Category: Television

26/02/07

Permalink 01:36:24 pm, Categories: Review, Television, 422 words   English (UK)

The hooded man

Over the years there have been many tellings of the legend of Robin Hood. 23 years ago, British television saw the arrival on screen of 'Robin of Sherwood'. ITV3 has started showing the entire 3 series again, and they are repeated once more from tonight.

Although I have all 3 series on VHS, it's been more that 10 years since I last saw any of this; but it's not lost any of its impact. Since then we've had Kevin Costner's lengthy mostrosity and a ridiculous and bizarrely anachronistic 'Robin Hood' from BBC1. Nothing since its original airing has come close to 'Robin of Sherwood'.

The storytelling was simple and truthful, not laced with modern day references or post-modern tricks. The write Richard Carpenter wove into the traditional and familiar storyline, a magical thread full of saxon mysticism which well befits the raw strength of the legend itself. In Carpenter's hands Robin becomes not only an people's hero, but an instrument of the forest god and a force of light against the Dark forces of the despised King John.

The casting was perfect, the relatively unknown Michael Praed taking the lead role, supported by a ensemble of Merry Men including Ray Winstone and Clive Mantle. Judi Trott portrayed Maid Marion, an ethereal saxon beauty who I was surprised to realise reminded me a great deal of Francesca Annis.

Nikolas Grace's Sheriff of Nottingham was no pantomime villain, as seen so often. He was a cunning man, failing more often because of a betrayal, or the incompetence of his own men rather than an overreaching self-destruction. His brother Hugo, the abbot providing a fine interplay, showing the competing politics of church and state, each side in it for their own ends, neither side with the slightest regard for the common folk. Finally, Gisburne; here the casting and writing came together with a perfectly balanced character. Not a buffoon, but not as clever as he thinks he is, headstrong and arrogant, with a belief in the superiority of the Normans that frequently causes him to underestimate the saxons.

Yes, it's 23 years old and it shows, the gradient filters on the camera stick out like a sore thumb, but that's a complaint you can level at pretty much every film from the 80s. Despite its vintage it still stacks up and even the soundtrack by Clannad is as haunting as ever.

If you remember it, or if you've never even heard of it, give it a look. I promise it's so much better than any recent retelling of the tale.

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