STUDIO: BBC Warner
RUNNING TIME: 895 minutes
The BBC releases a fantastic package of one of the funniest series to ever be loved – what’s the phrase? – uh, across the pond.
Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, BRIAN BLESSED (whose name must be yelled, even in print), Miranda Richardson, Steven Fry and Hugh Laurie. Those are just some of the leading players. How about some Robbie Coltrane? Jim Broadbent? Is that enough UK goodness for you? You want more you say? Well there’s plenty! Rik Mayall, Peter Cook, Warren Clarke, Geoffrey Palmer, Patsy Byrne, Elspet Gray, Robert East and Helen Atkinson-Wood. Enjoy!
The Weinsteins became concerned when Gwyneth decided to go full-method-Daniel-Day-Lewis (FMDDL) for Shakespeare in Love.
Edmund Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) is a conniving scoundrel no matter what the year. Along with his untrusty sidekick Baldrick, (Tony Robinson) Blackadder represents the seedy underbelly of British history. And by seedy underbelly I mean incompetent no-goodery.
I’ve tried tackling it here on the site before, and I’ve bemoaned its futility, but explaining why something is so funny is pointless. It rarely really works because it all boils down to fact that humor is subjective. What I find funny you may not find funny, and vice versa. That’s why the Middle East is in such a state of affairs: The Israelis just don’t find the Palestinian humor very amusing. And there are only so many Shiite jokes one can make before becoming repetitive. Luckily I won’t need to examine the why of funny here because The Black Adder is what I would call a comedic masterpiece. The Blackadder Series contains something for every comedic sensibility: from Israeli to Palestinian, from Shiite to Sunni. Except that this is a Region 1 DVD, so the Middle East is still pretty much screwed.
Healing begins here with The Black Adder, Jerusalem. The healing begins here. That is until Brian Blessed yells:
“As the good Lord said, love thy neighbor as thyself. Unless he’s Turkish. Then kill the bastard!!!!” That stops the healing quickly.
The Black Adder Remastered: Ultimate Edition is an epic (seriously) 6 DVD set that for all intents and purposes is definitive. It contains all four original series, as well as the specials Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, Blackadder: Back and Forth and Blackadder: The Cavalier Years AND the 25th anniversary special/documentary The Blackadder Rides Again. Add on top a mass of special features and fantastic commentaries and The Black Adder Remastered: Ultimate Edition is just that: Ultimate. I do not know if there is any Blackadder related material that was not stuffed into this impressive collection.
The Blackadder series follows the adventures of Edmund Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) throughout different periods of British History. Accompanying Edmund throughout each series is his servant/dogsbody/annoyance Baldrick. (Tony Robinson) Tim McInnerny played the character of Percy in the first two series and disappears nearly completely in the third (save a fantastic cameo as The Scarlet Pimpernel) and returns in full form for the fourth series as Edmund Blackadder’s foil Captain Darling. Hugh Laurie shows brilliant comedic timing (which he now uses so dramatically as Sherlock House, MD) as the dimwitted Prince of Wales in series three and Lieutenant George in series four. I honestly don’t know how to keep typing without falling into complete hyperbole, or overusing the adjective fantastic. Miranda Richardson is in it! Brian Blessed is a phenomenal Richard, Duke of York! Stephen Fry proves himself comedic perfection as Melchett in series two and four (Lord in two, General in four) and the Duke of Wellington in series three. Rik Mayall nearly steals series two and four as Lord Flashheart. Honestly, Lord Flashheart is worth the price of the DVD set alone.
And that’s just a taste of the fantastic casting for the series. It is astounding in how well-acted the entirety of the series is. Every actor really hits some transcendent level of comedic perfection with their characters.
The Glories of Lord Flashheart:
“Thanks bridesmaid. Like the beard. Gives me something to hang on to.”
“Am I pleased to see you or did I put a canoe in my pocket???”
