Murder Most Horrid

Murder Most Horrid was a BBC black comedy anthology series starring comedian Dawn French. It ran for four series runs, in 1991, 1994, 1996 and 1999.

Created by Paul Smith, who also co-created Colin's Sandwich (with Terry Kyan, below) and has written for The Brittas Empire, among other programmes, the series starred French as a different character in each episode. Many episodes were directed by the noted director Bob Spiers, who also worked with French on The Comic Strip Presents... and French and Saunders.

Most episodes parodied the thriller and murder mystery genres with one notable episode lampooning the trials and tribulations of being a children's presenter in general, and Blue Peter in particular. In 1998, this episode ("Murder at Tea-Time") was repeated to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Blue Peter, as part of a section entitled Spoof Peter, which also featured (among others) the Python skit "How to Do It".

Each episode was standalone, and the episodes were written by different writers or writing teams with several contributing multiple episodes across the four series. Among these writers, the pairing of series-creator Paul Smith with Terry Kyan, (who had previously collaborated on Not the Nine O'clock News and Alas Smith and Jones) is particularly notable. The two would subsequently create and write Bonjour la Classe, starring Nigel Planer.

Other series writers included Private Eye editor and Have I Got News For You stalwart Ian Hislop; Press Gang's Steven Moffat, award-winning Children's author Anthony Horowitz, Nick Newman and John O'Farrell.

Episodes and Dawn French's characters

Series 1 (1991)

  • "The Case of the Missing" - with Dawn as WPC Diane Softly, traffic officer
  • The Girl from Ipanema - with Dawn as Maria, a Brazilian immigrant who moves in with the Howling family.
  • He Died a Death - with Dawn as Judy Talent, an actress in a play
  • "A Determined Woman" - with Dawn as Rita Proops, a scientist
  • Murder at Tea Time - with Dawn as Bunty Bresslaw, presenter of children's TV show 'Write Away'.
  • Mrs. Hat and Mrs. Red - with Dawn as Katie Hatcliffe and Sonya Redfern, two identical looking women with opposite personalities

# Title Writer Director Guest actors UK air date

Series 2 (1994)

  • Overkill - with Dawn as Tina Mellish, social worker turned reluctant assassin
  • "Lady Luck" - with Dawn as Denise Cunningham, hairdresser
  • "A Severe Case of Death" - with Dawn as Maude Jenkins / 'Dr Adams', Victorian maid turned cross-dressing doctor
  • "We All Hate Granny" - with Dawn as Lily Gibbs, grandmother
  • "Mangez Merveillac" - with Dawn as Verity Hodge, travel and cookery writer
  • "Smashing Bird" - with Dawn as Vicky, nightclub singer

Series 3 (1996)

Series 4 (1999)

  • Frozen - with Dawn as Lily Wood-Newton, churchgoer and pillar of the community
  • Going Solo - with Dawn as Tracey Phillips, yachtswoman
  • Whoopi Stone - with Dawn as Barbara Greaves / Whoopi Stone, police constable turned 'Queen of New York'
  • Confessions of a Murderer - with Dawn as Harriet Snellgrove, serial confessor and nuisance
  • Elvis, Jesus and Zack - with Dawn as Jill Tanner, head of the Obituaries Department at Broadcast One
  • Dinner at Tiffany's - with Dawn as Tiffany Drapes, school dinner lady

Notable guest stars

The Murders

Dawn French was usually the murderer or murder victim in each episode. The murders ranged from the straightforward to the bizarre, with the murder weapon shown on a pedestal during the end credits. The murders (and Dawn French's character's part in them) are listed below.

