|Page 1 of 3:||  |
|Index||27 reviews in total|
Now that all 13 episodes of (Sir) Derek Jacobi's landmark mystery
series "Cadfael" are now available in a single package, it's time to
give this treasure a good look. The bound-leather look of the
collection is nice, even if it's obviously not mediaeval. It has
convenient double trays and a clever faux clasp to hold it shut.
"Cadfael" is based on the novels of Ellis Peters (pen name of Edith Pargeter). It's set in 1138-1144/5, during the spotty reign of Stephen of Blois King of England 1135-1154 and his civil war with his cousin "Empress" Maud (or Matilda). Stephen's claim to the throne was less compelling than that of Matilda (or Maud), as he was the son of William I's daughter Adela and had already sworn to support his cousin's claim. Maud's (or Matilda's) claim was better, since she was the daughter of William II. Her title "Empress" was only a courtesy because, although she had been wife to Holy Roman Emperor Henry V, she had never been crowned. Despite his oath Stephen quickly appeared to claim the throne when William II died. Matilda (or Maud) came to England in 1138 and a bitter civil war ensued. "Cadfael" begins in 1138, when Stephen seems to be gaining the upper hand. He has just captured the Shropshire area, subsequently executing a large number of his enemies thus effecting the taming of Shrewsbury.
I expect some really sincere groans after that .
Brother Cadfael is the herbalist and, in consequence, as close to a doctor as Shrewsbury Abbey is likely to get. His medical practices are fairly advanced for the time but then, any genuinely medical practices would be. Cadfael has come late to his monkish vocation, having spent 3 or 4 decades in Palestine on Crusade. He has an interesting past many details of which we learn as the series progresses. Learned for his time, and being clever and inquisitive, Cadfael's avocation is solving murder mysteries. Derek Jacobi invests the character with enormous humanity and compassion in brilliant and nuanced performances.
In fact, "Cadfael" is an ensemble of excellent performances. Not least of these is the performance of the technical staff in reproducing the squalor and degradation of living in 12th-Century England. At the height of the Little Ice Age, England was a less pleasant and productive land than it is now a situation exacerbated by the collapse of Romano-British civilization, the deep-rootedness of Christian superstition, and the triumph of Norman greed. Interestingly, this period is equally well portrayed in a comedy, the hilarious Brit series "Dark Ages".
The mysteries that involve Cadfael are complex and interesting, lasting about 1 hour 15 minutes each. His task is made more difficult by the rampant sophomoric thinking of the times and the numerous uptight personalities who think they're better than anyone else.
Speaking of personalities this series is full of them, all highly interesting and individualized, portrayed by accomplished actors. While the murders pose interesting puzzles especially in the absence of modern forensics it's the interactions of the characters that really make the stories. (As to forensics, Cadfael is surprisingly thorough and almost scientific. This is almost a century before the prime of Roger Bacon, an era of the triumph of religion and therefore the abasement of empiricism and yet, here is Cadfael.) Most of the main characters are involved in the abbey. This is, initially, headed by Abbot Heribert (oddly - for the time - spelt "Herribert"). He is played with gentle gravitas by Peter Copley. By decision of a church council, Heribert is quickly replaced by, Radulphis, played with assertive gravitas by Terrence Hardiman. Whilst Heribert tended to give Cadfael his head, Radulphus began his tenure as more skeptical of Cadfael's abilities. However, he quickly came to depend on Cadfael in difficult situations involving murder.
Cadfael's nemesis in most circumstances is Brother Robert, the abbey Prior, played with stuffy all-purpose disapproval by Michael Culver. In his grouchy skepticism, he's seconded by busybody Brother Jerome, played with prissy toadiness by Julian Firth. It's not always clear what this pair is up to, but they're always up to it together. Cadfael is assisted by young Brother Oswin, played with earnest immaturity by Mark Charnock. His clumsiness is a running joke for a time, but this is later wisely abandoned.
