Many won’t remember Richard Carpenter as I do, but he had a profound influence on me as a writer, musician and as a spiritual person. He even inadvertently shaped my first visit to England, including a near-disastrous side trip to Nottingham back in 1994 (a story I will save for another time). Here is my tribute to Richard Carpenter.
“The fire burned bright in him, and for awhile, it warmed us all…”
This week the UK mourned the passing of screenwriter, author and actor Richard Carpenter.
Richard Carpenter (or Kip, as he was commonly known) was born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England in 1933. Kip studied acting at the Old Vic Theatre School and later went on to act in many British TV shows and films in the fifties and sixties.
After his stint as an actor, Kip turned his attention behind the camera where he went on to create many popular British TV shows including Catweazle (1969), about an 11th century wizard accidentally transported to the present day, the historical drama Dick Turpin (1979-82) and the adventure series The Smuggler (1981).
However, to this day, he is best known internationally for creating the HTV/Goldcrest series Robin of Sherwood, which ran for three seasons (1984-1986) and starred Michael Praed (Dynasty, The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne) as Robin of Loxley and Jason Connery (The Secret Life of Ian Fleming, Smallville) as Robert of Huntingdon.
The Hooded Man
To date, Robin of Sherwood is considered one of the most influential treatments of the Robin Hood legend on screen and it was the first to introduce a Saracen in the character of Nasir (portrayed by Mark Ryan – First Knight, Transformers, The Prestige) as one of the outlaws (later inspiring the character of Azeem in Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, so much so, the name had to be changed from Nazeem to Azeem to avoid rights issues).
Without putting too fine a point on it, no other version of Robin Hood has matched the setting, atmosphere and the level of detail for the period, in spite of some niggling issues with King Richard’s timeline (King Richard as portrayed by the indomitable John Rhys-Davies — Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings), while maintaining the spirit of swashbuckling action/adventure, romance and fantasy.
Swords, Sorcerers and The Old Gods
Richard Carpenter’s Robin of Sherwood had a unique spin on the classic legend. It was the first to incorporate elements of mysticism, magic, sword and sorcery throughout the series. It included pagan themes and prominently featured the Horned God, Herne the Hunter, as a central figure. “We can all of us be gods…” Herne (played by John Abineri – Doctor Who, Godfather III) says to Robin of Loxley in the first episode, Robin Hood and the Sorcerer.
As quoted in a 1998 interview with Allen W. Wright, Richard explains why:
“Robin Hood is one of the few perennial legends with no magic in it. There is a fragment of a ballad called Robin Hood and the witch I believe – but tantalisingly breaks off after a stanza. The middle Ages were extremely superstitious and much remained of the old pre-Christian fertility and tree worship religions. You must remember that the country was largely based on agriculture: and the crops and the turning year were extremely important to everyone. Vestiges of this still remain throughout Europe. Although the Mother Goddess was supreme – the male principle was considered equally important. The question is whether Herne is a shaman or if he – like shamans do – ‘becomes’ the god at certain times after practising certain rituals.”
Sadly, the series came to an end when Goldcrest was forced to pull out due to financial trouble with their film division. Goldcrest was behind two enormously successful films, Chariots of Fire (1981) and Gandhi (1982), but hit hard times in the mid-1980s. HTV could not afford to produce Robin of Sherwood alone and no more episodes were made.
The Spirit of Sherwood and The Children of Israel
Richard’s vision of unity extended beyond the outlaws themselves… I can’t help but be warmed and inspired by his message of peace in the episode Children of Israel. When a Jewish family, fleeing persecution at the hands of the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy of Gisburne, is discovered by Nasir, he gently coaxes the frightened children out of hiding. There is a moment when the typically stoic and silent Saracen smiles, letting them know they are safe with the outlaws. Nasir informs Robin that he understands some of their language and a bond is formed between the Muslim and the “Children of Israel.” I still get misty thinking about it.
