It’s amazing to think that there were two movies. based on the same source material, in the same year of 1962. The source material was Doctor Syn: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, a book written at the beginning of the 20th century dealing with smugglers who dress as scary monsters, and their leader as a scarecrow, and operate in the marshes in the south of England. First came Captain Clegg, produced by Hammer studios and starring Peter Cushing in the title role. This was the second one, produced by Walt Disney Studios for their television programs (the magical world of color).
Both movies share similar stories. Christopher Syn is a respected vicar by day, a man respected all over England. By night, he is the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, a pirate on the run who smuggles food and alcohol in the beaches of the Romney Marsh. He is a Robin Hood figure, a character who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. As you can imagine, the English government hates him and is trying to stop him, even if they don’t know who the scarecrow is. This is where the similarities with the Hammer version end, as this is definitely more adventure-themed than suspense-themed, and the look of the characters is nowhere near as frightening as they were in Captain Clegg. Then again, they’re not supposed to be. The story is separated in three episodes, all almost having the same plot, only with different situations and side characters, from informers to assholes who beat up men and take them by force to join the Navy. The second episode, being the informer one, is my favorite, particularly because of the kangaroo court scene in the end which reminded me a lot of the one featured in M.
The show is littered with truly excellent performances. Patrick McGoohan (from the TV series, The Prisoner) played the title role, and he’s excellent in the role. Good looking and charming, but when he’s the Scarecrow his accent and mannerisms completely change, almost like they were two different actors. And his laugh is incredible! His nemesis, Coronel Peuh, is played by Geoffrey Keen, more famous for playing Frederick Gray in the James Bond films, and the conservative father in Taste The Blood Of Dracula (“You drink the filth!”) and he’s as annoying and obnoxious as ever. The production design is flawless, and it looks like Disney really put their money up there. It’s one of the better TV series to be produced by the studio, with action, adventure, and very well-written scripts. They’re available in the Disney Club online store, so check it out!