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25 October 1990: The Sun

Slow-going `Mystery' Allows Time To Savor Diana Rigg's Acting

Diana Rigg can act -- and act and act. And as fondly as she might be remembered for her work as Emma Peel in "The Avengers," the extent of her acting talent is going to be the great revelation for some viewers of "Mother Love," the three-part chiller that kicks off "Mystery" at 9 tonight on Maryland Public Television (Channels 22 and 67).

The first thing "Mystery" fans need to know is that "Mother Love" is not the standard mystery with a dead body, red herrings, suspects and clues. But "Mother Love" is loaded with mystery and suspense of the psychological kind.

It is the kind of mystery and suspense Alfred Hitchcock was so good at providing. We are presented with a mother who appears initially as all goodness, love and propriety. But soon we see the little cracks in Mom's facade, little irregularities that suggest she might not be all that she seems. After a while, the cracks become gaps, and we come to understand that Mom's love is obsessional and her homicidal impulses have her headed down the highway that runs past the Bates Motel. Meet Mrs. Mom, the murderer.

Rigg plays the mother, Helena Vesey, the ex-wife of a famous symphony conductor, Sir Alex (played by David McCallum), and the mother of young attorney Kit (James Wilby). Helena loves Kit way too much and hates Alex way, way too much. She has a mantra of sorts that she chants when she thinks of Alex, his new family and her betrayal. "Disloyalty, treachery is the most dreadful of crimes," she says. "That's why it deserves the severest punishment" -- which Helena is perfectly willing to mete out.

Tonight's two-hour installment takes its time in showing us the psychological terrain explored in "Mother Love." Engaging performances by Wilby and McCallum make the slower pace a pleasure. It also allows us time to savor Riggs as she creates a Helena whose compulsions and obsessions are so intense you can almost feel in your stomach her inner struggle with control and madness.

There is no mystery as to whodunit in "Mother Love." The more delicious mystery and fascination is in examining the mind that made the who do it


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