Cataline Recommends: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh

REPOST: I decided I needed a break this afternoon and cruised YouTube for some Halloween oriented stuff that has fallen in public domain.  And much to my surprise I found an property by Disney. 

Which means that Disney hasn’t issued a copyright strike yet because there is no way in hell the House of Mouse lets anything fall into public domain.

You would have to be either a bleeding edge Gen-Xer or tail end Boomer to remember this one.

Now, I absolutely loved this show when I was a very little kid.  So when I came across it in my random YouTube surfing I was…worried.  Let’s face it most of the stuff I loved as a little kid, hasn’t stood the test of time.  Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood.  Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  Star Trek.  These were all titles that were much better in memory than when I saw them in later life.  Still there have been exceptions to that rule.

So, I decided to give it a watch and I have to say…it’s not as bad a Star Trek.  I have to give it that.  In truth I did enjoy Scarecrow but I know perfectly well it’s mostly nostalgia on my part.

Now if you liked it as kid too, feel free to stick around.

Disney released it on DVD ten years ago and apparently it sold out overnight.  There are people trying to get chumps to shell out five hundred bucks for  a “used” copy.  I’ll stick with YouTube in this case.

There are a lot more fans of the show in the UK which is pretty understandable as it is a very English story, taking place in the marshlands of Kent in late 1700s. It’s the story of a gang of local men who have turned to smuggling releive the burdon of their taxes and they are lead by mysterious man dressed as a scarecrow with a hideous visage and a terrifying witch’s cackle.

Although it turns out that he Scarecrow’s secret identity is that of the soft spoken vicar Doctor Christoper Syn.

It’s interesting in that Doctor Syn was precursor of the modern iteration of Batman.

Yes, I know Batman was around in the 1960s  but he was more this:

Than that:

From D23:

The original Dr. Syn novels, written from 1915 to 1945, were loosely based on the exploits of actual 18th century smugglers known as the Hawkhurst Gang. Author Thorndike was born in Kent in 1884 and grew up with tales of these smugglers who haunted the murky marshes. The writer was also an actor and, in fact, portrayed Dr. Syn in a 1925 London stage adaptation. The eighth book, Christopher Syn, was published in 1960 (with American scribe William Buchanan as co-author), and was the volume on which Disney based his 1964 screen version of the story. Thorndike visited the Scarecrow set during filming. The author happily reported, “I’m absolutely delighted with the treatment in the Disney production.” Part of the cleverness of the Thorndike creation—brilliantly realized in the Disney production—was that, unlike Robin Hood or Zorro, this seemingly creepy crusader was made a fearful figure, conceived to horrify the corrupt officials he battles.

Into this very British story, Walt shrewdly incorporated an American character sought by the King’s soldiers as a traitor for advancing the American colonies’ defiance of the crown. In the character of John Banks, Walt also showcased a boy sidekick for the Scarecrow, riding in the darkness with his own disguise, the bird-like hellion known as Curlew; young John Banks was an identification figure for Walt’s audience members, especially the youngsters. John is played by Sean Scully, a Disney discovery who had scored in his own dual role in the 1962 Wonderful World of Color production of “The Prince and the Pauper.”

As for the main character, Dr. Syn has an intriguing dual nature. “Dr. Syn was a kindly sort of fellow,” noted Patrick McGoohan, who portrays the vicar-turned-vigilante, “but with a will of steel, and I always saw the Scarecrow as his other persona. So neither one was dominant, they each were compatible with the other.”

The action scenes are dated. And the story arcs are very much a product of the pulps that produced it.  But if you can remember being a little boy having the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you first heard the Scarecrow’s unearthly cackle as he road across the marshlands, then yeah, it’s still for you.

Cataline Recommends With Reservations…and only if you have fond memories of it in the first place.


2 thoughts on “Cataline Recommends: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh

  1. I don’t think it’s as bad as you’re making it out to be – of course it’s not going to look like a big budget movie production of today. What it does have is a principled hero (and an explicitly Christian one at that,) who pursues justice against a corrupt government. (Speaking of Batman, tell me Christopher Nolan didn’t crib his Batman’s “scary speaking voice” from the Scarecrow. )

    Pulps are coming back into fashion. YT reviewer Razorfist is a big fan of the Shadow (another Scarecrow like vigilante hero) and he spends a lot of his channel time reintroducing Pulp hero fiction to a brand new audience. Today’s boys are starved for stories that are bereft of the man-hating, woke garbage that has taken over fantasy and adventure in the Current Year. Instead of hearing stirring tales that call them to adventure and introduce the concepts of right and wrong (and why one must fight for what is right,) kids today are forced to watch Luke Skywalker tremble in fear of a 90 pound actionGRRL who has powers she did nothing to earn, and learn how The Force is actually Female and that the Jedi were wrong all along because they fought for Justice. (Which is BAD apparently, because fighting Evil makes Evil somehow automatically come back even worse than before so it’s best not to fight evil and just cease all conflict whatsoever and let good and evil just mash themselves into some kind of “gray” energy that’s neither good nor bad so everyone can live in peace…. I’m not kidding – that’s exactly what Rian Johnson and the Catlady Brigade currently writing for Star Wars want to do with the franchise……I think….. Not even THEY know exactly what they’re trying to do. Just turn it into a Postmodern Mess would be my guess.)

    Pulps may be simplistic stories without much depth, but I think they’re badly needed in this day and age. One other series I would recommend is the Adventures of Long John Silver, the TV series, based on the movie made by vintage Disney;

    It’s no great shakes, action and budgetwise, and it deviates from the source material a little, but it’s got the best Long John Silver of all time in it. Worth a watch as long as you’re not expecting more than a fun, action-y diversion.

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  2. I remember the series, coming out just as everything became gritty, realistic, and nihilistic.

    Boys and young men need; no, stronger word, CRAVE; tales of adventure and action, set at places where the world and civilization get thin, where a brave man and his companions must act to stop Evil (hate, corruption, demons, Sith, etc.) in its tracks, and force it back to the pit. They have no borderlands or adventure spaces to explore and defend. They must take their pills and color within the lines, and never depart from the feminist text. “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” and the pulp novels are part of the antidote. Consider a modern re-telling of the story, where Scarecrow and Curlew smuggle placebos for the boys and young men to replace their Neatness Pills. The vicar can wave his hands in confusion, and order the boys on “punishment” marches on the paths through marsh and fen to wear them back down – while leaving maps, pointed sticks, air rifles with ammo, and good snacks at strategic places. “Oh, dear, it’s not quite working, but we’ll muck it out of them yet!” cries the vicar, while the Scarecrow howls defiance in secret.

    The effects are dated, eh? Well, “TRON”, “The Black Hole”, un-neutered “Star Wars”, and “2001” had beyond cutting-edge effects. The un-neutered story of Star Wars was the only one to survive and remain popular in the mass market, until the Sith crept in and stole its heart. I’ll try “Robin Hood” on a younger audience and see if the first color version stirs them. I’ll take Flynn over Costner any day.

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