Every other Monday I watch a movie I've never heard of before. Here's the latest:
THE SCARECROW OF ROMNEY MARSH (1963)
aka DR. SYN, ALIAS THE SCARECROW
Based on the series of Dr. Syn novels, THE SCARECROW OF ROMNEY MARSH was originally produced as a three episode series for NBC's DISNEY'S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR. Before it made its television premiere, it was edited into a feature length film titled DR. SYN, ALIAS THE SCARECROW and released in the U.K. a year prior. In the early 70's it was re-edited once again and given a U.S. theatrical release double billing with TREASURE ISLAND. I watched two versions. The WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR episodes, and what I believe is the U.S. feature.
Doctor Syn (Patrick McGoohan, THE PRISONER) is the town of Romney Marsh's respected Reverend by day. By night he's the infamous smuggler The Scarecrow, smuggling crates of brandy and other goods to avoid the King's taxation. The profits he makes are given to his impoverished parishoners. Aside from two of Syn's closest friends, nobody else knows his true identity. To combat this smuggling ring the King sends in General Pugh and his men. The General sets a trap using a local man who was captured as bait to catch the Scarecrow. Pugh views Syn as a non-threat letting him know some of his secrets, allowing the Scarecrow to stay one jump ahead of the lawmen.
In episode two, Pugh searches for one of the locals that couldn't pay his taxes before and has suddenly come into money. There he discovers one of the Scarecrow's men who's a bit of a bastard named Ransley. Realizing he's too big of a dumb, fat, slob to be the Scarecrow, he threatens him with jailtime if he doesn't reveal an identity. There's also a local prosecutor trying to make a name for himself that offers Ransley a stack of gold coin if he gives him the identity. With too much pressure Ransley decides to seek out the Scarecrow's alter ego. Soon he's revealed to be the traitorous scum he is and in a brilliant scene the Scarecrow gives him his comeuppance in front of his men and the prosecutor. One of the things that makes this scene so great is that the Scarecrow strikes fear into everyone watching, yet it's not out of character for Doctor Syn.
Episode three ends with two men that are being hidden by Doctor Syn being captured by British soldiers. One of the men is an American rallying for the freedom of the colonies, the other is a British army deserter. After they're sent to the King's dungeon in his castle, Syn hatches a plan to infiltrate the castle and rescue both men. But first his men go to a pub filled with British soldiers to beat the shit out of them and procure their uniforms. This leads to possibly one of the greatest barroom brawls in Disney history.
After watching two versions, the series and the feature, I recommend the feature length cut. Eveything taken out of the series is deserving of the cutting room. The feature length version tells the exact story in a faster paced and more fluid way without missing anything. I did however like the WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR segments with Walt Disney himself hosting. You can tell he truly had a passion for his stories. I can't wait until they thaw out his cryogenetically frozen body and put him in charge again. Congratulations, you now own the STAR WARS and the DIE HARDS.
This is just great, old-fashioned, adventure fun.
At the same time production was underway on this, Hammer films was working on their own adaption of a Dr. Syn novel. Since Disney had bought the rights to the Doctor Syn name, so the character is called Parson Blyss. The movie is CAPTAIN CLEGG (NIGHT CREATURES in the U.S. and it's definetly going on my movies to watch list.
THE SCARECROW OF ROMNEY MARSH premiered on NBC on Febuary 9, 1964. This was a record setting night in television. Over 73 million viewers were glued to their TV screens. Though they weren't watching the exploits of Doctor Syn. On rival network CBS The Beatles made their American debut on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW. This tale of British revolution was crushed in the ratings by the real life British music revolution.