher’s favorite weapon is a gold-plated revolver, referencing the one wielded by Emma Peel/Diana Rigg in the famous The Avengers TV opening sequence, doing homage to another of Phryne’s ancestresses–.)

Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears moves the main action from Australia to Palestine in 1929, which politically is a seething cauldron of resentment barely suppressed by the tyrannical British Authority. Phryne risks her life to free a young woman (Izabella Yena) from jail, and indeed is reported to have been killed in the escape.

Cut then, to England, where a memorial service is in progress, and it turns out reports of Mis Fisher’s death have been “exaggerated.” However, when Phryne tries to follow up the mysterious killing of the girl’s village ten years before, death and intrigue intervene. The trail leads back to the Palestinian desert and a climax that’s more like Indiana Jones than the usual Miss Fisher adventure, using many of the classic adventure picture tropes.

This was a very enjoyable feature, and it was fun to see Ms. Davis in action as Miss Fisher again. However, I rather missed the Australian milieu and the supporting characters like Dot, Bert, and Cec, who only have cameos.

Recommended for fans of the series. It does stand alone adequately, but you would be missing a lot of context.

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