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Presented here are all thirteen episodes of `Cadfael', starring Derek Jacobi. Based on Ellis Peter's popular series of novels, they tell the tale of Brother Cadfael, Soldier, sailor and sinner, now a Brother in Shrewsbury abbey at the height of the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud, in the late 12th century. The location and time were well chosen by Peters, as the civil war and Shrewsbury's position close to the sensitive Welsh border provides rich territory for plotting and bloody murder. Bodies keep popping up all over the place, and it falls to the worldly Cadfael, with his knowledge of pathology gained from the battle field and his knowledge of men gained from many years in the world, to solve the crimes and see justice is served.

The productions are quite well done, evoking the medieval period very nicely. The pace is usually quite leisurely, with the occasional burst of excitement. Jacobi is perfectly cast in the central role, bringing forward the various facets of the character (his devotion to god and spiritualism, his worldliness and, finally his willingness to act in the face of all authority in order to see what he thinks is justice served) very well. He is ably supported by Sean Pertwee and latterly Eoin McCarthy as Cadfael's friend Hugh Beringar, under sherriff of Shrewsbury. Michael Culver as the ambitious Prior Robert, Julian Firth as the officious and sneaky Brother Jerome and Mark Charnock as Cadfael's other worldly, yet loyal and brave assistant Oswin form most of the regular supporting cast, and all do very well at providing memorable characters. The attention to period detail is good throughout, and while not totally faithful to the books I think the spirit has been captured very well, and the best possible job of bringing them to the screen has been done. It is visually engaging and full of atmosphere.

The thirteen episodes (75 min each) are presented on 5 discs. Each is in 4.3 aspect ratio, with a stereo soundtrack. The picture quality is pretty good, as you would expect from something recorded in the mid to late `90s. English subtitles only. The extras are limited, with some audio interviews with Jacobi, filmographies for principle cast members and some details of Ellis Peter's life and a complete list of the Cadfael novels. These are mostly pretty disposable, and do not really add to the set. The five discs come in a double width DVD case, and there are no liner notes or booklet.

For the price being asked, this is an excellent set, one that I highly recommend to all fans of well done and thoughtful drama.
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Well filmed, well acted, medieval who-dunnits in the vein of the equally superb 'The Name of the Rose', although the first Brother Cadfael novel 'A morbid taste for bones' was published in 1977, three years before 'The name of the Rose'. Each of these Cadfael TV episodes is loosely based on one of Ellis Peter's original Cadfael books. English/Welsh Cadfael is a worldly wise 12th century Benedictine monk who solves murder mysteries while providing herbal remedies and medicines (so he knows his poisons). Having been on the Crusades and been disappointed in love, Cadfael is far more down to Earth and sensible than his stay at home snooty & spiritual monk superiors who often find him an irritation. Being Derek Jacobi he is also very nice, in a rather ruthless Miss Marple 'Nemesis' sort of way. The Cadfael books and episodes are all quite accurate historically, and include real event's like the siege of Shrewsbury by Stephen in 1138 that forms the setting for One Corpse Too Many. Like-wise all love interest is strictly between those of the same class.

The series is set in Shrewsbury Abbey, Shropshire, near the volatile Welsh border. The stories take place between 1135 and 1145, during the civil war between the forces of King Stephen and the Empress Maud - they eventually agreed a peace where Stephen remained king with Maud (Matilda)'s son being recognised as heir to the throne (but that's not important). The thirteen episodes on the five DVDs are, most recent first: The Holy thief, The Potter Field, Pilgrim of Hate, The Rose Rent, St Peter's fair, The Raven in the Foregate, The Virgin in the ice, The Devils Novice, A morbid taste for bones, One Corpse too many, The Sanctuary Sparrow, The Leper of St Giles, and Monks Hood. This is all the seasons, one to four, that were first shown between 1994 to 1998. My favourites are 'The virgin in the ice', and `A morbid taste for bones' based around a search for St Winefride's body in Wales. The Cadfael series was filmed in Hungary, as the countryside there was considered to be far more like that of medieval Shrewsbury than anything found in modern Britain today.

This newer complete Cadfael collection is an identical release to the previous all four Cadfael seasons brown boxed set with an updated (Blue) cover. Both these 'all four season' sets have identical extras: audio comments by Sir Derek discussing the episodes, a selection of stills, and cast filmographies. Likewise both have English only audio [Dolby stereo], subtitles [HOH] in English only, PAL region 2 locked, aspect ratio standard 4:3, except 'The Potter's field' that's 4:3 letterbox, and the age rating is 15. Total run time 983 minutes. The box for this new blue set is usefully only 2.2cm wide though, compared to the older sets bulkier 6.2cm width (as it had four full-size DVD cases in a thin slip-box). The old TV to DVD video transfer quality is OK rather than excellent, and there's no hi-def Blu-ray version.

