1/12/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies
Robin Of Sherwood Series 1 And 2 Blu-Ray Edition. blu-ray region 2: pub: Network B0042QHAY2. 4 blu-ray disks 650 minutes 11 episodes with extras. Price: GBP49.99 (UK)). Stars: Michael Praed, Judi Trott, Ray Winston, Clive Mantle, Mark Ryan, Phil Rose and Nickolas Grace.
check out website: www.networkdvd.co.uk
The iconic series made in the early ‘80s was a Saturday tea time favourite for the kids and the mums with the gorgeous pouting Michael Praed in the lead of the first two series, this was prime-time prime meat for the Saturday slot. Oh how the locks flowed. Never has so much Timotei shampoo been sold off the back of the gorgeous Michael. These days they would tailor the advertising much more and make some serious money from it. It was a simpler time where the overtly spiritual Robin takes on the Hood to fight for the rights of the local peasants. It’s really kind of hippy perhaps because the writer, Richard ‘Kip’ Carpenter, also gave us cult classic ‘Catweazle’ and more mainstream children’s favourite ‘Black Beauty’.
This set consists of the first two series which starred Michael Praed. He was replaced by Jason Connery in the third series who played Robin Of Huntington. There are quite a few extras included on this set which has been reprocessed into HD for the blu-ray release.
The picture is reproduced in its original ratio but has had some work doing to it. We are rather spoiled by the marvels of HD and even 3D these days but this is certainly better than watching any old version on the TV. In places, it’s rather lovely especially when it chooses to focus on Praed or Judi Trott (Maid Marian). The richness of the clothing and the colours are brought out well and there is a depth to the picture enhanced by the original framing of shots in a cinematic style which leads the eye in. I don’t know how it compares to the enhanced DVD but the price variation is little enough for blu-ray owners to take the plunge.
As to the extras, importantly for some there are a couple of commentary tracks which reveal intriguing trivia about the production. Commentaries are included on the first two episodes by writer Kip Carpenter and director Ian Sharp of the first two episodes. Among the little nuggets revealed are how many times Kevin Costner and Kevin Reynolds watched the show and how much was plundered including the Sheriff of Nottingham character which morphed from Nikolas Grace in the series to Alan Rickman who also further developed the sleaze into Snape. As they say in ‘Robin Of Sherwood’, nothing is forgotten. There are also commentaries on ‘The Swords Of Wayland’ by director Robert Young and producer Paul Knight.
A documentary from the Electric Theatre Show is included here and has been enhance with some new footage. It is a good length and because it was made at the time of the production there is some nice background detail.
The documentary ‘Nothing Forgotten’ was made more recently and features good reminisce from many of the actors, writer and producer about how the show was thought up and how it got made. I’m not sure on the date but it is definitely worth watching.
Other extras are series out-takes, PDF material including Richard Carpenter's original treatment, extensive stills gallery (HD) and the music only tracks for Series 2.
The music is by Celtic combo Clannad who were partially thrust into fame with their music for this and ‘Harry’s Game’. They still play Robin’s theme in concert to this day. There is a very familiar theme and more subtle mood music through the programmes. You will either love this or hate it. There are no half measures with Clannad.
With its mystical scenes and the wide-eyed wonder of Praed as Robin this is occasionally strangely surreal. The symbiotic relationship of Robin and the Sheriff drives the plot certainly in the first two episodes. Then there is Marian, who is used as a pawn to tempt Robin. Her determination to get herself to a nunnery is at once in conflict with her rather earthly desire to be with Robin. The first scenes between them are steamy in a non-verbal way but also in leaving us to surmise what their relationship would be like. This means it’s perfectly acceptable for the tea-time slot.
Again, compared to the super-fast drama we are used to, this takes its time to build up to a single event. There is little diversion from the main plot with a production that lets us relax to enjoy the scenery
‘Robin Of Sherwood’, based on a near mythical character proves to be the perfect person to place the hopes and dreams of the English. Of course, the reality is that England was occupied by the Normans who stayed and stayed. Another reality is that the English won because the Normans assimilated to the existence customs and language. It’s English not Norman-French that is the dominant language in the world. Reality is whatever you choose to believe.
What they have tried to do is update Robin to be the Che Guevara of the day but they also added the mystical element which is occasionally laid on with a heavy-handed trowel. I’m all for witches and magic but this seems rather ponderous at times and, like the more recent 'Merlin', cheeky in how it uses magic to move the plot.
On an episode by episode basis, I found some rather tedious and others quite enjoyable. They vary a lot even though it is the same writer, possibly because writing every episode and giving them enough life it is a huge task Things have moved on and as the pace of drama quickens we become dissatisfied with the older programmes.
It was quite a thrill to start to watch this series again. ‘Robin Of Sherwood’ has gained cult status for good reason. It has a multi-layered approach to the legend of Robin Hood. There is plenty of good old hand-to-hand fighting; it has mysticism by the bucket and also a sprinkling of romance. There is also death and loss in this and it doesn’t glorify the violence. The merry men do die and that’s a good enough lesson to learn on a family show.
Robin is a freedom fighter but first he has to convince his friends that it is all worth it and is very eloquent when it comes to putting his case. The ceremony at the end of part 1 is touching in its simplicity but meaningful for anyone who has ever lost someone.
Marian does become a full partner to Robin quite quickly and there is no pussyfooting about. By the third episode, she is starting to come into her own taking on a role that is not merely that of wife and nursemaid but a fighter in her own right but there is no consistency She is usually sidelined in this but you can always watch the excellent ‘Maid Marian And Her Merry Men’ for the true version of events.
‘Robin Of Sherwood’ has a lot of competition as the Disney version is up there on the list along with ‘Prince Of Thieves’ for campness and good old Richard Greene from the 1950s. Given enough time and a complete set of episodes, I think I would learn to it love again. But it has so much competition from modern drama for my time, though it is a welcome reminder of the high production values and imagination from independent production companies.
For those interested, there are a variety of locations many in Somerset around Bristol where HTV was based. Full details can be found on this interesting website: www.robinofsherwood.org/locations.html. One of the most distinctive one’s is Herne’s Cave which is filmed in Wookey Hole near Wells. The recent BBC ‘Robin Hood’ was mostly filmed in foreign countries as a sad reflection on how much cheaper it is to do that. They also get to hang out in Cheddar Gorge, it’s all a long way from Sherwood. There are also shots of Alnick Castle (featured in Harry Potter), Bamburgh Castle in Northumbria and incredibly Nottingham Castle.
Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...
Post your comments
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA