283 of 303 people found the following review helpful
Rowan Atkinson was funny as Mr. Bean, but he was downright hilarious as the Black Adder. He had such a talent for playing the sharp-tongued rogue I'll never figure out why he decided to start doing comedy in which he hardly spoke. The premise of this British comedy series is that the central character, "The Black Adder", shows up at different points in history in various incarnations distorting historical events and poking fun at various British historical figures and situations along the way.
Lots of people don't like Black Adder I, in which the title character, Edmund, is the younger son of a brutish man consumed with thoughts of war who actually becomes king of England through Edmund's own bungling - he arrives late for the Battle of Bosworth Field and winds up chopping off the head of Richard III, thus saving the life of Henry Tudor. Throughout this first season he plays the buffoon, often having the expression of a deer caught in the headlights. This is the only season in which the Black Adder takes on the persona of a weak effeminate person. Especially funny is Edmund's mother who is a proper noble woman sitting around doing embroidery and indifferently waiting for the next marauding army to pass through.
The second season takes place early during the reign of Elizabeth I, with the Black Adder confident, handsome, and even a favorite at court. A young Amanda Richardson plays the role of Elizabeth I, who comes across as Betty Boop, just not as intelligent. Although more cunning in this season, Black Adder still comes up the loser in just about every episode. My favorite is "Bells", in which Blackadder finds his new servant, Bob, curiously pleasant company. Afraid for his reputation at court, Blackadder searches for a "cure" - which of course involves leeches, until Bob conveniently reveals that she is in fact a girl called Kate. Their wedding is disrupted by the profane Lord Flashheart, who, although he is the best man, winds up stealing the bride.
The third season takes place in the eighteenth century during the reign of George III, and will be a favorite of all fans of "House, M.D." due to the presence of a young Hugh Laurie. Here, Black Adder plays the manservant of the Prince Regent, George, played by Hugh Laurie. George is the dim-witted target of Black Adder's many schemes to enrich himself by taking advantage of his cushy position in George's household, and this often means having to save the Prince Regent's pension and position in the kingdom, which is largely controlled by Parliament.
The fourth season takes place during World War I, with Edmund Blackadder as a captain in the British army whose company is trapped in one of the trenches that gave everyone in Europe such a distaste for warfare between the two world wars. Blackadder's aim in this season is to stay alive by staying in that trench until the war ends. His stunts include shooting a carrier pigeon when it arrives with orders to advance, and joining the Royal Flying Corp - "the twenty minuters". Unfortunately, the name comes from how long they are expected to live once in the air, not how much time they work each day, as Blackadder had originally thought.
This show has several interesting plot devices. First, most of the main characters show up in different periods of time with the same name but different roles. Hugh Laurie is always "George", Tony Robinson is always "Baldrick", Stephen Fry is always "Melchett", and Tim McInnerny is always "Percy". Since each season was shot in alternate years - (1983, 1985, 1987, 1989) - the cast must have been having a terrific time in order for them to be regathered after such long intervals in order to make filming this series possible. Secondly, everyone in the cast, including the Black Adder, always dies in the final episode of each season. It is somewhat like the South Park stunt of Kenny being killed at the end of every show only to reappear in the next episode as though nothing had happened.
Do note that there are only six episodes per season. If you liked "Red Dwarf" or "Fawlty Towers", you'll probably like this series too.
As for extra features, disc five contains the specials. The Cavalier Years has Stephen Fry as King Charles and Warren Clarke as Oliver Cromwell. There is also Blackadder's Christmas Carol and Back and Forth. Christmas Carol is pretty funny, but I've never cared for Back and Forth.
Disc six contains the documentary Blackadder Rides Again, a 90-minute special with the behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage from the fourth season included. There's also a look back at the costumes used in Costumes Revisited, along with extended interviews and audio commentaries with the key actors. As for the audio commentaries, Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry, Ben Elton, Richard Curtis, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny and producer John Lloyd have all contributed to these.
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2011
This review is in reference to Black Adder Remastered: The Ultimate Edition
Most people here are probably already aficionados of the show. I love it for its intelligence, clever lines, and history (as well as the puns and bad jokes), and the fact that it shares aspects in common with a really good play.
I agonized for months over whether to "duplicate" my purchase of the previous boxed set with this one. When it went on sale again, I finally took a chance and bought it and in my case am quite glad I did! I already knew I loved the material, and I read the general opinion that the remastering was good but not necessarily good enough to buy the set. It turns out to be a pretty high quality box set, both in "build quality" (if you will) and content.
The set comes in a comparatively solid outer box (pictured on the product page), into which the disc set slides like a book. The discs themselves are in a "booklet" of thin but sturdy plastic disc holders (which securely hold the discs but the discs are not too difficult to get out) and "bound" in a nice cardboard cover with an etching-like picture covering Edmund through series I to IV. The outer cover folds out into "Baldrick's Family Tree" which contains "Primeval Soup," "Worms," "Viagra," and the like, and a lot of "Baldricks." The discs also look nice and are clearly labeled with their contents. After having purchased some quality shows with really flimsy disc packaging, this was a nice surprise.
But the real treat is the new content. These are the extras labeled on the respective discs; and most of the discs have extras.
Disc One: The Black Adder [ no extras listed ]
Disc Two: Blackadder II, Audio Commentaries on Bells, Money, and Chains
...(Bells: Ben Elton, Richard Curtis, and John Lloyd)
...(Money: Tony Robinson and Tim McInerny)
...(Chains: Stephen Fry)
Disc Three: Blackadder the Third, Audio Commentaries on Ink & Incapability, Amy & Amiability, Duel & Duality
...(Ink & Incapability: Rowan Atkinson and John Lloyd)
...(Amy & Amiability: Ben Elton, Richard Curtis, and John Lloyd)
...(Duel & Duality: Stephen Fry)
Disc Four: Blackadder Goes Forth, Audio Commentaries on Major Star and Goodbyeee
...(Major Star: Tony Robinson and Tim McInerny)
...(Goodbyeee: Rowan Atkinson and John Lloyd)
...Blackadder's Christmas Carol
...Blackadder The Cavalier Years
...Blackadder Back and Forth
...Baldrick's Video Diary
...Blackadder Rides Again
...Exclusive Extended Interviews & Costumes Revisited
I am working my way through the set; and I have to say I am very glad to have it. It might be just because I have old equipment, but the remasters look a lot better than the previous edition on my setup. I love having the book format instead of the fold-out; it's easier to find the disc I am interested in and get it out. I love the commentaries so far (have just listened to series 2 and commentaries). For some reason they didn't do any commentaries on series 1, which I found a big disappointment. As it wasn't one of my favourite series, I was really interested in what they thought about it, and what it was like making it. I enjoyed the commentaries for series 2, although for some reason when they mixed "Money" with Tony Robinson and Tim McInerny, they mixed the episode full-volume and you couldn't hear them half of the time, so that was disappointing. I still love the set and am quite glad I got it.
64 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2009
This collection has all of the episodes of the Black Adder series, with Rowan Atkinson at his best. The price of this collection is lower than that of other Black Adder collections, but the video is superior and this has EVERYTHING the Black Adder fan will appreciate.
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2010
Here is a run down on each series:
It's a long time since I saw the first series of Blackadder, which I remembered as being somewhat dull compared to subsequent ones. On re-watching, however, it proved to be funnier than I expected. The best episode is probably 'The Queen of Spain's Beard', which deals with Blackadder's attempts to get out of marrying an extremely ugly Spanish princess. Worth mentioning is Brain Blessed, who is hilarious as the fictional King Richard IV.
'The Blackadder' has surprisingly high production values and special effects compared to later series. Another key difference is Blackadder himself, who is far less intelligent than his descendants. Baldrick, on the other hand, is more intelligent...indeed he is almost normal! One of the best things about watching the series' sequentially is seeing the lead character's cunning and sarcasm develop, just as his social status goes down from Prince to Captain.
While still the least effective of Blackadder's various incarnations, this opening series is definitely worth watching, and if you are new to Blackadder you should probably watch it first, as it sets the scene for much of what follows.
