Chances are that if you're reading this, you know who Robin
Hood is, the medieval English hero who robbed from the rich to give to
poor. The hero of films dating back to
the silent era, TV shows from the golden age of TV, comic books,
even parodied in a Monty Python skit, the timeless hero is part of
culture. One of the best loved
incarnations of the hero is the British series from 1984, Robin
of Sherwood. Broadcast
on ITV (and later in America
on PBS) the show has a legion of devoted fans.
I had heard of the show, but never seen it, so when the Blu-ray
arrived to review I snatched it up. I
have to admit that I went in with high expectations and that I was
disappointed by a couple of aspects of the show. After
watching a few episodes however I
discovered what the show's fans already knew:
it's a pretty good telling of the famous myth full of adventure
When the village
of Loxley is
burned to the ground by soldiers, the only one to escape the slaughter
small boy named Robin. Taken to a nearby
miller by his father (who then returns to defend his land and is
(Michael Praed) grows up in the miller's household learning the ways of
forest. When his younger adopted
brother, Much (Peter Llewellyn Williams) manages to kill a deer in the
Abbot's (Hugo de Rainault played by Philip Jackson) forest, Robin
and tries to help him escape the local games keeper Guy of Gisbourne
Addie), but the pair are caught and thrown into a dungeon until they
either executed or have their hands cut off, the traditional punishment
Not willing to await his horrible fate, Robin comes up with
a plan, and with the help of some of the other prisoners manages to
castle. Along with Much and a few
others, Will Scarlet (Ray Winstone) a hot-headed Saxon whose wife was
then killed by Norman soldiers, also manages to escape.
The small group decides to hide deep in Sherwood
Forest, a vast area that Robin knows well.
Here's they are hunted by both Guy of
Gisbourne and the Abbot's brother, the Sheriff of Nottingham (Nickolas
Also in the mix is Lady Marion of Leaford (Judi Trott).
She's an orphan whose father owned a large
estate which would go to whoever married her.
In the care of the Abbot of St. Mary, he pushes her to become a
that the church will get her land while the cunning and immoral Baron
Belleme (Anthony Valentine) wants to wed (and then kill in a Satanic
the attractive lady. While traveling to
a convent under guard, the Lady is rescued by Robin and his men and
group of outlaws in the forest.
Robin isn't just a good archer hiding from the law
though. He is the fulfillment of
prophesy. Once in Sherwood he is visited
Hunter, the god of the forest, and dubbed "Robin in the Hood" and
protector of the area. Baron Simon de
Belleme, who is trying to summon a demon, is versed in the ways of
magic. He's managed to bewitch a large
man named John Little (Clive Mantle) as well as an Arab assassin he
during the crusades, Nasir (Mark Ryan).
Both of whom are freed over time by Robin and join his Merry Men.
This last bit touches on the main complaint I originally had
with the series. A lot of the plots
revolve around mysticism and magic, something that was totally missing
original legend and all incarnations that I've encountered before this. It's not that I have anything against stories
involving magic, but it just doesn't belong here. It
would be like Zorro strapping on a jet
pack and fighting a brigand with a laser gun.
That would be cool but there's no need for it, the character of
interesting without adding that in.
So, after the first couple of episodes where Little John was
mind controlled by an inverted pentagram drawn on his chest and Robin
prophetic dreams, I was a bit disillusioned.
But I continued watching and as the series went on, I discovered
really enjoyed it. The mystic elements
were integrated well into the series and gave the feeling that there
bigger picture than just the events of any one episode.
If you can just accept that it's part of the
story, it works fairly well.
The one aspect of the show that I never really warmed to was
the background music. Composed and
preformed by the Irish group Clannad, the folk/new-age mix of styles
instruments (including both synthesizers and traditional music makers)
bit heavy-handed for my tastes. It was
nice that they had themes for various characters, but overall whenever
music came to the foreground it pulled me out of the story.
Most of the show if filmed outside, on location, and that
was a stroke of genius. The beautiful
exteriors really add another dimension to the show and make it easy to
yourself in the story. The show goes to
a lot of trouble to make things look like medieval England
and they succeed admirably.
When all is said and done, this is a very good series.
It took me a couple of episodes to really get
immersed in this new world of Robin's which is different from most
the legend, but once I did it was an enjoyable series that is sure to
This series comes on four Blu-ray discs, the first three
contain the 13 episodes while the last is reserved for special features.
The two channel mono soundtrack is solid, especially for a
show recorded over 20 years ago. The
dialog is easy to hear and is mixed well with the music track and sound
effects. The music, though I didn't feel
it fit well with the subject matter, was clear and clean.
Overall a nice sounding set.
The full frame image is good considering the source
material, though no one will use this as a reference disc.
The show was filmed on 16mm, and because of
that it is not as sharp as the 35mm movies that we're more used to
seeing. There is a fair amount of grain
series, some scenes are plagued more than others, but it's generally
distracting. The black levels are nice
and the colors are generally very good.
A lot of the series' charm comes from the outside scenes filmed
lovely forest, which make up the bulk of the series.
This set does about as good a job as possible
given the limitations of the source material.
This set is packed with extras that will really appeal to
fans of the show. Not just fluff EPK
stuff, but some solid bonus features that add to a viewers
enjoyment of the show. First off are
five commentary tracks, three featuring Richard Carpenter (series
director Ian Sharpe, and two with director Robert Young and producer
Knight. I spot checked these listening
to a few minutes here and there and they all sounded informative and
The video extras include a behind-the-scenes documentary and
another pair or retrospective documentaries on the show.
All told these three run well over two hours
and will answer just about any questions you have about the show. There's also an outtake reel (16 minutes)
that's amusing in parts, not so much in others.
The extras are rounded off with a photo gallery of literally
hundreds of pictures (in HD), a series of opening sequences used in
markets, and an abundance of pdf files that include the original story
treatment, shooting scripts, and PR material.
There is also a very informative 40-page booklet included
with this set that gives a through overview of the series.
This isn't just a series of set photos and an
episode list... it's a well written examination of the show and actors. In this day when inserts are largely fluff,
it was nice to see something very substantial.
Acorn has released the first two season of Robin of Sherwood
on Blu-ray, leaving one more that still needs to get the Blu-ray
treatment. Though it does take a few
episodes to get the feeling of the show, once you do it quickly becomes
engrossing. Highly Recommended.