The Black Adder follows Prince Edmund during the middle ages. In this first series, Atkinson’s Prince Edmund is a bumbling buffoon full of cowardice – a contrast to what the Blackadders would become. Blackadder II is set in Elizabethan times, and it is during the second series where I feel Atkinson finds the right balance and chemistry with the characters. (Only to be improved upon as the series progressed) Edmund Blackadder becomes a more villainous antihero: intelligent, cunning and most importantly incredibly witty. Percy and Baldrick were made to be even more stupid than in series one, adding much entertaining interaction between them and Edmund. The evolution of Blackadder as a character here heightens the interactions with every character, and creates golden moments whether it be with the Queen, (Miranda Richardson) or his nemesis Lord Melchett (Stephen Fry) or the overtly masculine Lord Flasheart. (Rik Mayall) Blackadder the Third follows Mr. E. Blackadder, butler to the foppish Prince of Wales (Hugh Laurie) during British Regency. (Think Jane Austen) Blackadder Goes Forth is set during the First World War on the Western Front.
Blackadder mines each of the different time periods for humor, tackling such heady issues as witchcraft, Morris dancing, the war of the roses, the French Revolution, tranny highwaymen and their squirrel-hate, duels and of course war. Coming into the series it’s a good idea to have some semblance of understanding British History. But if you don’t it’s ok, because the DVDs come with a section featuring brief explanations of pertinent history! It’s also fun to be rather familiar with Shakespeare seeing as dialogue is parodied left and right throughout the series. For example, the first episode of Blackadder II is an outright rift of Twelfth Night.
But as I previously stated, this collection has something for everyone, so even if you don’t want to brush up your Shakespeare (oh, Cole Porter reference!) or watch the tidbits of history easily provided you, there’s still plenty to laugh heartily at. Whether you like physical humor, verbal wit, mistaken identities, sexual politics, slapstick or just plain old zany antics, Blackadder has it in spades performed by a comedic cast that deserves unending accolades. I don’t want to sound unreasonably hyperbolic, but this really is a series that belongs in the pantheon of comedy.
Fans of were disappointed to find that even the Duplass brother’s “original” screenplays were just reboots of Elizabethan films.
Stuffed. To. The. Gills. Starting with the commentaries, there are plenty. And they’re amusing and intelligent, which is rare to come by. I really enjoyed Stephen Fry’s commentary throughout the series, and the commentaries featuring the cast, creators and writers were fantastic additions. Stephen Fry’s exclamation of “Oh good Lord,” upon seeing himself at the beginning of the episode Chains is so telling and so very amusing. I think I love Fry’s commentaries based on the fact that I love his voice. “One piece of gossip: My makeup artist then became Rowan’s makeup artist who then became Rowan’s wife. And still is, I believe.” Tell me that polite sense of civility and amusement is present in the latest Michael Bay commentary. It’s not. It’s only Stephen Fry. There are a couple of basic mini-featurettes (Costumes! Baldrick’s video diary! Etc.) and the aforementioned history featurettes with each series. Then there is the inclusion of the different specials: Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, Blackadder: Back and Forth, (featuring time traveling Blackadders!) and Blackadder: The Cavalier Years which each span different periods of the Blackadder saga. The documentary Blackadder Rides Again is a fun and interesting look into a series that lasted years and never diminished in quality. In fact, it only got better as it went onward.
The remastered episodes look nice considering how much they’ve aged. The transfer looks far better than the VHS tapes on which I discovered the series as a young’un. It’s presented in stereo transferred from its original mono soundtrack. If you’ve been waiting to buy any of the series on DVD for whatever reason, there is no excuse not to buy it now. It’s a fantastic collection to own.
While Edmund Blackadder may have been a villainous knave, a bumbling fool or perhaps just a bit of a prat, but he usually got what he deserved. This expansive and inclusive DVD set is what he deserves as a brilliant character, and what we deserve as an audience.
YOU! THAT’S RIGHT, I’M TALKING TO YOU!!! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? I’M
BRIAN BLESSED! I WAS BOSS NASS!!! LONG JOHN SILVER!!! PRINCE VULTAN!!!!!
I AM POWER INCARNATE!!! *WHY HAVE YOU NOT YET PURCHASED THIS FINE DVD
PRODUCT? **WHY HAVE YE NOT DISCUSSED IT ON OUR MESSAGE BOARDS? **WHY
HAVE YE NOT SIGNED UP FOR THE NEWSLETTER? BLESSED!!!!”
*,**,*** “MY MANY APOLOGIES IF YE HAVE DONE THESE THINGS AND YET I STILL YELL AT YE!”