Cadfael: The Complete Collection
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"Enchanting" --The Washington Post
Once a Crusader, now a man of the cloth, the worldly but humble Brother Cadfael uses his keen intuition to protect the innocent and bring the guilty to account in war-torn medieval England. Sir Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius; Gladiator) gives a captivating performance as the crime-solving monk in this award-winning series. Seen on PBS’s Mystery! and based on the bestselling books by Ellis Peters, these 13 dramas offer a riveting glimpse into the past.
Also starring Julian Firth and Michael Culver, with guest stars including Julian Glover (By the Sword Divided), Sean Pertwee (Cold Feet), Hugh Bonneville (Lost in Austen), Tara Fitzgerald (Brassed Off), Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting), Toby Jones (Infamous), Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies), and Stephen Moyer (True Blood).
One Corpse Too Many
The Sanctuary Sparrow
The Leper of St. Giles
The Virgin in the Ice
The Devil’s Novice
St. Peter’s Fair
A Morbid Taste for Bones
The Raven in the Foregate
The Rose Rent
The Pilgrim of Hate
The Potter’s Field
The Holy Thief
Derek Jacobi essay
Ellis Peters materials, production scrapbooks, and historical background notes
Top Customer Reviews
But he is a brilliant detective. And "Cadfael: Complete Collection" brings together all of the BBC's adaptation of Ellis Peters' classic mysteries, which intertwine murder mysteries and medieval history. These stories are well-written, clever and full of unexpected twists -- and they're filmed with a gritty, grimy realistic flavor.
Cadfael (Derek Jacobi) is a monk at the abbey of Shrewsbury in the first half of the twelfth century. At this time, England was being ripped in half by a civil war (now called The Anarchy) between King Stephen and Empress Maud, which was dividing the populace and turning the English people against each other.
And as the war rages on, Cadfael is confronted by many different murders -- murdered nobles, framed acrobats, a corpse is hidden amongst executed "traitors," a raped nun frozen in the river, a saint's bones that inspire murder and greed, a body found in a potter's field, a vast Shrewsbury Fair leads to a string of cruel murders, a cruel priest is found dead after he drives a pregnant girl to suicide, and political conflicts lead to brutal deaths.
"Cadfael: The Complete Collection" is the sort of authentic historical series that the BBC has sadly stopped making -- it has all the blood, grime and sweat of the 12th century, and accurately depicts the strong presence of religion and politicial strife in medieval life.
For the most part, the writers accurately adapt Peters' novels -- every mystery has lots of suspects, moral dilemmas, religious strife, civil war, a murder that only Cadfael can solve, and a bit of cute romance as well. And since the series is set long before forensic science was created, it's fun to see Cadfael scout for tiny clues and patch them together into a case-- a cast of a boot print, a shred of cloth, a bit of a plant.
The one downside? Cadfael does a couple of things that would be questionable for a Catholic monk, and "The Pilgrim of Hate" is almost nothing like Peters' novel -- a lame end for the series.
But Derek Jacobi is absolutely pitch-perfect as Cadfael -- his solid performance is kindly, wise, paternal, and a little humorous at times, especially as a monk who's seen more of the real world than most of his brothers (he was even a ladies' man!). And even though he's a monk and healer, we occasionally get to see him kick butt as well.
There are also great performances by Terrence Hardiman as the kind but stern Abbot Radulfus, Julian Firth as the fussy Brother Jerome, and Michael Culver as the haughty snob Prior Robert. Mark Charnock is also rather sweet as the naive, gawky Brother Oswin ("... besides... I like gloves").
Despite a few flaws, "Cadfael: The Complete Collection" is an earthy, solid medieval mystery series with a brilliant Derek Jacobi in the lead.
The novels are set at Shrewsbury Abbey in Shrewsbury, the county town of the English county of Shropshire during a period referred to in the novels as The English Civil War (The Anarchy 1135-1145/50, sources differ,) where King Stephen and Empress Maud are in a bloody contest vying for the crown. Against the backdrop of this dangerous chaos, Brother Cadfael practices his Arts of herbology, healing, and deduction.
Brother Cadfael's background is constantly in the foreground as he goes about counseling his brothers, his patients and the Under-Sheriff, Hugh Beringar, whom he often serves not only as friend and counselor but also as medical examiner, forensics department, mentor and fellow detective. Cadfael, a Welshman, began his education young as an adventurer, crusade soldier and sailor. He spent much time in the mid-east both as soldier and sailor, which is where he picked up his Arts.
Retiring to the life of a Benedictine Brother rather late in life, he occasionally chafes at the strictures of The Rule as imposed upon him mostly by the Brother Prior of the abbey even as he obviously resigns himself to his chosen Vocation. He is held in more respect by the Abbot and also by the Sheriff both of whom he often serves to uncover the truth and thereby keep the peace. He is served in turn by penetrating observational skills, a finely honed intuition and intellect, as well as unerring internal moral compass pointing towards compassion informed by his long life's education in the secular world.
The novels are a delight, as is the portrayal of Brother Cadfael in the television mystery series by Sir Derek Jacobi, CBE. I read somewhere that Jacobi wondered if the public would accept him as Cadfael because he felt that the Cadfael of the books was older and more rough-hewn, but he is much beloved in this role and I can't really imagine anyone else creating a more authentic or sensitive interpretation of the character. (Well, except maybe Sean Connery, but that's probably because of his portrayal of the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville in The Name of the Rose.)
Amazon has this listed as Series 1, but it's really Series I-IV, complete:
Series I - 1994
One Corpse Too Many (Ep. 101/Bk. 2)
The Sanctuary Sparrow (Ep. 102/Bk. 7)
The Leper of Saint Giles (Ep. 103/Bk. 5)
Monk's Hood (Ep. 104/Bk. 3)
Series II - 1995
The Virgin in the Ice (Ep. 201/Bk. 6)
The Devil's Novice (Ep. 202/Bk. 8)
St. Peter's Fair (Ep. 203/Bk. 4)
Series III - 1997
The Rose Rent (Ep. 301/Bk. 13)
The Raven in the Foregate (Ep. 302/Bk. 12)
A Morbid Taste for Bones (Ep. 303/Bk. 1)
Series IV - 1998
The Holy Thief (Ep. 401/Bk. 19)
The Potter's Field (Ep. 402/Bk. 17)
The Pilgrim of Hate (Ep. 403/Bk. 10)
There are plenty of guest stars including "Julian Glover, Sean Pertwee, Tara Fitzgerald, Toby Jones, Stephen Moyer, Anna Friel, Hugh Boneville, to name a few. There is also Bonus stuff: audio comments by Jacobi, an essay, Ellis Peters info, production scrapbooks, background notes, and more. The stories originated from "PBS Mystery" and were based on best-selling books by Ellis Peters.
YES, there are SUBTITLES. Each of the 13 episodes are 75 minutes, almost a feature-length story, and every bit as good as theater films. When films typically go for a higher single price, this collection is VERY AFFORDABLE, a value, for all that you get. Each episode is on it's own disc.
16 1/2 hours of delightful mystery to spend watching, but you will likely want to watch them one right after another. They are addictive. The only negative aspect of this collection is the fact that only 13 episodes were produced.