In this second series Edmund Blackadder really came into his own as a character. Instead of the rather snivelling Edmund of the first series, we are presented with the amoral, selfish and cynical (but brilliantly witty) Blackadder we all know and love. Baldrick, who was almost intelligent in the first series, now reveals himself as a turnip-obsessed dimwit who would become even stupider as time went on.
The most memorable thing about 'Blackadder 2', however, is Miranda Richardson, who is unforgettable as the psychotic Queen ("Oh Edmund, I love it when you get angry...sometimes I think about having you executed, just to see the look on your face..."). Patsy Byrne is great as the Queen's old nurse ("A sad old woman with an udder fixation," as Edmund calls her), and Stephen Fry is on top form as Lord Melchitt, a man as Machiavellian and calculating as Blackadder, but with less self esteem.
There are some great cameos, too, notably from Tom 'Dr. Who' Baker as a demented sea captain, and Rik Mayall as the womanising Lord Flashheart (he would reprise this role to even greater effect in the fourth series).
Probably the funniest episode is 'Beer', when Blackadder's fanatical puritan relatives the Whiteadders come round for tea, but Blackadder forgets he had also arranged a debauched drinking session for the same night. He then has to keep the two events running concurrently without the Whiteadders suspecting what is going on, which leads to hilarity as he tries to come up with explanations for the drunken roars emerging from the next room.
Another great episode is 'Head', where Blackadder is made Lord High Executioner, but then changes the execution schedule to give himself half a week off. This leads to the premature execution of a nobleman, whose wife then gains permission from the Queen to visit him. Blackadder and his companions must try and impersonate the dead man, somehow keeping up the pretence that he is alive.
Other good episodes include 'Chains', where Blackadder and Melchitt are taken hostage by a crazed German, and 'Money' where Blackadder is pursued by the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells to collect a debt he owes to the Black Monks.
In this series Blackadder has declined in status since the Elizabethan days of series two and is now a mere butler to the Prince Regent (during the French Revolution/Napoleonic era). 'Blackadder 3' is worth watching just for Hugh Laurie's hilarious performance as the air-headed Prince George (he would also appear as the equally air-headed Lieutenant George in series four).
Perhaps the funniest episode is 'Duel and Duality', in which the Prince and Blackadder swap roles, and the highly aggressive Duke of Wellington (Stephen Fry) proceeds to beat the Prince senseless for talking back to his betters. Those who like sadistic slapstick comedy in the British tradition will find this is up there with Basil Fawlty's treatment of Manuel in 'Fawlty Towers'.
Another standout episode is 'Ink and Incapability' where Robbie Coltrane guest stars as Samuel Johnson (who anachronistically is also friends with Byron, Shelley and Coleridge). When Baldrick admits he threw the only copy of Johnson's 'Dictionary' on the fire, Blackadder must rewrite the whole thing from scratch.
'Dish and Dishonesty' is another really funny one, concerning Blackadder's attempts to influence the outcome of a British election, in order to defeat Pitt the Younger (and his brother Pitt the Even Younger). Unfortunately Baldrick spends all the bribe money on a gigantic turnip.
'Blackadder 3' is one of the best Blackadder seasons, and is almost on a par with the superlative fourth series. Hours of laughter guaranteed.
BLACKADDER GOES FORTH
This is the last and greatest series of a brilliant British comedy. Set in the trenches of World War One, it features everything that made the first three seasons so great, but refines things to a new level of hilarity.
Nearly all the regular actors from earlier seasons crop up. Besides the obvious - Blackadder (now a Captain), and Baldrick (a private) - Melchett reappears as a General, and Tim McInnery who played Percy in the second series crops up as the obnoxious Captain Darling. Hugh Laurie reprises his role as the dimwitted George (now a Lieutenant) and is even funnier than in series three. Miranda Richardson plays a nurse, and even Rik Mayall makes a hilarious comeback as conceited fighter ace Lord Flashheart (with Adrian Edmundson playing his rival the Red Baron).
All the episodes are good, with standouts being 'Corporal Punishment', where Blackadder is court-martialled for shooting General Melchett's favourite pidgeon; 'Major Star', where George is convinced to go drag as the 'leading lady' in a variety show, which presents problems when the General develops a crush on him/her; and Private Plane, where the aforementioned Rik Mayall appears as the outrageous Lord Flashheart.
