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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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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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on 18 December 2015
Creepy, a quality fore-running gem of a film - foreshadowing the more modern 'Wicker man.' Bernard Hepton is quite superb. Buy it. Watch it. Watch it again. Christmastime is as good a time as any to see this classic.
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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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on 22 June 2014
I can see why this play has been called a precursor to the Wicker Man, with its themes of insular villagers with strange and unsettling ways, and also the way it builds to its climax. In other ways though it ressembles Rosemary's Baby, which came out a few years before this BBC drama, in the way we see how the female lead's descent into fear and paranoia ultimately proves to be well founded. There is a slight twist at the end however which is quite satisfying and the final explanation of what is actually happening to Norah is very 'Wicker Man.'

This is well scripted with some very fine acting. The actor playing Mr Fisher, the 'Lord Summerisle' type character is very creepy and unsettling from his first scene to the end. The female lead Norah, is an interesting character; 35, unmarried, separated from her long term partner and quite open to the possibility of some casual sex in the country. I can imagine in 1970, this was probably quite controversial stuff.

True, by modern standards of BBC drama it is a bit creaky. TV plays in 1970 really were 'plays'. Most of the drama takes place in one or two indoor locations, with only a couple of outdoor scenes at the country cottage and its surrounds. The production is also in black and white, which I believe is not how it was originally screened but only because the colour print of the film is now sadly lost!

Stil this is a stunning piece of drama that leaves you thinking about it long after viewing. I can't help wondering if Mark Gatiss etc of 'The League of Gentlemen' have seen this drama. It seems almost certain and anyone who has seen 'Robin Redbreast' and 'The League of Gentlemen' will know what I mean.

Highly recommended to lovers of folk horror, especially the 70's kind.
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on 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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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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on 18 February 2017
Had to buy whilst available as I remember it being on originally, don't yet know how well it has aged. Good accompanying notes
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on 24 December 2015
will review after watching; it's reserved as a Xmas spooky.
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on 19 April 2017
Twists and turns from yesterday's .
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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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