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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2014
John Bowens' best work I think........firstly the two main protagonists are well matched , norah is oxford educated , worldly and quick-witted , not your usual ''scream-queen'' at all! Mr fisher is self-educated , cunning and calculating.
mrs vigo is like a village ''headwoman'' but occasionally slips up , on a few occasions giving norah a clue as to her fate.

Like john bowen's other work it is very wordy and detailed , so there is extra information to be gleaned of repeated viewing , even on my third viewing I still picked up the odd extra detail.

I invite fans of this production to try watching ''rosemary's baby'' and see that in fact rosemary was quite clever , she worked out pretty much the whole scheme but in the end was led along to the horrible end as norah was.

robin redbreast really ignited my interest in ''folk horror'' so I have a few recommendations for lovers of this sort of stuff.

1/ ''play for today'' - ''a photograph'' by john bowen : mrs vigo is played by Freda bamford again and is really evil in this one , you could think of this as a sequel to robin redbreast , a slow start but the climax of this play is quite shocking , highly recommended if you can find it.

2/ ''murrain'' - by nigel kneale : a vet discovers a suspected witch living near by when he pays a call to a farmer. excellent drama , again a great companion piece to robin redbreast and a photograph. ( to be found as a extra on the ''beasts'' dvd. )

3/ ''here's a health to the barley mow'' - bfi : about 6 hours of folk traditions from throughout the uk , wonderful footage and documentaries and its all real !

I do think that ''robin redbreast'' is the best folk shocker ever made for television , I've watched it so many times now I know fishers dialog by heart.......

the small screen has gems to offer though they are thin on the ground , so for those fans of ''blood on satans claw'' , ''night of the demon'' , ''night of the eagle'' , ''the wicker man'' etc .......''robin redbreast'' is a treat !
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This is a little gem from the `golden' days of British TV drama/horror. Made in 1970 for the series on the BBC called `Play for Today' this was a commission of writer John Bowen. We meet Norah (Anna Cropper) who has just split up with her long term partner; one thing she has been left with is a pretty cottage in the country. She decides that she needs some `me time' and so leaves London to move there.

At first the locals seem friendly enough even if their ways are somewhat different to `city folk'. She then finds herself being drawn to one of the locals - Rob- who is into karate and kills vermin on the side. She soon becomes aware of the importance of the seasons to the locals and what at first appears as quaint soon becomes nightmarish when she realises that she is becoming central to whatever the villagers have got planned in their `game'. What plays out is something that finds her isolated, alone and unable to stop whatever the game has in store for her.

This created quite a stir when it went out - actually due to a power strike on the night of broadcast, only half of it actually did; the BBC received so many complaints that they showed it again the following week. This is seen as a precursor and major influence on the much well known `The Wicker Man' which was made some three years later. This though is low budget but high on the spooks and menace that makes all `horrors' essentially both creepy and compelling. It is fairly short at seventy minutes long and is in black and white. It was screened in colour but the BBC wiped the master in the seventies and this restored version was from a TV recording so the quality could be better. It is a testament though to the quality of the production and writing that this still packs a punch all these years later. This BFI version contains an interview with John Bowen and a great little Public Information film about `The Village Green' from the fifties by the looks of it. I absolutely loved this and hope we get to see more gems from the past being brought back to life as this is superb.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 May 2015
There are some fine acting performances are in here especially Bernard Hepton who is Superb as the head of the Village.

What's wrong with it I felt that it was all rather Cameo and although at times was genuinely frightening it lacks cohesion and for that reason the storyline comes over as mainly weak and insipid. I think that this would probably work better as a book because the main problem was the way that the story was cobbled together in unequal parts forming the impression in the mind of the watcher that a good deal of the main body of the storyline just wasn't there or had been edited out completely. It's strength is in the idea of it's writing and thought out better this would probably have WORKED! - all of the magical ingredients are in there but as in Baking a cake you have to get the ingredients RIGHT - The word that best sums this film up for me is UN PLAUSIBLE - something doesn't HAVE TO BE Believable to be plausible because IF it is done well enough then it can prove to be plausible.
I have still said that I liked it for mainly the ideas expressed in it and for the acting performances which have a real intensity to them - by some of todays standards it is refreshing to watch they just didn't get it quite right for me.
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on 8 January 2014
Robin Redbreast was a televised drama, not a movie. That means there is hardly any editing to speak of, or special effects involved, but greater reliance on strong character acting and creating a momentum that holds the viewer's interest - essentially a separate art-form which I mention as it may be somewhat unfamiliar to some, but should be taken into account when setting expectations.

