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Catweazle: The 40th Anniversary Edition

01/04/2010. Contributed by Rod MacDonald

Buy Catweazle: The 40th Anniversary Edition in the USA - or Buy Catweazle: The 40th Anniversary Edition in the UK

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region 2 DVD: pub: Network B0030A0ZCU. 5 DVDs 650 minutes 26 * 25 minute episodes with extras. Price: 49.99 (UK))stars: Geoffrey Bayldon and Robin Davies.

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It is now 40 years since 'Catweazle' first appeared on British Television. To mark the event, Network DVD has released all 26 episodes in a box set for us to re-live the adventures of this wizard from the 11th century who somehow managed to end up in the 20th century.

Weird enough for his own time, the eccentric Catweazle and his pet toad Touchwood (not Torchwood), chased by Norman knights for some reason or other, casts a spell purportedly to make him fly. Of course, as with most of his magic it goes wrong and, instead of flying through space, he ends up flying through time. In the quaint late 1960s English rural setting, Catweazle is protected by Carrot, a redheaded farmer's son, who tries to conceal his identity from all others which proves not to be an easy task.

Confusion and misadventure follow Catweazle wherever he goes. Attempting to get back to his own time, spells often go wrong and on one occasion he actually ended up on top of the spire of a country church, much to the consternation of the Vicar. Carrot is there to help him return to his home in a disused water tower. Any form of modern technology is regarded as magic by Catweazle, including the phone which he calls a 'telling bone' and electricity which becomes 'elic-trickery'.

This is excellent children's television. It is mild-mannered harmless fun, with plenty of amusing entertainment which is still effective today. Strangely, 'Catweazle' does not seem to have aged media wise because he has a time zone all of his own. In the 40 years that have passed since the making of this series, much of the culture and geography of rural England that you will find in the episodes has disappeared, the re-discovery of which is worth the purchase of the DVD if only for that reason.

People of a certain age will want to relive their youth by watching 'Catweazle' and if they have children, I'm sure they will be delighted to join them! In fact, there is actually a Catweazle Fan Club! Look it up on the Internet. It's also a fact that the series was popular all over the world, including Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Most people 45 or over remember 'Catweazle' although on some occasions he is confused with 'Wurzel Gummage', the scarecrow played by Jon Pertwee. There was also a professional wrestler in the UK who based himself on Catweazle!

The first series of 13 episodes is actually first rate. The second series didn't have the same impact because most of the main characters had left by that time and the episodes became more of a mystical clue solving exercise. The acting is very good throughout and you will be able to recognise many well-known actors from British television.

Most of the main actors are now deceased, including Robin Davies (Carrot) who sadly died only this year from lung cancer. However, Geoffrey Bayldon, who played Catweazle, is still going strong and you can see him talking about the series on DVD. This magnificent actor, a stalwart of British television for half a century, is probably the main reason why 'Catweazle' became so popular. I don't think anyone could have played him so well. The creator Richard Carpenter is also still alive and well.

You will find lots of extras on this DVD package, including commentaries on the episodes and lots of still pictures. For a very modest price you'll get many hours of good family entertainment and plenty of fun into the bargain. Maybe one day they will make a new 'Catweazle' full of computerised special effects, mediaeval trickery and mobile phone text message talk but it will never match the original. There's only one 'Catweazle'. Buy him now before he disappears into another time zone!

Rod MacDonald

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