The final episode 'Goodbyeee' goes beyond comedy in its ending, giving a poignant reminder of the utter waste of World War One, a fratricidal conflict that should never have happened. Blackadder's character has developed to the point that, even though he is a selfish prick, we feel genuinely sorry for him when he is ordered 'over the top' by the bureaucrats in charge of the war.
'Blackadder Goes Forth' is the perfect ending to a classic comedy, which far from making fun of British and European history, actually pays tribute to it, and in a most entertaining way.
BLACKADDER'S CHRISTMAS CAROL
'Blackadder's Christmas Carol' is a one off special, and not really up there with the four series proper. It does have an interesting premise, though. Ebenezer Blackadder undergoes a reverse transformation to that of Ebenezer Scrooge in the Dickens story 'A Christmas Carol'. Blackadder, the nicest man in England, is so nice that everyone takes advantage of him. Then he is visited by the Spirit of Christmas (Robbie Coltrane), who shows him what lies in store for his descendents if they continue to be nice. As a result, Blackadder becomes a sarcastic rogue like his ancestors. Unfortunately for him, this leads to the loss of a peerage and a large sum of money. So maybe the 'moral' is: don't be too nice, but don't be too bad either!
THE CAVALIER YEARS
This is a 15 minute sketch filmed for charity, and is comparable in quality to series two and three. Amusingly, Stephen Fry plays King Charles I as a send-up of the modern day Prince Charles.
BLACKADDER: BACK AND FORTH
As the title implies, this special (sometimes referred to as 'Blackadder 5') involves a great deal of time travel, as a contemporary Edmund tries to impress his friends by building a time machine and bringing back historical artifacts, but also causes a few unfortunate changes to history in the process. It features most of the Blackadder regulars like Tim McInnery, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and Miranda Richardson. Rik Mayall also reprises his Lord Flashheart role, this time as Robin Hood. Amusing in parts, but not as good as classic Blackadder.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Blackadder is a British comedy that follows the lives of the royal "Blackadder" line, a lineage that seems to produce nothing but sniveling cowards who are always trying to shirk duty and avoid all sense of obligation. Produced in four seasons, with each season taking place at a specific time in history, the series commences in season one with the life of Edmund Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson), a son of the English King (Brian Blessed) in the 15th century. As the seasons progress, we move forward in time until ultimately arriving in season four with a certain "Captain Blackadder" in the trenches in World War I. The premise of the show, then, is to watch the machinations of the current Blackadder as he squirms his way through each threatening situation while continuing his quest to wiggle ever higher up in life, whether that be to become King (as in season one) or to escape the trenches of World War I (as in season four). The show is one of the most successful comedies to ever come out of the BBC.
The character of Edmund Blackadder begins in season one as the Duke of Edinburgh (his accidental killing of Richard III over the misappropriation of a horse seems to cause him some serious difficulties about this time, with a little help from Shakespeare), and episodes revolve around Blackadder either attempting to seize control of the throne or, in the other cases, trying to keep from being executed due to his shenanigans. Without giving any of the story lines away, we can say that each season sees Blackadder incarnated in the form of one of the descendants of the Blackadder line, and so Edmund's character shows up, first in the Middle Ages, then in the Renaissance, and finally, in World War I. Over this span of some 600 years (specifically, 1485 - 1917), we see that for one to be a "Blackadder" carries a whole series of connotations with it, this being the underlying theme of the show in all its contorted situations and events.
Edmund Blackadder is not the only recurring character throughout the seasons. His dogsbody is Baldrick (Tony Robinson), who is also present in every episode in the entire series. Other actors (including Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, and Tim McInnerny) who appear as key characters in one season will frequently appear as different characters other seasons. Each of the supporting actors is outstanding, and although Blackadder is clearly Atkinson's show, all the actors work together to pull the effort off seamlessly. Many of the special characters are famous British actors and/or comedians, but it is not necessary to know that as you watch the episodes.