The Outlaw’s Return – Robin of Sherwood 20 Years Later
In 2011 it was announced by Stansfilm Productions that Kip had a new script for Robin of Sherwood, which would pick up after the series ended, 20 years later. In a recent interview with Clive Mantle (Aliens 3, Game of Thrones) who played Little John in the series, he stated that many of the surviving cast (including Ray Winstone — Sexy Beast, 44 Inch Chest, Hugo) had approached ITV a few of years earlier about the possibility of making a TV movie or mini series (written by Richard Carpenter) to finish the outlaw’s tale.
Sadly, with his passing, it seems unlikely that Kip’s Hooded Man will return to our screens. I hold out hope that perhaps someone will pick up his mantle… much like Robert of Huntingdon did from Robin of Loxley.
As reported on the Robin of Sherwood fan site, Spirit of Sherwood, Richard died of a heart attack on February 26, 2012. He is survived by his wife, actress Annabelle “Annie” Lee (Mad Mab in the RoS episode Rutterkin) and their two children, Tom and Harriet.
It is a shame that Kip’s work is not as well known here in the States, but his legacy survives and extends far beyond another clichéd retelling of the Robin Hood legend. It lives on in the hearts of all that were touched by his unique vision. It was one where the common man (and woman) rises up against tyranny and oppression. Through unity, friendship, strength of will and spirit, he fights the good fight, inspiring all those with whom he connects –- men, women, friars, shepherds, Saracens, noblemen and Saxon peasants alike — all fighting alongside one another against the “greatest enemy.” Whether it is Medieval England or here in the 21st century, it is a lesson we could do well to remember during these troubled times.
“Nothing is forgotten… Nothing is ever forgotten.” You won’t be forgotten either, Kip.
Resources and Links
For more on Robin of Sherwood, please visit Christine Haire’s site Spirit of Sherwood, the Official Robin of Sherwood Fan Club.
For more on the bold outlaw himself, visit Allen W. Wright’s Robin Hood Bold Outlaw of Barnsdale and Sherwood.
For more on Robin of Sherwood: The Return, please visit Stansfilm Productions.
(Guest Editor Adriana “Andy” Melendez returns with her look at the premiere issue of a new graphic novel series.)
House of Night
On Wednesday, November 9th, Dark Horse Comics brings you the first installment in their adaptation of “House of Night,” based on the series of books penned by mother/daughter writing duo P.C. and Kristin Cast.
What It Is…
Ever since Joss Whedon gave us “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” teen angst and the supernatural have become inextricably entwined in the land of young adult fiction.
Enter Zoey Redbird, a 16-year-old, like Buffy, reluctant to answer her own calling. In a world where Vampyres (yes, spelled with a Y), Witches and Goddesses all exist, she must learn to embrace and develop her powers, all the while navigating the usual drama of school, bullies, friends, and a budding romance. However, Zoey’s school is a bit different from most; she attends a “Potter-esque” Vampyre Academy, where she must learn to hone her craft, as she begins her transformation into a “creature of the night” herself. As Joss would say, it’s another allegory for adolescence and the horrors of High School.
Been there, done that. But what sets “House of Night” apart from the others, and that which piqued my curiosity, is the way authors P.C. and Kristin Cast (joined by Kent Dalian for the graphic novel) manage to weave in elements of mysticism, mythology and lessons on spiritual growth throughout the plot. It will be interesting to see how these elements develop in further issues.
The allure of the supernatural, the idea of a realm “beyond the veil,” fascinates most of us. Of course, like the world of comic book heroes, we find that hidden world (a world beautifully illustrated by artists Joëlle Jones, Karl Kerschl and Jenny Frison) and the promise of power difficult to resist. Sadly, what I notice in popular teen fiction, is how it often discards the concept of consequences and finding balance when it comes to power. In my humble opinion, there should be more lessons on growth and spirituality and “be careful what you wish for.” I’d be curious to see if “House of Night” continues down this path.
I get what “House of Night” is going for, but never having read the books, I found the first issue, although interesting and definitely able to hook a teen audience, a bit disjointed. However, if you’re a fan of L.J. Smith’s “Vampire Diaries” or the “Secret Circle” series, as well as “Twilight,” there may be something for you here.