Cadfael's main ally is the Under Sheriff, Hugh Beringar originally a partisan of Matilda (or Maud) who ultimately swore loyalty to Stephen and was raised to his current post. He is played very authoritatively by Sean Pertwee easily the best bit of eye candy in the series. Alas, Beringar is played by 3 actors. Pertwee has the role during Season 1, Eoin McCarthy in Seasons 2-3, and Anthony Green in Season 4. The latter two do well, but the viewer misses Pertwee's affable authority. Beringar is assisted by a Sergeant, Will Warden, a hulking berserker sort, prone to arrest first and ask no questions after, played with appropriate menace by Albie Woodington. He doesn't appear in the last season, alas.
"Sheriff", by the way, should more properly be spelt "sherrif". The Old English is scir gerefa, later rendered as "shir(e) reeve" once the "ge" syllable had been lost (nasty Teutonic thing). Conflating into a single word, we should have been left with a double R (and a single F). Such are the vagaries of English. Ask me about the abomination "dwarfs" some time.
The generally top-notch actors give real life to some top-notch stories. But these are, of course, British films. It's amazing that this country, with a fine and sophisticated mystery tradition of its own, has produced little to rival the great British mystery series. Be that as it may, "Cafael" is one of those great series and this set is the most convenient and most economical way to get it.
Cadfael is, in my opinion, one of the best sleuths in the category of
mystery-solvers. He really is a very enjoyable character. And Derek Jacobi
does a wonderful job in portrayal. The stance, the voice, the entire person
is so true to the book. This is one must-see mystery series!
It was certainly one of the more original mysteries to come to
television. I love Jacobi, he's probably one of my favorite actors. I
must say my favorite sheriff was Sean Pertwee. Jon Pertwee's son (of
Dr. Who fame). I have to agree with Br. Jerome being one you would love
to just kick. I think the actor does a bang up job doing so. Are there
any more in the series? I would think so, I've only read a handful of
the stories. I probably learned more about plants watching this than I
ever did on my own. The actor who played the Sargeant, I've seen him
before...oh yes, Hitchhiker's Guide I think. So as not to stray too
much off topic, I'd actually give Cadfeal a 10/10. I love the program
and plan on getting it on DVD.
Well that's my 2 cents.
I first watched this show believing it would be another dull British
detective story, I was wrong it was an excellent show about a medieval
monk who uses deductive reasoning to solve murders. The show also gives
you a sense of what life was like in the middle ages. A lot of medieval
stories concentrate on brutality of the times while this one shows the
day to day affairs of normal people, the culture ,the church, the
politics and how it affects the murder of the victims.
I have since read the Ellis Peters novels and quite simply this is one case where the TV show is better than the books it was based on. I highly recommend watching this show if you like murder mysteries.
there's no ballot. I'd give the series a 9-of-10 mark. Jacobi is perfect as
the solver of mysteries. I'd like to kick Brother Jerome in the shins, so
that actor must have done an excellent job playing his part as well. Of the
3 sheriffs, I prefer the premier season's man. The others don't quite
measure up. I have seen 10 of the videos released from the series so
far...am still trying to locate those from the 3rd set.
I love Cadfael and would give it 10/10 except for a couple of things. The episodes were too short to do the books justice and consequently the stories lacked the historical content that made the books so unique (i.e. they were both murder mysteries and historical novels) and the Welsh connection was lost because Derek Jacobi (wonderful though he is) does not seem to portray Cadfael as Welsh. It also loses out not being shot in England (for financial reasons I believe) unlike Robin of Sherwood a few years earlier. The countryside is so obviously unlike England it distracts a little. But other than these few gripes it was wonderful filled with fantastic actors, such as shame more could not have been made. It was also a shame that 3 actors had to be used to portray Hugh. One final comment an earlier reviewer trying to fill in the historical facts said that Empress Maud was the daughter of William II, she was in fact the daughter of Henry I. I'll forgive him though because I know Americans are not that good on English history!! (just joking!)
My vote for this series would be an 8 out of 10. It's fairly accurate to the book and I think I actually enjoy the series more. It got rather strange when the actor playing Hugh Beringar kept changing, Sean Pertwee (from the premier season) portrayed him the best. Some of the later episodes fell short of my expectations and sometimes the extras' voices were quite obviously dubbed in, but all in all it was quite an entertaining show.
