Monday, 25 November 2013

Robin Redbreast (1970, UK) BFI dvd release

Norah is portrayed as sexually liberated, and the play caused some controversy for using a contraceptive cap as a central plot device. As Victor Pratt points out in the dvd notes, the play seems to be cynically  remarking upon the deflated feeling of the early 70s, when the free love and peace movement of the late 60s had not blossomed as many had hoped. Her fling with the dull Rob is anything but liberating. Her attempt at fitting into rural life is also doomed. Fisher's cryptic hints about her situation go over her head, and she only realizes the danger she is in when it is too late. 

Robin Redbreast was inspired by the 1945 Lower Quinton murder, where a tramp was murdered and his corpse dragged across crops - quite possibly his blood was used in the hope of fertilizing crops, his sacrifice rooted in rural ritual that many would like to have thought no longer happened in the 20th century. Whether this really was a witchcraft murder is of lesser importance than its cultural impact on influencing the screenplay of Robin Redbreast, which in turn most probably sowed the seeds for The Wicker Man.
Originally made in colour, only the 16mm back and white version survives after the BBC wiped a whole bunch of tapes in the 70s, losing many treasures in the process. Still, this release is a marked improvement on the fuzzy time-coded copy that had been doing the rounds previously. Also included is an interview with John Bowen (see short clip below) Bowen went on to script two of the BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas, The Treasure of Abbot Thomas and The Ice House, as well as the first of ITVs classic Armchair Thriller.

To cap it all off, the dvd has Around the Village Green as an extra, an 11 minute portrayal of bygone quaint village and rural life that folk horror films negate via depicting the occult forces at work there.

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