Great Crimes And Trials of the 20th Century

Narrated by Robert Powell, this series sheds light on twenty-six crimes that shocked the world.

I don't know about you, but I am a sucker for these documentary (lite) series that seem to have populated the digital channels since the year dot. 'Lite' because they tend to cater for the more casual viewer, generally aimed at the US market, and are less demanding than some documentaries.

Quite often I would get in from work, flick over to the History or Discovery channels and then find that the evening has disappeared and I had watched several episodes back to back (How things are made and Mythbusters were the usual suspects!). The same applies to this series - I popped the DVD in the player and was disappointed when the main menu reappeared 8 episodes later!

With its researchers gaining unprecedented access to picture libraries, syndicated sources and over 250,000 hours of archive footage, the series looks at organisations and individuals such as cannibal Edward Gein who used the skin of his victims for lampshades and belts (whose crimes inspired Hitchcock's Psycho and the more recent Silence of the Lambs); Amityville murderer Butch de Feo, Evelyn Dick, William Joyce ('Lord Haw-Haw'), Grace Duff, Dr. Buck Ruxton, and Mark Chapman.

Each episode combines new and archive interviews to reconstruct the story, examining the individual and his motives, explaining how the crime was committed and showing breakthroughs in investigations and details of the trial.

There is a bit if a bias towards US crimes, but this is probably more to do with the fact that the US is a bigger place and the law of averages suggest there will be more crime, but it is still absorbing. Some of the crimes I was already familiar with as there have been other DVD releases in the last couple of years but, again, it didn't distract from the programmes. The only downside to the series is its age as in a few cases the conclusions are now out of date - but a quick google search can fill in the gaps and it isn't a serious problem.

Running to whopping 650 minutes this 4-disc set is enough to keep anyone occupied for quite some time.