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All three episodes of the fourth and final season of this drama series starring Derek Jacobi as the medieval sleuth. In 'The Holy Thief', Cadfael is on the hunt for a beautiful slave girl and the bones of St Winifred, both of which have mysteriously disappeared from the Abbey. In 'The Potter's Field', Cadfael uncovers a terrible web of jealousy, adultery and suicide pacts when he examines the past of a potter who has entered the monastery under suspicious circumstances. In 'The Pilgrim of Hate', an old man's corpse is found in a sack in the Abbey, and Cadfael must find his killer.
When the decision was made to produce for TV several episodes from her mystery series about Brother Cadfael, that 12th century crusader turned monk turned detective who has been, ever since his creation, one of the most compassionate and unusual sleuths of literary history, novelist Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) was not entirely happy. In fact, as the series' star, Sir Derek Jacobi, explains in the extra footage provided on the now-released DVDs, Ms. Peters had very mixed feelings about giving up her brain child and entrusting it to other people who went about cutting and adjusting everything, from the storylines themselves to the way the protagonists speak and even the Chronicles' sequence, to the necessities and limitations set by the new medium. But she eventually acquiesced and at one point promised that "the next one I write, I'll make sure it's easier for you all to film."
While the thirteen episodes that were eventually produced are, thus, not entirely true to the individual Chronicles they are based on, they are closer than many other movie or TV versions of famous works of literature. Most importantly, they maintain not only the core story lines but also the historical authenticity, atmosphere and spirit set by Ms. Peters's books in a marvelous fashion. And Sir Derek Jacobi brings both the wealth of his experience and skill and all of his own shrewdness, intelligence, sense of humor and empathy to the role of the medieval Benedictine sleuth and thus truly becomes Cadfael -- for the thousands of new fans who are discovering the series through its enactment for TV just as much as for us who loved the books before they were ever transposed to a visual medium. A tremendous cast of supporting actors rounds out an overall excellent production; to mention just a few, Julian Firth as the ambitious and narrow-minded Brother Jerome, Terrence Hardiman as Abbot Radolfus and Sean Pertwee (and later Eoin McCarthy) as Under-Sheriff Hugh Beringar, who joins Cadfael in his investigations whenever, as is so often the case, these transcend the world of monastic life and require the administration of secular justice as well as clerical insight. Several episodes also feature noted guest stars.
The episodes are not entirely in the same order as the books; however, as most of the cross-references between the books have been eliminated in the screen versions, this is no great harm (although the lacking cross-references are probably one of the things avid readers of the books will find missing). The DVDs also provide background information on Ellis Peters, Sir Derek Jacobi and a number of the individual episodes' other actors.
Summary of the episodes contained in this set:
"The Pilgrim of Hate" (the tenth Chronicle): A cripple, his sister and two brothers on a painful pilgrimage meet at the Abbey during the annual feast of St. Winifred. Soon, the question arises whether religion is primarily penance or faith in God's love of mankind.
"The Potter's Field" (the seventeenth Chronicle): The discovery of the bones of a woman in a field once belonging to a potter turned monk leads Cadfael to unveil a harrowing tale of love, loss and a deadly wager.
"The Holy Thief" (the nineteenth Chronicle): Competitors for the possession of St. Winifred's relics show up in Shrewsbury! Then the holy bones disappear, a monk is found murdered -- and a tonsured troubadour finds his lady love.
Episodes contained in other sets:
"One Corpse Too Many" (the second Chronicle).
"Monk's Hood" (the third Chronicle).
"The Leper of St. Giles" (the fifth Chronicle).
"The Sanctuary Sparrow" (the seventh Chronicle).
"A Morbid Taste for Bones" (the first Chronicle);
"The Virgin in the Ice" (the sixth Chronicle);
"The Devil's Novice" (the eighth Chronicle).
"St. Peter's Fair" (the fourth Chronicle);
"The Raven in the Foregate" (the twelfth Chronicle);
Excellent series of course. But this DVD (bought January 2008) would not play on my system, which is fairly modern, has the correct regional code etc. Amazon will replace it but I wonder if more people have this problem.