This is cracking stuff, and I can't believe I neglected it when it was on TV. The haircuts bothered me then - but now it's a much-loved DVD which I regularly turn to when I want to escape the dreary present.
It's the story of a moment in time: King Richard dawdles in Palestine; Prince John plots to have the throne; John's barons engage in a mad plot to kidnap the Saxon princess Rowena, and a large cast of characters become caught up in the storm. This really gives you everything: jousting tournaments, swordfighting, Saxon-Norman tensions, romance, intrigue, castles - great stuff.
It's very well cast, and in particular, is absolutely elevated by the presence of the great Ciaran Hinds as the proud, arrogant Norman Knight Templar Brian de Bois Guilbert, whose electrically charged scenes with Susan Lynch's Rebecca form the cornerstone of the whole drama. Hinds' commitment to his part makes this more than an average tv period dramatisation, and he's to be commended - likewise the scriptwriter for turning Scott's decided villain into an anti-hero, amping up the triangle of Ivanhoe, Rebecca and Bois-Guilbert to provide a much more exciting scenario than that in the book (and more suited to modern tastes).
Stephen Waddington does pretty well with a difficult part in Ivanhoe: he gets a raw deal, as his character is mostly in the background, but his conflicted, love-struck Ivanhoe is a warrior first, brave and strong. Elsewhere the cast list shows real quality: Susan Lynch's beautiful and noble Rebecca; Christopher Lee magnificent as the bigot Templar Grand Master Lucas de Beaumanoir; Ronald Pickup's smooth courtier, Fitzurse; Aden Gillet's plain-speaking Robin Hood; James Cosmo's proud Saxon Cedric; the list goes on and on. There's some hamminess but really, who cares? It's great stuff, well shot, gripping and different from the usual 19th century fare. I'd strongly recommend it for all-round entertainment.