Posted: 08/01/2008

 

Robin of Sherwood: The Complete Collection

(1984-1986)

by Jef Burnham



Now available in a 10-disc DVD set from Acorn Media.


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Huge production values and a clever re-envisioning have garnered this British series a position as one of the greatest retellings of the tale of Robin Hood. Aside from a great regular cast, the series also features some impressive guest stars, including John Rhys Davies (Lord of the Rings) as King Richard and Richard O’Brien (Rocky Horror Picture Show) as a sorcerer named Gulnar.

The story of Robin Hood remains essentially unaltered. He, Maid Marion and his band of merry men still live in Sherwood Forest as they rob from the rich to give to the poor, all the while thwarting the efforts of the Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John to exploit the people. But there is one rather noticeable change that sets this version apart from the others. Robin is the servant of a forest god named Herne the Hunter and the merry men are his cult of followers. There is much to be said for this addition. It allows the series to create its own Robin Hood mythology. It explores more fantasy/supernatural elements, as well as creating a unique dichotomy wherein the corrupt church are the villains and the symbol of Paganism (Robin Hood) is the hero.

There are so many other aspects of the series that allow it to transcend what one usually expects from television. Each episode features a big battle scene, usually between Hood’s gang and the Sheriff’s men, headed up by the despicable Guy of Gisburne. The fight choreography impressively employs a myriad of weapons and fighting styles. The series’ original score of New Age-type music from the Irish band, Clannad, creates a very distinct atmosphere, reminiscent of the music of that time period. And the cinematography throughout the entire series is beautiful, expanding the British countryside to create a more cinematic feel.

This is such a wonderful series, but it suffers from a lack of a solid, continuous storyline. There is certainly an overall story arc, but not in such a way that the individual episodes build to what should be an epic conclusion. The episodes simply feel disjointed from one another. This is the only real gripe I had about the series, and it’s minor when held up to the fantastic aspects of the series.

One last thing that must be mentioned about the series is that two actors portray Robin Hood. Micheal Praed plays Robin of Loxley in the first 13 episodes and Jason Connery (yes, the son of Sean Connery) plays Robert of Huntington, who reluctantly takes over the mantle of Robin Hood for the last 13 episodes. I personally prefer Praed’s performance, which exudes an extraordinary level of silent benevolence. However, Connery does come in at a time when the series needs a change, and his distinct brashness and thirst for adventure breathe new life into the last half of the show.

The set includes two discs of special features, including interviews, outtakes and retrospective documentaries.

Jef Burnham is a freelance writer and film critic in Chicago.



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