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  • Recently Disney released Dr. Syn The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh on DVD as part of their Treasures series. I had never heard of this title before, but after some brief research I discovered that Dr. Syn is beloved in the memories of people who as children saw the program in its three parts on television in the early 1960s. In reviews of the miniseries (later edited and released as a feature film) there is nothing but praise for every aspect of the production and the actors. I bought the 2 DVD set at Costco for $20 and not long after read reports of the set being sold-out, to the anger and frustration of collectors and fans. Now the set is selling for upwards of $200 online due to its scarcity. The Disney Treasures items are limited, after all. I am very glad I picked up my copy, even if it was a blind buy. I finally got around to watching the original 3 part feature and I can say that I am a fan of this wonderful production. First, the DVD production from the steel case to the picture and sound restoration, is excellent. It looks very, very good. Every aspect of the feature itself is top notch, from the writing, directing, photography and acting. Patrick McGoohan, as both title characters is perfect for this role. He plays the mild-mannered, quiet-spoken vicar by day, and by night he is the terrifying gravel-voiced scarecrow of Romney Marsh in 18th century South England. As both vicar and Scarecrow, Dr Syn is a hero to the poor folks, running interference between them and King George the Third's soldiers and press gangs. It is inevitable that comparisons to Batman will be made, but folks, Dr Syn came long before Batman, and McGoohan in both roles as the robed preacher and his masked outlaw alter-ego brings the story to life. The supporting cast is outstanding as well, and story, supervised personally by Disney himself, is exciting and comes to a satisfying conclusion. Very highly recommended.
  • Batman could learn a thing or two from Dr. Syn, alias the Scarecrow. He's a ceaselessly interesting character, an antihero who strikes fear into the hearts of the men who serve him, yet one who executes only noble acts. In his mission to save his people from the tyranny of King George III, he presents himself as a borderline villain; donning a fearsome mask, gravelly voice, and cackling laugh creates Darth Vader intimidation, as well as a perfect ruse when it's revealed that he's actually a vicar for the Dymchurch parish of Romney Village.

    It's the early 1700s and Dr. Christopher Syn (Patrick McGoohan), a country priest, uses the disguise of a terrifying scarecrow mask to lead his band of rebel "gentleman" to lash out at King George's treacherous naval press gangs and his ruinous taxes. The Scarecrow menacingly insists that unjust laws can be altered. The smuggler's successes cause the frustrated ruler to dispatch the Royal Army's General Pugh (Geoffrey Keen) to clean up the village, no matter what the cost. Caught up in the mix is the lenient Sir Thomas Banks, his daughter Katharine (Jill Curzon) and her lover Lt. Brackenbury (Pugh's second-in-command), and Harry (David Buck) - a soldier recently returning from deserting service.

    Originally a three-part television series chopped together into one feature-length film, the movie version doesn't lose much of the appeal of the full version, nor is it painfully obvious that scenes have been edited out. Only once is there a break that feels out of place. The story, based on the historically-set series of novels by Russell Thorndike, makes sense, is sharply paced, and is nonstop fun. With a riveting theme song and plenty of action, it's no wonder this relatively obscure production is so highly sought after on home video.

    The perfectly cast McGoohan uses a blend of makeup mixed into the scarecrow mask to reveal an eerily realistic moving mouth during scenes of conversing. The vizard is a striking extension of his face, even though its nothing more than a burlap sack when removed. The design is a cleverly demonic blend of horror and awe, paired intuitively with an insane, shrill cachinnation. With an anonymous identity, an expressionless visage, and a frightening presence, the Scarecrow is one of the most gratifying cinematic crosses between protagonist and antagonist, always ready with a plan that serves as both a lesson for his men and a warning for the king. And to match such an engaging hero is the merciless Pugh, a man whose evil is bested only by his superiors, generating a pleasantly devious hierarchy of villainousness. Dramatic, exciting, suspenseful, and swashbuckling (even though only one sword is brandished), "Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow" is an absorbing film whose title character takes his rightful place alongside the likes of Robin Hood, Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and every other hero who valiantly fights against injustice.

    – The Massie Twins
  • This film takes place in the late 19th century in England where high taxes on certain goods has created a smuggling ring that is operating on the southeast coast in Kent near the small town of Dymchurch. Because England needs the revenue to continue its wars with France and to hold down the rebellion in its American colonies, the decision is made to send a high-ranking officer by the name of "General Pugh" (Geoffrey Keen) to solve the problem using whatever means are necessary. What he doesn't realize is that the entire town has benefited from the smuggling operation in one way or another and as a result many of the townspeople have conflicting loyalties. Likewise, the leader of the smugglers is a costumed man known simply as the "Scarecrow" (Patrick McGoohan) who is as terrifying as he is clever. As a result, General Pugh has to resort to even more harsh methods to ascertain the scarecrow's identity in order to bring him to justice. What he doesn't know is that the Scarecrow has spies everywhere and quite often he is aware of General Pugh's plans before they are even passed on to his soldiers. Now rather than reveal any more I will just say that this film was essentially taken from a 3-part mini-series and condensed into a 98 minute movie. Fortunately, the editing was top-notch and the film itself is one that is quite enjoyable on its own accord with Patrick McGoohan putting in an outstanding performance as both the Scarecrow and under his dual identity "Dr. Syn." That being said, this is one of those movies that can be watched by the entire family and I recommend it to all those who are interested.