Father Brown (2019)/Classic Father Brown (1974) on BritBox Streaming

Nov 9, 2019 | 2019 Articles, Kathleen Costa, Mysteryrat's Maze, TV

by Kathleen Costa

BritBox is one of my favorite streaming options for movies and television programs any Anglophile will find satisfying, compelling, and very entertaining. From vintage 1970s detective dramas and comedies to current 2019 mysteries and sit-coms, I have enjoyed hours and hours binging wonderful shows from England to Scotland from Down Under to Up North. For my personal convenience I choose an annual subscription fee, since I don’t see any reason I would ever suspend my membership, but for others the monthly fee option might be preferred. Either way both are very reasonable. Anyone can forgo a latte a month in exchange for “calorie free” entertainment, right?

Man in Black…Father Brown!
For the past six-weeks, I have been enjoying two very different incarnations of G.K. Chesterton’s iconic Catholic priest, Father Brown. First, the more popular version, starring Mark Williams (Harry Potter’s Mr. Weasley), is currently airing ten-episodes of 2019 season seven. Earlier seasons have aired on local PBS stations (KVIE-Sacramento), but only season seven is airing on BritBox. Additionally, I was eager to compare it to the thirteen episodes from the 1974 classic starring Kenneth More. Both have their own interpretations of Chesterton’s fictional priest with differences in time period, production style, and supporting characters, but the older version seems adapted more closely to the original short stories.

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Mark Williams as Father Brown

Father Brown is the literary creation of English author G.K. Chesterton, and it is said, based on the Rt. Rev. Monsignor John O’Conner who was key in Chesterton’s conversion to Catholicism in 1922. Chesterton describes his iconic character as a “short, stumpy Roman Catholic priest, with shapeless clothes, a large umbrella, and an uncanny insight into human evil.” Between 1910-1936, fifty-one short shorts set in the 1920s were published with two more published posthumously. First appearing in The Blue Cross, Father Brown is joined by Aristide Valentin, head of the Paris Police, and M. Hercule Flambeau, who appeared in forty-eight stories as a jewel thief and later convinced to give up his life of crime to become a detective. The books seem different from the television series, but I enjoyed Chesterton’s style and creativity, and while reading, I see Mark Williams in my mind’s eye.

Father Brown (2019) earns 5+/5 Bicycles…Totally Engaging Cozy Fun!
Set in the late 1950s, Father Brown continues to hold services, partake in parish business, and attend to his congregation at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the Cotswold village of Kembleford. Of course, the quaint community is plagued with mayhem and suspicious deaths enticing Father Brown to uncover the hard truths, but always at loggerheads with the local inspector, who after witnessing Father Brown’s success rate still can’t take his advice or ask for his assistance. From Mrs. McCarthy and Lady Felicia (guest star Nancy Carroll) being kidnapped to disharmony among the local bell ringers, from ghosts to secrets to a cold case putting Father Brown in personal peril, from the return of a former inspector actually biting the bullet to ask Father Brown for his help to Mrs. McCarthy’s too-good-to-be-true suitor, from anarchists to ramblers to Lady Felicia’s lifestyle being threatened, Father Brown, often with Bunty and Mrs. McCarthy in tow, always finds the killer, but like Christie, the conclusion is sometimes not one your inner Sherlock could uncover…oh well, fun nonetheless!

Season seven has ten 45-minute episodes with Mark Williams reprising his role as the title character, and supporting characters from season six also returning: Mrs. McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack), Honourable “Bunty” Windermere (Emer Kenny), Inspector Mallory (Jack Deam), and Sergeant Goodfellow (John Burton). The mysteries have maintained the same cozy formula: introducing the crime early, depicting several suspects, some peril, and a clever conclusion. Inspector Mallory always leaps to conclusions, but Sergeant Goodfellow tries his best to point him in Father Brown’s direction. It was fun to have Lady Felicia return in two episodes along with Inspector Sullivan (Tom Chambers), but I so miss Sidney “Sid” Carter (Alex Price) with his snarky attitude, deep friendship, and locksmith skill making breaking and entering easier.

Kenneth More as Father Brown

Father Brown (1974) earns 5/5 Black Cappello Romanos…Vintage Entertainment!
Set in the 1920s, this classic Father Brown exhibits a darker, well at least grayer, interpretation, and Kenneth More gives a more realistic performance, less cozy. The thirteen 50+ minute episodes are based more accurately on Chesterton’s short stories, and for comparison, several of the episodes were also used in the more recent series. Some might criticize the vintage appearance as too vintage…old, but I found the settings, the costuming, and reoccurring and guest stars reminiscent of the Saturday British shows I enjoyed as a teenager.

Did you know? Alec Guinness (Star Wars Obi Wan Kenobi) played Father Brown in a 1954 movie titled “The Detective.” It is loosely based on The Blue Cross with co-stars Peter Finch as Flambeau, Joan Greenwood as Lady Warren, Cecil Parker as the Bishop, and Bernard Lee as Inspector Valentine. Father Brown tries to transport an important artifact to Rome and goes afoul of an elusive master of disguises, but his faith has him making the effort to turn Flambeau away from a life of crime.

Father Brown Complete Collection (Amazon Bestseller Kindle)
The Complete Father Brown Collection (Audiobook 41 hrs 28 mins)

Free Trial Offer on BritBox?
Check out the website for any free trial offers…just imagine what you can watch in a week. You’ll be hooked! The monthly fee is very reasonable to continue as a member.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play. A new episode went up this week.

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Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is a 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying her retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband.


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