Various social changes came about during the 1960s, linked to increased national prosperity, changes in the class system, and faster access to information on attitudes and trends through television, radio and popular music. Although not always true, a populist understanding is that urban lifestyles are several paces ahead of those from remote rural communities with their archaic traditions. This play develops that theme by placing a modern urbanite, Norah Palmer (played by Anna Cropper), into a small isolated cottage where she is surrounded by superstition, folk-lore and some strange goings-on. The plot revolves around her being an outsider, trying to comprehend. She develops a relationship with Rob, a gamekeeper, and has a series of encounters with a strange local eccentric called Fisher (played brilliantly by a superbly oddball Bernard Hepton) who, she is told, is expert in the "old ways".

Legend has it that the original 1970 screening on BBC TV of Robin Redbreast was an important influence on the writers and film-makers who went on to make The Wicker Man in 1973, starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, Britt Ekland, etc. There certainly are several strong parallels (particularly with the Director's Cut version of that, which restored e.g. the long absent snails scene), but also clear differences in villager motives and levels of complicity in what transpires.

BFI have done their usual high quality transfer for DVD release. Although it had originally been broadcast in colour, this release is in black and white, as that was all that survived. It is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and has a 16-page booklet with essays, cast, biographies and so forth. Other features include a 12 minute interview with writer John Bowen, made in 2013; and Around the Village Green, an 11 minute archive short film from 1937 made by Evelyn Spice and Marion Grierson offering insight into the changing economic and social history of village life.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 31 October 2013
This wonderfully crafted film has almost legendary status being one of the first examples of "folk horror". A colour TV production from 1970, it survives only as a black and white film recording, and a rather grainy and battered one at that. It therefore appears rather ancient, but the quality of the story and acting soon draws in the viewer, and the shortcomings in picture quality go unnoticed.

Anna Cropper stars as Norah, a script editor spending some time at her country retreat. Whilst all the locals seem nice enough, her unease grows very gradually as she senses more is going on than she first realised, and that her life is being stage managed by others. As her attempts to get out of the village are thwarted, her experience finally culminates in sheer terror. The film uses some folklore motifs like those found in the later "The Wicker Man", and carefully weaves them in to make a deeply unsettling and surprising film. The plot twists so expertly it really becomes compulsive viewing.

The production style may be a little dated but the acting is superb. Cropper in the leading role (see also Dead of Night  for another memorable performance) excels, as does Bernard Hepton, who plays the equivalent of "The Wicker Man"'s Lord Summerisle.

This is a hugely enjoyable piece of vintage TV. Its mixture of folklore and thriller with a slight supernatural edge makes it a gripping, unsettling and scary film, the perfect thing for a dark winter's night. The enjoyable country accents raise a smile, especially when Norah starts repeating their sayings.

The DVD is rounded off with a most informative interview with writer John Bowen who revelas his inspirations for the teleplay. There is also an enjoyable 30s ode to village life as a bonus film and as one would expect from the BFI an illustrated booklet containing essays and photographs.