To a certain extent, "Blackadder" defies categorization as a TV show. It certainly is a comedy, and a sardonic, cynical one at that. However, the series is so vested in British history that one almost feels you are receiving a series of lessons on British history rather than just watching a comedy show. And while it is not necessary to be fully aware of the major events of British history in order to enjoy the show, it certainly helps to bring a richer enjoyment to the experience, and you also won't miss the numerous history-oriented "asides," "caricatures," and allusions that fill the show. The other side of the coin, so to speak, is that by watching the entire series, you can get a "mini" British history lesson on an almost subconscious level.
The show is indeed extremely funny, but this is a distinctively "British" show. If you are an American viewer and are not familiar with this type of humor, there may be a short period of adjustment, but after one or two episodes, understanding the humor becomes second-nature. True, there is much similarity in Rowan Atkinson's style of humor and the type of humor commonly seen in America, but there is certainly also that little added "twist" that may take typical American viewers a little time to absorb. Once you do, it is straight laughs all the way. And it is not all high-brow: there are sight gags, physical humor, and yes, even occasional crassness. This is history for people who don't take history all too seriously, and Blackadder in a way epitomizes all that we average people feel as we go through life, regardless of the historical backdrop operating during our lives.
Some viewers may be aware of Atkinson's other very famous and popular series, "Mr. Bean." Let's be clear and explain that there is virtually no relationship between these two shows, which have different premises, a different comedic approach, and are generally aimed at different audiences. To think that Rowan Atkinson successfully completed an engineering degree at Oxford and ended up playing Edmund Blackadder is a stretch, at best. And yet, once you see him in action, you can easily see how this came about. He is like a little kid in class, always wishing to pull the string on the person's clothes sitting next to him, or perhaps placing the proverbial whoopee cushion under the teacher's chair. In a very real way, it all seems a natural, un-acted role for him.
Blackadder season four was voted in 2000 by the British Film Institute as the 16th best British TV series in all the BBC's history. The previous three seasons are every bit as good, and it is likely that the strong political themes underpinning season four played into the rating. Let's just say that, in spite of its occasional crudity and offensiveness (yes, we may be offended at a few things here and there - the show is an equal opportunity lancet), Blackadder must be easily rated as one of the BBC's master productions. It's fun to watch, helps us learn, and perhaps even more, makes us think. But it is simply sheer comedic entertainment that begs for another season. Purchase all the seasons together in this single, remastered set. It will save you a few pounds from buying them one season at a time!
29 of 37 people found the following review helpful
You have to give the Blackadder family credit -- they're tenacious. "Black Adder - The Complete Collector's Set" chronicles this odd, sardonic family's presence throughout the greatest eras of British history. The first season stumbles somewhat, but the following seasons are brilliant -- sardonic, kooky, and sometimes rather sick.
On the day of the Battle of Bosworth Field, the Duke of York (Brian Blessed) and his son Harry (Robert East) accompanied the king (Peter Cook) into battle. His second son Edmund (Atkinson) hopes to come along, but he oversleeps -- and when he arrives, he accidentally kills the king, and Edmund's his father is made king. He dubs himself the "Black Adder" and decides to one day become king of England... too bad nobody likes him.
He's followed by a string of descendents through the ages -- all more acid-tongued and intelligent than he, or anyone else around them. And they're always accompanied by a Baldrick. That includes Lord Edmund Blackadder, the favorite of the demented queen Bess (Miranda Richardson); Edmund Blackadder Esq., valet and butler to the half-witted Prince Regent (Hugh Laurie); and Captain Blackadder, a soldier in World War I who spends his time trying to get out of it.
These unlucky Blackadders find themselves dealing with demented Puritans, hosting bawdy drinking parties, crazed bishops, even crazier princes, giant turnips, the Red Baron, drag musical acts, Spaniard inquisitors, and almost being shot for eating a carrier pigeon. Startlingly, the final season -- although another is in the planning stages -- ends on a very poignant note.
But there is an upbeat ending overall -- the final episode introduces us to the modern-day Blackadder, a sharp-tongued aristocrat dining with the modern-day descendents of Prince George, Queen Elizabeth, Melchett and Darling. Not to mention Baldrick in a truly horrifying porno apron.