Each TV episode cost a packet to produce (and it shows) so the whole series in one box set is very good value for the viewer, we paid just £15. The original twenty 'Ellis Peters' Cadfael books are also a good read and add a lot more background info on Cadfael and the period - the linguist-scholar author Edith Pargeter sadly died in 1995, aged 82. The first Cadfael book was published in 1977, and the 20th last book in the Cadfael Chronicles series 'Brother Cadfael's Penance' was published in 1994. My wife, a fan of the books and Derek Jacobi, loves both to bits. The series broadly follows the feel of the books, but some episodes have changes to the book plot to reduce the size of the speaking cast, the running time, and the need for expensive special effects. However, one episode made after the author's death, 'The Pilgrim of Hate', bears almost no resemblance to the book save a few of the characters sharing the same names. Plus Cadfael doesn't speak any Welsh in this TV series, and his on-screen relationship with Sheriff Hugh Beringar seems less intimate (Cadfael is Godfather to Hugh's son). But it's a great atmospheric TV show none the less. If you like this, also have a look at Richard E Grants The Scarlet Pimpernel and the Sharpe with Wellies Horatio Hornblower 18th/19th century TV series with Ioan Gruffudd.
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on 3 November 2004
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 individual episodes:

"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.

"St. Peter's Fair" (fourth Chronicle): While traders arrive from near and far, townsfolk claim a share of the Abbey's dues from the annual fair. Then a merchant is found murdered -- but there's more to this than meets the eye!

"The Virgin in the Ice" (sixth Chronicle): After the sack of Worcester by Empress Maud, a nun, a young nobleman and his sister get lost in the Marshes. Cadfael rushes to the rescue -- and meets a messenger from his own past!

"The Devil's Novice" (eighth Chronicle): The Abbey accepts a novice with a troubling zeal for monastic life (but not its virtues), who may or may not be connected to the death of a cleric traveling through his home village.

"A Morbid Taste for Bones" (first Chronicle): The monks mount an expedition to Wales to retrieve the bones of a local saint after a young monk claims to have seen the saint in a vision in which she asked that her bones be brought to Shrewsbury. The mission runs into serious trouble when the local lord, who has opposed it, is found murdered.

"The Raven in the Foregate" (twelfth Chronicle): Cadfael must solve the mystery behind two deaths; one of a young woman who (unsuccessfully) sought his spiritual advice, the other of the priest to whom Cadfael sent her: the new priest in Shrewsbury's foregate, an ambitious, power-hungry cleric in direct allegiance with King Stephen.

"The Rose Rent" (thirteenth Chronicle): A grieving young widow, beset by suitors, gives her house to the abbey for a single rose's annual rent. But her gift of beauty turns bloody when the emissary delivering the rose, a young monk, is found murdered.

"The Pilgrim of Hate" (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" (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" (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.
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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 "Cadfael: Complete Collection" brings together all of the BBC's 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 (Derek Jacobi) is a monk at the abbey of Shrewsbury in the first half of the twelfth century. At this time, England was being ripped in half by a civil war (now called The Anarchy) between King Stephen and Empress Maud, which was dividing the populace and turning the English people against each other.

And as the war rages on, Cadfael is confronted by many different murders -- murdered nobles, framed acrobats, a corpse is hidden amongst executed "traitors," a raped nun frozen in the river, a saint's bones that inspire murder and greed, a body found in a potter's field, a vast Shrewsbury Fair leads to a string of cruel murders, a cruel priest is found dead after he drives a pregnant girl to suicide, and political conflicts lead to brutal deaths.

"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-- a cast of a boot print, a shred of cloth, a bit of a plant.

The one downside? Cadfael does a couple of things that would be questionable for a Catholic monk, and "The Pilgrim of Hate" is almost nothing like Peters' novel -- a lame end for the series.

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!). And even though he's a monk and healer, we occasionally get to see him kick butt as well.

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. Mark Charnock is also rather sweet as the naive, gawky Brother Oswin ("... besides... I like gloves").

