I know the old BBC 'Robin of Sherwood' has scads of fans that have been waiting anxiously for a Blu-ray release of the series. People who love the tales of Robin Hood seem to really take to 'Robin of Sherwood'. It isn't as downright corny as 'Prince of Thieves' and isn't as over-the-top action-y as 'Robin Hood.' It's more of a subdued Robin Hood tale starring Michael Praed as Robin of Loxely, who looks like he's fresh off filming a David Bowie music video.
The overwhelming 1980s look of the show is certainly distracting; at least it is to me. From Praed's well-quaffed hair to the soundtrack that for some reason makes me think about 'Captain Eo.' At times it just seems far too dated to be fun.
'Robin of Sherwood' follows along closely with the Robin Hood stories we've seen reproduced over and over again. The first two episodes feature the bulk of the known Robin Hood story out of the way. The well-known dispute between him and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Nickolas Grace) is introduced. Lady Marion (Judi Trott) enters the picture. And we even get the familiar bow-staff fight between Robin and Little John (Clive Mantle).
After the foundation is laid for the tale of Robin Hood, the show sets off into its own directions. Led by creator Richard Carpenter, the show strays out on its own adding heaps of previously unknown Robin Hood stories to the overall mythos.
Along his journey in becoming the most famous outlaw roaming the English countryside, Robin comes into contact with numerous colorful characters. Much (Peter Llewellyn Williams) is an innocent peasant who gets in trouble for poaching one of the king's deer. He's a simpleton, but looks up to Robin. Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Robert Addie) is the game warden of the land. He has to take Robin and Much to see the Sheriff. There in jail Robin becomes acquainted with Will Scarlet who is played by a young Ray Winstone. Yes, Ray Winstone used to be young. I found it hard to believe too.
What surprised me about the show, which I'd never seen before watching these Blu-rays, was how serialized it actually was. How story threads and plotlines were carried through multiple episodes. Carpenter and his crew weren't just content on sticking to the same old story of "rob from the rich," but instead created more of a spiritualized Robin. This series deals with religion and prophecy as much as it deals with the familiar Robin Hood stories of old.
Here Robin is endowed as a protector. He's given a mystical sword called Albion. Many parallels can be drawn from this version of Robin Hood to the King Arthur tales we already know. In this series Robin isn't so much a folk hero as he is ordained from on high to protect the less fortunate serfs who populate England and who find themselves subjected to all kinds of dismal conditions perpetrated by the lords of the land.
I didn't think I'd really like this series, and from the first few episodes it wasn't looking good. It followed too closely to the old Robin Hood stories and I feared it wouldn't find its own identity. Then, it did. The turn it takes with the character of Robin Hood becoming an ordained protector was something I really enjoyed about the show. I felt like it added much needed nuance to a story that has been told a hundred times before.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Acorn Media release is a 4-disc Blu-ray set. Each of the discs are 50GB Blu-ray Discs. The discs are packaged in a slightly oversized keepcase, which comes complete with slipcover. The release is marked for Region A use.
The visuals for 'Robin of Sherwood' come from the original 16mm negative. While much of the show appears soft and void of fine detail it's nice that the show was originally shot on film so that it could be reproduced for Blu-ray with a more cinematic feel than video tape.
The filmic look is one of the big pluses for this set, but it's true, much of the show appears soft. Edges remain undefined. Light bleeds into hair, faces, and shadows. It looks like it's from the 80s, no question about it.
Even with the soft look of the show, however, there are quite a few things to like. Colors are bold. The greenery of England really sets off the rather drab brown/gray color palette. Fine detail is scarce, but stuff like stubble, clothing texture and even sweat are visible during the show's close-ups. Those details are evident, but they aren't quite defined. So you'll see a glistening of sweat, but you'll strain to see the actual droplets.
It doesn't look like the show has been overly mucked about with though. DNR and edge enhancement seem to have taken a back seat. There is some noise in the darker areas of the picture, but it's nice to see that during the restoration they didn't go hog wild with a waxy DNR look.
Like so many Acorn releases we're left wondering what the show would've sounded like with a true lossless audio offering. As it is we've been given a weak Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio mix that doesn't really convey the sort of full-bodied sound many of us might have been hoping for.
Yes, dialogue is clear, but for the most part it sounds a little hollow. Sound effects are tinny and unresponsive. Directionality doesn't appear to work all that well, during conversations. It's simply a subpar audio offering for a show that deserved a lossless mix.
It's nice to see even older TV shows like this make it onto the format. While I might not be the show's biggest fan, I understand why people like it so much. It's a new tale on an old story. Adding much more to the character of Robin Hood than anyone thought possible. So many adaptions have stuck so closely to the original tale that they never thought what it would be like to take Robin out of his comfort zone. Carpenter did, and he excelled with it. That much is evident. The show features a good-looking, but overly soft, filmic picture. The audio needs work though. No lossless audio is a real nuisance. There's a bundle of special features though. Many of which are wholly engrossing and will give fans a lot to chew on as they make their way through the hours of extra-curricular entertainment. Set one of 'Robin of Sherwood' comes recommended.