Blackadder reveals that using da Vinci's plans, Baldrick has constructed a time machine, and bets £30,000 that he can bring back historical items. It's actually an elaborate scam... until the machine works, and Baldrick and Blackadder find themselves spinning helplessly through time, with no idea how to get home. And in a couple of side-stories, Ebenezer Blackadder discovers how his pleasant cheery attitude will affect his descendents; and the last two Loyalists to King Charles (in other words, Baldrick and Blackadder) deal with the impending execution of the king ( "No, it's not! It's a huge pumpkin with a pathetic moustache drawn on it!").
The series starts off a little weakly -- the first season is funny, but not outrageously so, and Prince Edmund is the incompetant twerp rather than Baldrick or Percy. But things blossom with the arrival of a new writer in "Blackadder II," and sets the tone for the rest of the series: a smart, bitter man who's constantly surrounded by nincompoops.
There are one or two dud episodes, but the majority of them shine with comic genius, from the kookily childish Queen Elizabeth ("Who's Queen?") to Baldrick's rancid boxers killing the dinosaurs. Atkinson gets most of the good lines ("He's the most over-rated human being since Judas Iscariot won the AD31 Best Disciple Competition") but the rest of the cast usually gets in some great ones too ("A total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through!").
Atkinson, of course, rules the whole series a series of acid-tongued Blackadders who have influence but no power, and Robinson is great as the gross servant who always has a cunning plan. The rest of the cast reappears regularly -- Laurie as a series of half-witted bluebloods, Richardson as drippy young women, Fry as cunning advisors and hearty generals, and McInnery as airbrained idiots and prissy assistants.
Aside from being polished up in the remastering process, apparently this edition is going to have deleted scenes, audio commentaries (YAY!) and interviews. It's probably not worth the shell-out if you already own the whole thing, but definitely is if you don't.
The complete series of "Black Adder" is a comic cornucopia -- it starts off a bit weakly, but once it gets its footing, it's absolute hilarious. A must-have.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2011
I've owned three copies of this series, plus have given a couple more as gifts. (I found that loaning one of the sets ends up with it being a gift anyway, so...) THe content is great, especially for anyone with more than a nodding acquaintance with British history.
However, there is a fly in the ointment with this particular release of the program: THE UNBELIEVABLY LOUD AND INTRUSIVE LAUGH TRACK. It is more than loud, for sometimes it overrides the dialog that is supposed to be inspiring you to laugh.
I enjoy Britcoms in large part because of the general absence of any indication as to how funny things are; these shows sometimes challenge, but more often are subte and are evidently funny on their own.
Does anyone know what UPC I should e looking for to obtain a full version of the series, but without the yucks? Any help you can give me would be appreciated.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2010
Still funny after all these years - the Black Adder comedies are priceless. Anyone with a love of English history will enjoy the episodes! Though sometimes crude, the witty dialogue makes up for it. And the actors are marvelous.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2011
Rowan Atkinson is best known for his Mr. Bean character but his best performance is without a doubt Blackadder. The first Blackadder is rather weak and foolish but becomes the master schemer in the following seasons and Rowan's deadpan delivery of his lines along with a stellar supporting cast bring a refreshing boost to comedy.
American audiences will have to adjust their perceptions a bit to understand and appreciate english humor but it is well worth a look especially during the Blackadder the Third series which I found the best along with Blackadder goes forth (the ending is quite moving and you have to watch the entire season to really appreciate it).
Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and Tony Robinson truly help make the series stand out and give Blackadder his springboard to truly entertain the audience. The DVD set includes all the seasons along with the TV Specials (the christmas episode is original and hilarious) and looks well enough on a high definition TV considering the age of the show. I highly recommend this series and this dvd set to anyone who enjoys a good laugh.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2010
This is an excellent collection for anyone who enjoys 'Britcoms' and humor that requests a bit of thought. Rowan Atkinson is obviously much more talented than even his Mr. Bean character shows. If that is all you know of Atkinson, I recommend checking out this series. You may even learn a bit of English history (well, pseudo-history at least).
The DVD extras are very good and add to the package rather than just fill disc space. Tony Robinson's narration and all the interviews are excellent throughout. Even though I first saw Hugh Laurie in Black Adder, I was still surprised to hear his native British accent in the inteviews - even more so since his interviews were done on the set of "House".
All in all a very well put together and thorough compilation of one of the best British comedy series' ever.