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In Search of Athelstan (1981)

Impassioned documentary by Michael Wood, exploring the achievements of Athelstan, the first king of England, and grandson of Alfred the Great, enhanced by a late 70's - early 80's soundtrack.

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Impassioned documentary by Michael Wood, exploring the achievements of Athelstan, the first king of England, and grandson of Alfred the Great, enhanced by a late 70's - early 80's soundtrack.

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19 March 1981 (UK)  »

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"In this place, in 939, was buried the first king of all England ..."
20 July 2009 | by See all my reviews

Exemplary historical documentary from the second series of Michael Wood's groundbreaking "In Search of the Dark Ages", telling the story of the almost forgotten Anglo-Saxon king who played a key role in the creation of England. Made on a tiny budget, but - like many such productions - making up the shortfall by stimulating the viewer's imagination, the programme benefits from excellent photography, an eclectic but weirdly appropriate music soundtrack, and Wood's own evocative script and sonorous narration, offsetting the almost boyish enthusiasm of his pieces to camera. The standout sequence is his account of the Brunanburh campaign, a thrilling helicopter ride across the "Dark Age Vietnam" of Northumbria towards the site of the lost fortress, which he argues was at Brinsworth in Yorkshire. Sadly unavailable in any format, this series remains a landmark in popular TV history, and shows that you don't need lavish reconstructions to bring the distant past to life.


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