  • The Case of the Missing - Dawn is neither the murderer or the victim. The murder in this episode is committed by a group of Freemasons. Dawn plays a traffic cop, who is mysteriously put in charge of the murder case by the head of the freemasons in the area, The Burrough Commander. After eliminating all the suspects (who are very blatantly involved in the murder, although are all freemasons), Dawn finally accuses herself of the crime, because she is the only person without an alibi.
  • The Girl from Ipanema - Dawn is apparently neither the murderer nor the murder victim. In the episode, she finds out she is working for the man who owns the mine which is destroying her village and after witnessing him kill his wife, she seduces him over a period of time and finally marries him. In her letter back to her father in Brazil, she reveals that she was acting crazy on their wedding night, wanting to go skinny dipping while drunk, but in fact it was she herself who talked him into doing it, after she had neglected to tell him that she had "forgotten" to re-fill the pool. In this sense she is the MURDERER.
  • He Died a Death - Dawn is apparently neither murderer nor murder victim, though she does at one point confess to having shot her fellow actor Tony Sparkle (played by Tony Slattery), while in a play in which his character is shot.
  • A Determined Woman - Dawn is the MURDERER. She lashes out at her dim-witted husband and strikes him with a spanner, as his increasingly strange behaviour (brought about by the fact that he has been unwittingly speaking to a future version of her who has travelled back in time) has driven her to breaking point.
  • Murder at Tea Time - Dawn is the MURDER VICTIM. She is suffocated when the cap of a washing-up liquid bottle is placed over the end of her air tube while her face is in plaster.
  • Mrs. Hat and Mrs. Red - Dawn is the MURDER VICTIM, and potentially the MURDERER. She plays two women who look identical. When both of Dawn French's characters face-off, with Mrs Red's husband in the middle, one of them is murdered. It is never made explicit who actually committed the murder, though it is heavily implied that both Ms Hatcliffe and Mr Redfern are responsible.
  • Overkill - Dawn is the MURDERER. She shoots several security men with a shotgun, kills two people with poisoned darts, one person with a metal arrow and one person with cyanide and scorpion venom before being blown up herself (by accident). An assassin (played by Amanda Donohoe) also shoots her mark (played by Peter Vaughan) before accidentally hanging herself.
  • Lady Luck - Dawn is the MURDERER. She stabs her husband in the back with a letter opener. Though we do not see the murder on screen, her responsibility for this murder is implied.
  • A Severe Case of Death - Dawn is the MURDERER. She serves her blackmailer port laced with poison.
  • We All Hate Granny - Dawn appears to be the MURDERER. She leaves the gas supply running in her daughter and son-in-law's house overnight, causing it to explode when they wake up and her daughter lights a cigarette. However, her culpability is only implied, the couple in question having tried to murder her numerous times by this point, and the 'murder' appearing to be a very plausible accident. It is also implied that she poisoned her abusive late husband.
  • Mangez Merveillac - Dawn appears to be the MURDER VICTIM. She is cooked as part of a village feast and served to tourists, though a post-credits sequence shows she has survived and that this was a ruse designed to bring more tourists and Hollywood interest to the village.
  • Smashing Bird - Dawn is the MURDERER in the sense that she deliberately sets up a situation where the four gang members who murdered her boyfriend (played by Ray Winstone) all shoot each other while aiming for her head.
  • Girl Friday - Dawn is the MURDERER. She throttles her boss's wife immediately after he hits his wife with a heavy trophy in a fit of rage. She lets him believe that he is responsible for the death (which may have occurred anyway).
  • A Life or Death Operation - Dawn is the MURDERER, though the man she ultimately kills is not the person she had planned to murder (having already failed to kill her intended victim by driving over her and giving her a lethal injection). She smothers her victim with a pillow while he is in intensive care, believing him to be her intended victim.
  • Dying Live - Dawn is the MURDERER. She gasses the entire Panadorian government (and a TV presenter) during a live broadcast in which a charismatic rebel leader (later to become her husband) was to be executed.
  • The Body Politic - Dawn is the MURDERER. She accidentally kills a policeman with a stray crossbow arrow and stabs another man with an arrow in self-defence. A third man dies by falling down a flight of stairs while advancing on her. The catalyst for the deaths is the discovery of bodies under her house from murders that occurred twelve years earlier.
  • Confess - Dawn is neither murderer nor murder victim. The murder in the episode turns out to have been committed by her police colleague (played by Minnie Driver), who shot another police colleague (who was also her lover).
  • Dead on Time - Dawn is neither murderer nor murder victim, though she spends the entire episode trying to set up the murder of a housewife by her husband. In the event, the husband is killed in an accident.
  • Frozen - Dawn is the MURDERER. She initially believes she has crushed a refrigerator repairman to death when trying to make love to him, and only realises that he survived this ordeal after he has spent the night in her deep freeze (and, obviously, frozen to death).
  • Going Solo - Dawn is the MURDERER. She drowns her fellow yachtswoman as they are being rescued from their capsized boat. Though we do not see the murder on screen, her responsibility is implied.
  • Whoopi Stone - Dawn is the MURDERER. She shoots a gangster while working undercover to win his trust, and later teams up with the remaining gangsters and arranges the deaths of the senior policemen who involved her in the operation.
  • Confessions of a Murderer - Dawn is the MURDERER. She hits a detective on the head with a mallet, causing him to fall off the top of the mountain they have just climbed.
  • Elvis, Jesus and Zack - Dawn is neither murderer nor murder victim. No murder takes place in the episode, the idea being that when a celebrity is widely reported as dead, the media myth becomes self-perpetuating. As Dawn's character starts the rumours that lead to the 'death' of a rock star (played by Sean Hughes), she is effectively the 'murderer' in this context.
  • Dinner at Tiffany's - Dawn is the MURDERER. She poisons three colleagues (though the first two are accidental): one with a sandwich, one with a cup of tea (who then falls out of a window as a result and hangs herself on her very long plait) and the third (her intended target) with her sports drink. She suffocates a fourth victim (the object of her desire, who has spurned her affections and fired her) by smothering her with an extremely thick, creamy chocolate cake.


Video and DVD releases


Two videos of the series were released by the BBC in 1996, through BBC Worldwide/Talkback (the former of which became 2|entertain). Both were released on May 7, 1996, the first containing three episodes from series one and the second, three episodes from series two. These two series were not repeated on British television as often as the later series, and as a result, episodes not featured on the videos released by the BBC (The Case of the Missing, He Died A Death, Mrs. Hat and Mrs. Red, A Severe Case of Death, We All Hate Granny and Smashing Bird) have proven fairly difficult to view.

  • Murder Most Horrid: The Girl from Ipanema/A Determined Woman/Murder at Tea-Time (BBCV5854) EAN: 5032680800767
  • Murder Most Horrid: Overkill/Lady Luck/Mangez Merveillac (BBCV5855) EAN: 5014503585525

DVD (Region 2)

  • Murder Most Horrid: Volume 1 was released by Fremantle Media on the 10th March, 2008.


External links

  • Comedy Guide
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