Posts Tagged ‘Richard Carpenter

30
Oct
11

Blu-ray Review: Robin of Sherwood – Jason Connery

Robin of Sherwood

Building up a loyal following in its mid-1980s Saturday teatime slot, Robin of Sherwood, Richard Carpenter’s bold reimagining of the Robin Hood legend, could do no wrong. That is until Robin himself, Michael Praed, decided to abandon Sherwood for Hollywood, leaving the Merrie Men without a leader and the fans without a hero.

Carpenter returned once again to the legends that had originally inspired him, deciding that if they told of more than one origin for the Robin Hood character, so would he. Series three saw the introduction of Robert of Huntingdon (Jason Connery), a wealthy member of the gentry chosen by Herne the Hunter (John Abineri) to take on the mantle of Herne’s son and lead the fight against injustice.

Just as Robert’s background was the polar opposite of Robin of Loxley, so Connery was very different to Praed, both in hair colour and personality. While Robin had the classic brooding hero character down pat, Robert seemed to be more of a spoiled rich kid rebelling from his parents, at least in the opening episodes.

The two-part Herne’s Son sets things in motion once again, reminding viewers of the tragic events that closed season two before introducing Robert properly. With the old gang of outlaws now scattered far and wide, only Tuck (Phil Rose) left living in Sherwood, Robert must gather them together when Lord Owen of Clun (Oliver Cotton) takes up residence near Nottingham and sets his sights on the Lady Marion (Judi Trott).

Also back on the scene is the scene chewing Sheriff of Nottingham (Nickolas Grace) and his dimwitted assistant, Gisburne (Robert Addy), while Clun gains something of a right-hand man in Gulnar (Richard O’Brien), a sorcerer with an evil streak.

With much to pack in to these episodes, Connery isn’t given a lot of space to prove himself other than in the action stakes, where he does a good job of showing the character’s physicality.

Luckily the young actor is surrounded by performers such as Ray Winstone and Clive Mantle; while Connery reads his lines well, Winstone and Mantle ensure you believe they’ve lived wild and killed out of necessity.

This 13 episode run takes the characters into new territory, introducing them to a once and future king, a village that spells danger for Robin and his men, an increasingly desperate Sheriff whose methods get more inventive every time.

This year saw Carpenter divide writing duties with Anthony Horowitz, episodes such as Cromm Cruac, The Betrayal, Adam Bell and Rutterkin  pushing the characters and giving guest stars, including Phil Davis, Bryan Marshall and Ian Ogilvy, something to get their teeth into.

The downside to this need to try new things, not dwelling too much on the Sheriff’s failure each week to kill any of the outlaws, does mean that plot points are introduced and forgotten about with haste, more so than in the first two seasons. The Sheriff gains a nephew one week while Little John suddenly plans to get married another, while characters who aid Robin are seemingly forgiven as soon as they escape from the Sheriff’s clutches.

Continue reading ‘Blu-ray Review: Robin of Sherwood – Jason Connery’

17
Nov
10

Blu-ray Review: Robin of Sherwood – Michael Praed

Nothing’s forgotten, nothing’s ever forgotten. That’s the case for fans of the most original telling of the Robin Hood story, 1984’s Robin of Sherwood, which now receives a welcome re-release on Blu-ray and DVD following extensive restoration work.

For the last 26 years viewers have been revelling in the adventures of Robin of Loxley, aka Robin i’ the Hood, as portrayed by Michael Praed in Richard Carpenter’s version of the legend which this time weaves magic and paganism into hour-long stories of derring-do.

Robin is the sole survivor of the village of Loxley, who finds himself England’s best hope against the corrupt authorities, led locally by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Nickolas Grace) and his often bumbling right-hand man, Guy of Gisburne (Robert Addy).

Robin of SherwoodAmong those aiding Robin are the hard-nut Will Scarlett (Ray Winstone), gentle giant Little John (Clive Mantle), the simple-yet-loyal Much (Peter Llewellyn Williams) and Friar Tuck (Phil Rose).

This time around there’s a new addition to the team in the shape of Saracen assassin, Nasir (Mar Ryan) and, most importantly, the figure of Herne the Hunter (John Abineri), a pagan god given to appear in human form when his help is needed most.

Topped and tailed by the somewhat epic Swords of Wayland and The Greatest Enemy, these Boys Own adventures manage to remain fresh each week, despite the unavoidable fact that the Sheriff always has to lose. Or does he?

Robin may have been screened in a teatime slot on ITV, but its makers had always aimed for evening showings, meaning there’s a darkness and adult feel lacking in other Robin Hood series. Death hangs heavy over the programme, evil and spiritualism never far from scripts which would otherwise be straightforward teatime romps.

Inevitably there’s the odd misfire, the first season’s Alan a Dale not the most inspiring story, while second season episode Lord of the Trees is hampered by having too much ambition and not enough time to do the story justice, but otherwise there’s a fantastically strong run of episodes in each series.

Intrinsic to Robin of Sherwood’s success is its sumptuous look, the standard set early on by director Ian Sharp as the forrest is bathed in a dreamlike haze, where it’s always summer and shafts of light are forever piercing the woodland canopy. Finally, there’s the music from Irish folk rock group, Clannad, their use of both traditional and modern instruments, as well as recurring songs and character themes, adding yet another layer which rewards loyal viewers.

For anyone who has invested in previous versions of the series, whether on VHS or DVD (or in the case of this reviewer, both), be aware that this isn’t merely a repackaging but a whole new proposition from Network DVD. While the DVD made the episodes appear as if they’d been shot through a thick mesh, this time everything appears crystal clear.

Extras here are mainly ported over from the previous set, the commentaries, from various members of the production team, offering a valuable insight into the making of the series. There are also some in-depth documentaries featuring the cast which cover series one and two and an extended version of the Grampian-made Electric Theatre Show documentary present on the first release.

★★★★★

Robin of Sherwood is available now from Network DVD.




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