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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deserves Higher Profile, 19 Mar 2004
This review is from: Cadfael: The Complete Series 1 [DVD] (DVD)
This excellent adaptation of Ellis Peters' novels was unfairly overlooked by audiences when first broadcast, but stands the test of time very well. This first series was probably the best, getting off to a flying start with "One Corpse Too Many", which cleverly sets a relatively intimate murder off against the historical tragedy of the massacre of the garrison of Shrewsbury Castle. Other episodes bring different aspects of Middle Ages culture - such a the merchant class in "The Sanctuary Sparrow" - brilliantly to life, showing how, as in any time and place, it had its horrors and its joys. The production values are, at least by standards of British television, excellent. Sir Derek Jacobi emphasises the humanity of Brother Cadfael - where others whose names came up in the original casting, notably Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sir Ian Holm, might have made more of the darker side. In the end, the choice of the versatile Jacobi was probably the right option - his Cadfael is easy company, the sort of holy but humane counsellor from whom most of us would benefit. The supporting cast is also fine, much of the fun coming from spotting now familiar faces in early roles, including Sean Pertwee as the first - and possibly best - Hugh Berengar, and Hugh Bonneville, billed here as Richard. Extras include filmographies of the principal stars and entertaining audio interviews with Sir Derek. Overall, this adaptation is, unusually, superior to the original books - which did tend to telegraph the villain - and its tolerant but moral sense of values raises it head and shoulders above the vast heap of contemporary crime dramas and thrillers that all seem so much the same these days.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sir Derek and the Chronicles of a Truly Rare Benedictine., 7 Sep 2006
By 
Themis-Athena (from somewhere between California and Germany) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cadfael: The Complete Series 1 [DVD] (DVD)
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:

"One Corpse Too Many" (second Chronicle): King Stephen lays siege to Shrewsbury Castle and, finally victorious, orders the surviving defenders to be executed. But then there's an extra corpse, who clearly wasn't executed. Whodunnit -- and why?

"Monk's Hood" (third Chronicle): Cadfael's and Shrewsbury Abbey's honor is at stake when a guest is found poisoned by Cadfael's own potions ... and the sheriff's sergeant over-eagerly jumps to the wrong conclusions.

"The Leper of St. Giles" (fifth Chronicle): A leper's grim fate is unexpectedly intertwined with the story of an orphaned heiress, due to be wedded for money's sake to a despicable old baron, and her lover; who is everybody's favorite suspect when the groom turns up dead.

"The Sanctuary Sparrow" (seventh Chronicle): A young singer is accused of robbery and murder and, hunted by a mob, seeks shelter in the Abbey.

Episodes contained in other sets:

Second Set:

"St. Peter's Fair" (the fourth Chronicle);

"The Virgin in the Ice" (the sixth Chronicle);

"The Devil's Novice" (the eighth Chronicle).

Third Set:

"A Morbid Taste for Bones" (the first Chronicle);

"The Raven in the Foregate" (the twelfth Chronicle);

"The Rose Rent" (the thirteenth Chronicle).

Fourth Set:

"The Pilgrim of Hate" (the tenth Chronicle)

"The Pilgrim of Hate" (the tenth Chronicle)

"The Holy Thief" (the nineteenth Chronicle)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, 22 Sep 2001
By 
S. HADAVI "sinead" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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This is an exdellent adaptation of Ellis Peter's The potter's Field. Brother Ruald, although married finds he has a vocation, much to his wife's dismay. He enters the Abbey at Shrewsbury despite her protests. His wife seems to have accepted her husband's decision and left her home. A few years later the remains of a woman are found on the land where Ruald lived. Is Brother Ruald as saintly as he seems, or is he a murderer?Why is Ruald's landlords son eager to prove that the body is not Ruald's wife? Brother Cadfael investigates.This video will not disappoint those who enjoyed the book as it adheres closly to the plot.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brother Cadfael, Set 2, 9 Aug 2007
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Cadfael: The Complete Series 1 [DVD] (DVD)
The Virgin in the Ice

"Between friends there is no owing."
Once again there is a mystery with many threads overlapping. Father Cadfael uses intuition and a great deal of forensics to sort out what really happened.
You guest it; Sister Hilaria is found in the ice and the last time she was seen was with Brother Oswain of who is delirious from an encounter with bandits. Two kids are missing and a mysterious woodsman (with a sward) is creeping around. Things only get more complicated. In the process of sorting this out Father Cadfael leaves words of wisdom as "There is no shame in tears when they are worth shedding."
The identity of the mysterious woodsman holds great significance.
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The Devil's Novice
"Even in the worst deed there is some good."
You know this is going to be a good one when it starts out with a bloody face staring at you. Later there is the bragging priest and you know if he is not the one to die that he should be. And what is with the soon to be bride playing on both sides of the fence?
A new novice that speaks strangely in his sleep, a missing king's chaplain who should have staid in the cars or rather not go out alone, and a mystery wild man is just the right mix for a murder mystery.
Once again Cadfael uses forensics, logic and intuition (with a little last minute information) to smoke out the truth and bring the culprit/s to justice.
You will suspect everyone up to the end.
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St. Peter's Fair

In the final reckoning we are all traitors to our hearts.