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My name is Victoria Winters… well, no, it’s not, it’s Andy Melendez but it was a dark and stormy night over the Great Hotel Marriott, where Skeleton Pete and I attended the Dark Shadows Festival held here in Downtown Brooklyn this past weekend (August 18-21). It’s been a while since I’ve attended any kind of convention, but I have to admit, there was a feeling of “homecoming,” at least for me, when we arrived. These are my people. The Festival was celebrating the 45th Anniversary of the legendary cult TV series, created by the late Dan Curtis.
I was surprised by the number of attendees for a Friday night alone (opening night tends to be light and a fun time to just explore without feeling too claustrophobic). I was even more surprised to learn that half of them had never been to a DS con before. Ah, “Convention Virgins,” I lost that distinction at 15 and have been a proud con-geek ever since… but I digress. For many others, it was like a family reunion… laughing, reminiscing and reconnecting with old friends.
I loved the setting created for the series’ stars onstage. It was a charming replica of the original Collinwood sitting room. I almost ran up there myself just to have a seat on the sofa and pretend I was having tea by the fireplace with the late Joan Bennett (Elizabeth Stoddard) or Grayson Hall (Dr. Julia Hoffman). The dealer’s room looked a bit sparse, but they were literally still unpacking as we arrived. I dare say most attendees were less concerned with memorabilia and more concerned with the honored guests in their midst, some of them already there, meeting convention goers and signing autographs.
Dark Shadows Memories
Fan favorites Lara Parker (Angelique Bouchard), Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans, Josette du Pres), Roger Davis (Peter Bradford, Jeff Clark), Jerry Lacy (Reverend Trask, Tony Peterson), Marie Wallace (Eve, Jenny Collins), Christopher Pennock (Jeb Hawkes, Sebastian Shaw), and Kathleen Cody (Hallie Stokes, Carrie Stokes), were all there to meet and greet the fans on Day One, many with new projects to talk about. Unfortunately, we missed Jonathan Frid (Barnabas Collins) and David Selby (Quentin Collins), as both were only scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
Both Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott have new books coming out (both have been authors for some years now) — Lara has a third Dark Shadows novel coming out, and her first, “Angelique’s Descent,” is going to be re-released with a new 35-page chapter. Kathryn has been busy as well and her book, “The Bunny Years: The Inside Story of the Playboy Clubs and the Women Who Worked as Bunnies,” about her experience as a Playboy Bunny, has been co-opted for use in the upcoming NBC series, “The Playboy Club.” Lara and Kathryn noted rather cheekily, now is time to strike while the iron is hot, as things ramp up for the May 2012 theatrical film release of the Dark Shadows movie starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins. I have to admit, I was terribly excited to finally find out a release date for the film, as I hadn’t heard much since the news first broke. It was lovely to hear that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp asked the original series stars to film cameos for the movie. Jonathan Frid, Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott, and David Selby were flown out to London to film at the legendary Pinewood Studios where they had a blast.
I was thrilled to learn the first two theatrical releases of the Dark Shadows films, “House of Dark Shadows” starring Jonathan Frid and Kathryn Leigh Scott and “Night of Dark Shadows,” starring David Selby and Kate Jackson, were coming to DVD. Stars from the original film were invited back to do Foley work on “Night of Dark Shadows” so they could include 30 minutes of lost footage on the new DVD as part of a long-time plan to restore the film since the footage was recovered in 1999. That is set to coincide with the release of the 2012 film.
As a veteran of these things, the highlight of the evening for me was seeing the unfinished, never-before-aired pilot of the 2004 remake of Dark Shadows. I’d only heard about it and had exhausted all avenues to obtaining a copy (and believe me, I have many). The remake had been intended as a replacement for the WB series “Angel.” It was more than fitting, as Angel and many other repentant vampires owe their fangs to Barnabas Collins. Dan Curtis was also involved after his 1991 “resurrection,” with Ben Cross and Joanna Going, was tragically cut short after only one season. However, sadly, part way through filming the 2004 pilot, they lost their Director and with it, their direction.