Highly recommended, and an ideal companion to the BFI's recent releases of classic ghost stories.
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on 14 November 2015
This is a wonderful televised play, originally broadcast in colour by the BBC in 1970 but now released by the BFI in black and white as that is all that now exists. It actually benefits from being in black and white as it adds to the creepy surreal atmosphere and helps locate the story in a time long gone. Excellent acting in this production. As well as being a very worthy addition to the collection of any fan of 'folk horror', this play is also loaded with sub-text regarding just about everything: rural/urban, educated/uneducated, existential void/belief, strict traditional morality/modern women's rights to enjoy carnal pleasure and rights to use birth control and choose abortion. It is very relevant today; it must have been very controversial if not shocking back in 1970! It is a very influential play, too. Think of cult classic 'The Wicker Man'. Actually another film, 'Darklands' directed by Julian Richards in 1996, which many have unfairly critiqued as being 'just a Welsh rip-off of The Wicker Man', is a much closer link to 'Robin Redbreast'. If you love 'folk horror' and anything that is quirky and has an eerie surreal undertow to it then I think you will enjoy this. I'm so happy that the BFI have chosen to release this, otherwise I, and many others, would never have known about this play.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2014
First seen on TV ages ago, it is mysterious, scary and horrific, the more so because it has a basis in truth. Many years after I first saw this, I wondered if it would ever be screened again. I was delighted to find it available in DVD. I had forgotten the title but remembered the name Anna Cropper, which was enough to find it on Wikipedia.
Anna Cropper manages to appear sexy in a non-voluptuous way. I enjoyed seeing it again and will 'witch' it more in the future
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 March 2014
A quaint 1970 chiller which was for me surprisingly enjoyable. Was'nt expecting a great deal from this film but it turned out to be well observed, well written and acted ( Bernard Hepton plays local eccentric with just the right degree of menace). The story delves into the rich vein of folkloric historical spookiness still present in our lives today, albeit only making an occasional ripple in our technical age.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 November 2013
This very well acted, designed and directed precursor to such movies as The Wicker Man is dated admittedly but still quite effective. The sense of rural mystery and tradition is well evoked by a strong cast in a convincing and chilling way. The small details which are very authentic for city dwellers who move to the country - the insects and vermin which come into ones home - the darkness of the night sky - the strange "unaccountable" sounds are all very effectively evoked by the writer who used his own direct experience of such things in developing the script. Yes, its his own home they used, the interior set was a reproduction of the actual interior and he did see a naked man practicing karate in the woods! Despite the fact the colour original is now missing, the black and white source material from which this BFI copy originates, is very good until the last section of the "film" where deterioration is sadly evident but it still does not spoil ones enjoyment of this macabre and strangely memorable story. Don't read the programme notes, or see the extras, until you have seen the 70 minute film itself, as it will take away much of the suspense. Although this is not a programme for everyone and particularly young people brought up on much more horrendous and fast-moving material - it is good that the BFI and other distributors are making available these gems from the archive for those of us with fond memories of such impressive programmes as this The Stone Tape, The Exorcism, the M.R.James adaptations etc etc - which we enjoyed so much in the past and which remain remarkably effective even today. Oh and the director did have a problem getting the reference to a "dutch cap" through the bosses at the BBC. My word how times have change! Such things are almost compulsory now....
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 2 November 2013
I remember enjoying this play immensely when I first saw it over forty years ago and have been boring my wife about it at intervals ever since. I was delighted when I saw that it was to be tidied up and released by BFI but also a bit nervous about whether the reality would live up to one's imperfect memory.

It's very easy to get comfortably nostalgic about the `golden days of television drama' but they sometimes look pretty tacky and studio-bound when compared to the production values of today's efforts.

I needn't really have worried though. I'd originally watched Robin Redbreast on our old 14" black and white set with an indoor aerial so the DVD was an immediate improvement in quality and I didn't miss the fact that it wasn't in colour

I was amazed at how much it was `of its time' - coming, as it did in 1970, midway between Rosemary's Baby and The Wicker Man and being concerned with the same hippy, witchy, pagan fascinations of that time.

Like The Wicker Man it concerns a rather cocky outsider blundering into a secretive and self-contained rural community, thinking themselves `in charge' of the situation and then slowly coming to the realisation that all is not as it seems.

Anna Cropper - a now largely forgotten stalwart of 60s and 70s television, usually playing a woman that something nasty is going to happen to - is terrific as the sophisticated Londoner finding herself all at sea in her new remote village and Bernard Hepton is magnificent as the seriously weird local fount of all knowledge.

The rest of the cast is ok or better, there are one or two holes in the plot but, overall, this play stands the test of time pretty well and is definitely worth watching - especially if you were around at the time.

The DVD is fine - with a nice booklet and an interview with the writer - if a bit pricey.
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