Robin Of Sherwood Set 1 (1983 British
Television series/Acorn Media)
Picture: C+ Sound: C+ Extras: A
Robin of Sherwood was a British TV series that ran
from 1983 – 1985. Critically acclaimed at the time, in the intervening
years it has developed a cult following.
Part of the reason for that, aside from its quality, is that it has been
notoriously difficult to find in the States. This five-disc DVD box set
of the first two seasons (13 shows) from Acorn Media finally rectifies that.
All of the classic elements from the well-known Robin Hood mythos are present. Robin and his Merry Men are outlaws living in
the vast wilderness of Sherwood Forest. They are the heroes of the common
man, fighting an unending battle against the unfair and downright evil
machinations of their government, as embodied by the Sheriff of Nottingham and
So what sets this series apart from any other Robin Hood story and justifies
its cult status? A lot, actually.
The series is well cast, and the individual performances give a depth to the
characters not often seen. These are not simply the happy-go-lucky Merry
Men. These are desperate people, who
live in an unjust society. Michael Praed portrays Robin. He is
handsome and dashing, as Robin should be, but he is also weighed down by the
responsibility of his position. His men, and many of the peasants of
Nottinghamshire are dependent on him. Maid
Marion, played by Judi Trott, is no mere damsel in distress. She takes an
active role, living in the forest and wielding a bow or sword along with the
best of the Outlaws. Will Scarlet is brought to a more prominent role
than usual, overshadowing the more well-known Little John and Friar Tuck.
Played by Ray Winstone in a standout role, Scarlet is a man who has seen
his wife and his entire village killed by the soldiers of the king. He is
angry, more than a little mad, and anything but merry.
Filmed entirely on location, the series is lush and green. The costumes and sets act to transport the
viewer into the time period. The Irish folk group Clannad performs the
award-winning soundtrack. There is a sense of presence to the forest, and the
entire show, that conveys a deep, mythic resonance. The 1.33 X 1 image can be soft and Dolby
Digital 2.0 sound (stereo boosted mono) can show their age, but this is still
good enough to enjoy. Extras include
audio commentaries for selected episodes (Volumes 1, 2 & 4 within the set),
two retrospective documentaries, outtakes, behind-the-scenes documentary The
Electric Theatre Show, with bonus footage, textless title sequences,
U.S. title sequences, text cast filmographies and French title sequences.
And finally, it is that sense of myth that
permeates the series that is responsible for its success. This is not an
accident. The writers and producers of Robin of Sherwood were very conscious of the deeper meanings of the
imagery they were dealing with. Robin is, overtly, representative of the spirit
of the forest, a descendent of the pagan imagery of the Horned God. Herne
the Hunter, one of the god-like manifestations of this concept, appears to
Robin throughout the series. He is lord of the hunt, king of the wild
places, symbol of male fecundity and freedom.
But even with all of this, the show is not bogged down with academia. It
is still an epic, action-packed Robin Hood adventure series; lots of sword
fights, desperate escapes, and silly hijinks. It is the mix of all of
these elements that, ultimately, account for the continued interest and cult
following of this amazing series.
Wayne Wise really recommends the book Robin Hood by Celtic/Arthurian scholar
John Matthews to anyone more interested in a more in depth look at the mythos and
symbolism behind the character.