Associate Producer, and convention organizer (as well as marketing director for Dan Curtis Productions and consulting producer on the new film), Jim Pierson, explained what happened with the pilot and I was sorry to hear it never saw the light of day. It was a shame, as it showed promise, had some creepy special effects and if it had kept the intention of the original series and Dan Curtis’ gothic vision, I think it would have found a home, and would have rivaled newcomers “Supernatural” and “Vampire Diaries.” A glaring omission, however, was the loss of the original series music. I don’t know if they intended to replace it later on, but the classic title theme was missing, along with “Josette’s music box,” and to me, as a fan, these are too precious to lose.
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Just a heads up that Adriana “Andy” Melendez and I will be covering the Dark Shadows Festival in Brooklyn NYC tomorrow (August 19th, 2011). Information on the weekend long convention can be found here. Expect pix and words from us in the coming week.
In the meantime, the folks at Hermes Press gave us the OK to afford you a sneak peek at the “Dark Shadows Story Digest”, which reprints a long lost DS collector’s item with some nice extras. It will be available for the first time at the convention. Andy’s review of this new release can be found here.
Hermes Press will be at the show on Friday and Saturday also featuring the first two volumes of their sumptuous Gold Key Comics reprints “Dark Shadows: The Original Series” at a discount for convention attendees.
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(Editor’s Note: Please welcome guest editor Adriana “Andy” Melendez to the SkeletonPete blog. On her first visit she offers a view of the recently published reprint of Gold Key’s Dark Shadows Story Digest. She’ll be back with us regularly to lend her expertise in all things vampiric, anglophilic and episodic.)
“The one you seek is here,” she said, “I do not know why he has returned through the shades of time to trouble me, but he is here and he must be destroyed!”
Hermes Press resurrects one of television’s all-time favorite anti-heroes, the repentant vampire, Barnabas Collins, with a reprint of the Dark Shadows story, “Interrupted Voyage” written by Donald J. Arneson. This digest was first printed back in 1970 as part of a series of stories released by Gold Key Comics.
What it is…
When I think of “Interrupted Voyage” I recall the 1980 sci-fi film “Somewhere in Time” starring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve as tragic, star-crossed lovers from two different times — only with zombies, witches and vampires!
While attempting to escape the clutches of his spurned lover, the evil witch, Angélique Bouchard, Barnabas Collins pledges to save two young lovers from the curse of time that separates them, only to put his own life and immortal soul in peril by doing so. Can Barnabas save Annabella and her fiancée Michael from another witch, the raven-haired Calandra, while avoiding the curse Angélique has placed upon him?
Set in Salem, Massachusetts during the height of the hysteria of the infamous witch trials, “Interrupted Voyage” uses this backdrop to full effect, complete with suspicious, torch-bearing, angry villagers. This story often brings to mind some of the popular fanzines and fanfic stories I’ve seen in the last few decades, using both prose and illustrations by comic book artist Joe Certa to engage the reader.
Melodramatic at times and over the top, perhaps, even a bit camp… but that’s what Dark Shadows does best, mixing the supernatural – tales of ghosts and witches, with romance, and yes, even time travel, all with a heightened sense of drama. It pushes the boundaries of disbelief and makes you want to believe in that other world… the world beyond the veil. It’s a world where you can rewrite a wrong, find and reclaim a lost love and erase your deepest regrets. It’s a world where anything is possible and good can triumph over evil.
In spite of some niggling bits here and there — for example, the overuse of “dark shadows” to describe… well… just about everything that is vaguely mysterious or foreboding, as well as the plodding pace, I can forgive it. “Interrupted Voyage” is of its time and very much follows the formula of the original Dark Shadows serial. Perhaps it’s my nostalgic love for the 1960s gothic-horror TV series created by the late Dan Curtis, but I can see this story working quite well on screen.