Despite a few flaws, "Cadfael: The Complete Collection" is an earthy, solid medieval mystery series with a brilliant Derek Jacobi in the lead.
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on 21 February 2005
After seeing Derek Jacobi in I Claudius you might have thought this would be his finest hour as the main character but no. He went on to do a little mini-series for TV called Mr.Pye which sadly seems to have disappeared into obscurity (perhaps it flew away on little wings) and then more recently appeared on ITV as the wise and lovable Cadfael. This series is absolutely riveting. His effortless acting really makes the character come alive. A medieval 'who-dun-it' may not seem immediately inviting but like 'The Name of the Rose' proves to be enthralling viewing.
The DVD recording is of a very high standard and is well worth buying.
Lets hope this is not the last we see of Sir Derek in a series playing the leading role. He is one of Britains best Gentleman-Actors and deserves to be seen more.
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on 14 May 2009
I saw one episode of this a few years ago and then it vanished off the telly.Never thought much about it until recently and then just looked to see if it was available.There are 13 episodes in the series and each one I find very interesting.Instead of watching a lot of them at once,my wife and I get up early on Sunday morning before the children wake and just watch one episode.It is important to watch it without too much disruption as you can easily miss subtle clues that allow you to follow Cadfaels investigations.His knowledge of herbs and other plants are sometimes crucial in discovering the perpertrators of the crimes commited.Derek Jacobi is a great actor,you can see what he is thinking from his expressions and can deduct clues from what he doesn't say.It is one of those rare quiet tv programs that allows you to follow it without rushing and enjoy the story to its conclusion.His herb and flower garden has encouraged me to put shovel to dirt and renew my weed laden garden to its former beauty.Not for everyone but I do recommend this series to those of you who like to hark back to a simpler time and also work out who has done the dirty deed.
Hope this helps.
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on 8 July 2005
A long time passed between seeing the original four series and buying the DVD box set late in 2004. I was reminded strongly how excellent the series was, how little it had dated and how well it had got the feel of the main characters, especially Derek Jacobi's protrayal of Cadfael. I was also struck by how few of the books had been turned into film, particularly given the enduring popularity of the books - just check any good bookshop! If you enjoy this genre and well plotted, well scripted and beautifully acted medieaval murder mysteries you would do far worse than buy this series - truly excellent.
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on 15 June 2011
I really loved the books, the joy of the written word, how well the period is discribed and treated, the humility and simplicity of the characters all within the parameters of factual background - delightful! The TV series is not like that - a lot of gratuitous wickedness and no characters stay true to the original creations. However, if you separate the two, its easy to get lost in the period and accept the altered story lines for what they are - well balanced but embellished tales with a great lead character solving fascinating mysteries. Enjoy!
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on 7 June 2011
I saw the first series when it was originally broadcast on TV, but was put off during the second series by the preview comments by an anchor ahead of the broadcast of one of the episodes (A morbid taste for bones). Many years later, re-reading the books, I decided to see if the show was available on DVD and bought the set.

Inevitably, a TV drama is going to be different from the books, and that is the case here. I do prefer the books, but I think most of the casting here is excellent, particularly Derek Jacobi, and they bring the characters to life. Sadly, the one case that disappoints is Beringar; for whatever reason they had to use three different actors across the series, and to my mind, John Pertwee, who plays the part in the first series, is by far the best. Also, it is sad that the relationship between Cadfael and Beringar, built up in "One corpse too many" is not developed in the TV version although it is a very important theme running through the books.

But I'm definitely pleased I bought the collection. It's enjoyable TV Drama, and importantly, the commentaries by Derek Jacobi in the extras section under each episode are a true bonus. Enjoy the series, but definitely buy the books too!
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Presented here are all thirteen episodes of `Cadfael', starring Derek Jacobi. Based on Ellis Peter's popular series of novels, they tell the tale of Brother Cadfael, Soldier, sailor and sinner, now a Brother in Shrewsbury abbey at the height of the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud, in the late 12th century. The location and time were well chosen by Peters, as the civil war and Shrewsbury's position close to the sensitive Welsh border provides rich territory for plotting and bloody murder. Bodies keep popping up all over the place, and it falls to the worldly Cadfael, with his knowledge of pathology gained from the battle field and his knowledge of men gained from many years in the world, to solve the crimes and see justice is served.

The productions are quite well done, evoking the medieval period very nicely. The pace is usually quite leisurely, with the occasional burst of excitement. Jacobi is perfectly cast in the central role, bringing forward the various facets of the character (his devotion to god and spiritualism, his worldliness and, finally his willingness to act in the face of all authority in order to see what he thinks is justice served) very well. He is ably supported by Sean Pertwee and latterly Eoin McCarthy as Cadfael's friend Hugh Beringar, under sherriff of Shrewsbury. Michael Culver as the ambitious Prior Robert, Julian Firth as the officious and sneaky Brother Jerome and Mark Charnock as Cadfael's other worldly, yet loyal and brave assistant Oswin form most of the regular supporting cast, and all do very well at providing memorable characters. The attention to period detail is good throughout, and while not totally faithful to the books I think the spirit has been captured very well, and the best possible job of bringing them to the screen has been done. It is visually engaging and full of atmosphere.

The thirteen episodes (75 min each) are presented on 5 discs. Each is in 4.3 aspect ratio, with a stereo soundtrack. The picture quality is pretty good, as you would expect from something recorded in the mid to late `90s. English subtitles only. The extras are limited, with some audio interviews with Jacobi, filmographies for principle cast members and some details of Ellis Peter's life and a complete list of the Cadfael novels. These are mostly pretty disposable, and do not really add to the set. The five discs come in a double width DVD case, and there are no liner notes or booklet.

For the price being asked, this is an excellent set, one that I highly recommend to all fans of well done and thoughtful drama.
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