Influential and unnerving,
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This review is from: Robin Redbreast (DVD) (DVD)
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.