There is to be the annual St. Peter's Fair in which vendors from all over come to hawk their wears. The town merchants are required by law to close for this time. Not satisfied with this law the merchants threaten Abbot Radulfus (Terrence Hardiman) and get told that he has no choice in the matter.
This leads to a scuffle between the merchants and the visiting vendors. In the morning a wine merchant's body seems to be watered down with a hole and no tong. Abbot Radulfus charges Cadfael to find out if it was the Abbots fault for refusing to share with the towns people.
Naturally things get complex. There are crosses and double crosses, beautiful girls and suspicious sheriffs. This may even lead to a rift between the Sheriff Hugh Beringar and Cadfael (old friends.)Cadfael uses forensics, intrusion and logic to help solve the mystery.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Guilt is something we have to live with", 15 Dec 2005
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
So much mystery, so many solutions, and you guest wrong. Yet Brother Cadfael stays with it until all is revealed. In the process we all must think and learn something of our selves.
This may not be the book but the film has depth in its own right. It was directed in 1997 by Mary McMurray the same person who directed Miss Marple: At Bertram's Hotel in 1987.
The potter Ruald heard the call of God and to the consternation of his wife takes the tonsure. While tilling the field that was left to the abbey some monks find a body. Their first assumption is that it is Ruald's wife.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Guilt is something we have to live with, 20 Oct 2002
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
So much mystery, so many solutions, and you guest wrong. Yet Brother Cadfael stays with it until all is revealed. In the process we all must think and learn something of our selves.
From the back cover:
A woman's skeleton is discovered in a local potter's field, since the potter Ruald, left his family to answer a calling form God, everyone concludes that the body belongs to his wife, and that Ruald murdered her when she tried to prevent him from taking the tonsure.
This may not be the book but the film has depth in its own right.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A rare Benedictine, 1 May 2011
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Cadfael: The Complete Series 1 [DVD] (DVD)
Brother Cadfael is not the sort of person you would immediately peg as a brilliant detective -- a crusader-turned-monk who specializes in herbology and medicine.

But he is a brilliant detective. And "Brother Cadfael, Set 1 (One Corpse Too Many / The Sanctuary Sparrow / The Leper of St. Giles / Monk's Hood)" brings the first four adaptation of Ellis Peters' classic mysteries, which intertwine murder mysteries and medieval history. These stories are well-written, clever and full of unexpected twists -- and they're filmed with a gritty, grimy realistic flavor.

Cadfael finds "A Corpse Too Many" after a mass execution by King Stephen -- there's a strangled corpse slipped in among the executed, but the authorities don't seem to care much. As he works with the new sheriff Hugh Beringer, the canny monk cares for a wounded man, uncovers a young monk's secret and a love triangle turned deadly.

Then Shrewsbury Abbey ends up with a "Sanctuary Sparrow" when a traveling acrobat is kicked out of the Aurifaber wedding reception, unpaid for his work. But when the master of the house is found clubbed and robbed, a mob chases the young man into the nearest church, where he claims sanctuary. Now Cadfael must unravel the complex troubles of the Aurifaber household, and figure out who there has a motive to kill...

And in "The Leper of St. Giles," a young heiress is brought to the abbey to marry the cruel Baron Huon de Domville... only, of course, he ends up dead as a doornail. The main suspect is a young squire desperately in love with the girl, but of course Cadfael doesn't think he did it -- and he needs to figure out whayt's going on with the treacherous Picard family before the wrong man is executed.

Finally, Cadfael is shocked when his ex-fiancee Richildis appears at the abbey... along with her nasty husband Gervase, who has spited his step-son by deciding to will all his considerable property to the abbey. Then Gervase is poisoned with monk's hood (aka aconite or wolfsbane) from Cadfael's own store. Obviously the stepson is accused of the murder, but Cadfael doesn't believe he did it -- and he has to prove it, for Richildis' sake.

"Cadfael: The Complete Collection" is the sort of authentic historical series that the BBC has sadly stopped making -- it has all the blood, grime and sweat of the 12th century, and accurately depicts the strong presence of religion and politicial strife in medieval life.

For the most part, the writers accurately adapt Peters' novels -- every mystery has lots of suspects, moral dilemmas, religious strife, civil war, a murder that only Cadfael can solve, and a bit of cute romance as well. And since the series is set long before forensic science was created, it's fun to see Cadfael scout for tiny clues and patch them together into a case.

But Derek Jacobi is absolutely pitch-perfect as Cadfael -- his solid performance is kindly, wise, paternal, and a little humorous at times, especially as a monk who's seen more of the real world than most of his brothers (he was even a ladies' man!). Jacobi does an especially good job in "Monk's Hood," where we see Cadfael's lingering affection for his ex, as well as his feelings of obligation to her.

There are also great performances by Terrence Hardiman as the kind but stern Abbot Radulfus, Julian Firth as the fussy Brother Jerome, and Michael Culver as the haughty snob Prior Robert. And Sean Pertwee is the best of the three Hugh Beringer actors -- he's a strong decisive man who trusts in the "rare Benedictine's" wisdom.

"Brother Cadfael, Set 1" brings together an entertaining first season of mysteries, set against a medieval backdrop of war, love and murder.
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4.0 out of 5 stars dvd, 1 Feb 2010
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This review is from: Cadfael: The Complete Series 1 [DVD] (DVD)
Was very pleased with my purchase as i am a big danny dyer fan. The dvd was in excellent condition and arrived quickly.
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Cadfael: The Complete Series 1 [DVD]
Cadfael: The Complete Series 1 [DVD] by Graham Theakston (DVD - 2004)
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