I've watched all four sets of episodes in the "Cadfael" series, and I've
also read the novels that each episode is based on, and I must say that
novels are much better. Firstly, the dramatizations of Ellis Peters' work
are only very, *very* loosely based on the novels; often the plot of the
dramatization bears virtually no resemblance to the plot of the
corresponding novel. However, the most remarkable difference between the
novels and their dramatizations are the way the characters are portrayed:
In general, the characters are displayed in a much more sympathetic light
the novels than they are in the dramatizations. In many of the episodes,
the only characters
who come out with a clean nose are Cadfael and the female
while almost all the other characters are portrayed as ignorant
and/or mean-spirited and/or having ulterior and selfish motives. In the
novels, the kindest and most charitable view of every
character emerges from the prose. Even the murderer in most
the novels is treated with a degree of sympathy in the end. Many of the
characters who in the novels are genuinely good people (or at least have
good intentions or a good will) are presented in the dramatizations as
nasty, judgemental, narrow-minded, and stupid. As a consequence, the
video dramatizations are harsher and darker, and they come across as less
authentic and balanced compared to the novels.
On a positive note, the sets and costumes in the series are great. Derek Jacobi is absolutely *perfect* in the lead role of Cafael - I cannot conceive of another actor playing Cadfael; Jacobi owns this role the way Jeremy Brett came to own the role of Sherlock Holmes. Michael Culver and Julian Firth are exactly as I imagined Prior Robert and Brother Jerome to be when I was reading the novels. The same goes for the Terrence Hardiman as Abbot Radulfus. Given that Hugh Beringar is such a central character in the series, it is unfortunate that one actor could not have been recruited to play him for every episode. My favorite Hugh Beringar is the first one, played by Sean Pertwee. Finally, the actresses playing the female leads have, without exception, been superb.
In conclusion, the "Cadfael" series is good, but the dramatizations are not as good as the novels. Watch the episodes in the series, but be sure to read the novels they are based on afterwards. And if you read the novels *before* you watch the dramatizations, prepare for yourself for disappointment.
Even those with criticism for the Cadfael series' inaccuracies and
inconsistencies can't help but be avid admirers. The writing and
performances are superb and Jacobi must surely be one of the most gifted
actors alive on stage or screen.
It seems unnecessary that they had to go abroad to film the series. There must surely be a patch of forest left in Wales or the west of England that would have suited a film crew. It is also a shame that more actual Welsh actors had not been engaged for the series, even as extras or cameos. The location is in a traditionally Welsh region of Shropshire, so one should expect to hear Welsh being spoken by the abbey locals, if not the occasional cast member.
It is true some of the episodes did not work well, especially the incredible "Virgin in the Ice". "The Sanctuary Sparrow" is certainly one of the best due to the classical tragedy of the story. The series is accompanied well on American television by forewords and epilogues by Diana Rigg, usually with interesting trivia about the books, filming or historical background.
I agree with "hgallon" on quite a few points.
Any literary adaptation for the large or small screen, owes its existence to the source material. Therefore, it's not merely respectful to retain what made the source material compelling to start with; it's practical. (Acknowledging, of course, the fine adjustments that must occur when translating a story from one medium to another.)
The series achieves both "hits" and "misses".
I too was a little hurt that Cadfael's Welsh origins was omitted. And for several reasons:
Cadfael's Welshness was an important aspect of his character. Anytime the abbey needed a Welsh translator (they WERE on the borderlands!), or the story required someone who knew both the Welsh and the English psyche intimately, Cadfael was called upon. Also, Ms. Peters indicates more then once that his affably earthy, yet bold, "take-no-crap" personality is a direct result to the Celtic culture in which he was brought up.
I hardly think a simple Welsh accent would be beyond the scope of Mr. Jacobi's acting talent. (Ian Holm did it pretty well in "Henry V"...) I wonder why he was not asked to try?
While on the subject, did anyone notice the actor playing Meurig in "Monk's Hood?" He played the lead in "Hedd Wyn" ---- the biopic of poet Ellis Evans. It was nominated for a "Best Foreign Film" Oscar in 1993. DEFINITELY worth checking out: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104403/board/threads/
|Page 1 of 3:||  |
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|