Dr. Syn – Alias the Scarecrow
Dr Syn – Alias the Scarecrow – 1963 | 97 mins | Action, Adventure | Colour
Originally aired as a three episode mini-series on TV in 1962, Dr Syn – Alias the Scarecrow had previously been filmed with George Arliss in Gaumont-British’s Dr. Syn (1937) and also Peter Cushing in Hammer’s Captain Clegg (1962). The original Russell Thorndike novels assert that Dr. Syn is actually a pirate leading a double-life, but the family-orientated Disney adapted William Buchanan’s subsequent novel to make the central character a more charitable Robin Hood figure with the alter ego of a kindly parish vicar. The family movie is action packed with swashbuckling moments of derring-do and intrigue whilst cameraman Paul Beeson gives the period piece an authentic Georgian atmosphere with the use of genuine Kentish locations on Romney Marsh. The strong cast is led by shadowy hero Patrick McGoohan who would subsequently become a cult icon in The Prisoner, and a wonderful cast of British character actors including George Cole, Geoffrey Keen, Patrick Wymark and Michael Hordern who all lend able support.
The year is 1736, and rebellion rolls across the English countryside as the peasants of the Dymchurch parish struggle under the strain created by King George III’s oppressive taxation. To crush the resistance of the local commoners, the tyrannical General Pugh (Geoffrey Keen) is dispatched to the area, where he begins a reign of terror press-ganging locals into the Royal Navy.
But, from his refuge in the swamps of Romney Marsh, the outwardly upstanding parish vicar Dr. Christopher Syn (Patrick McGoohan) disguises himself as the notorious “Scarecrow”, and together with his sexton Mr. Mipps (George Cole) and a courageous band of masked smugglers they gallop by night in defence of the oppressed farmers and villagers. After numerous clashes between The Scarecrow and General Pugh’s troops, complications ensue when the upright Squire Banks’ (Michael Hordern) son arrives in Dymchurch having deserted from the navy and falls into the tyrannical Pugh’s clutches. The Scarecrow must attempt to rescue him from Dover castle but will Pugh’s second-in-command Lieutenant Brackenbury (Eric Flynn) prove to be the ally Syn imagines.
James Neilson: Director
Paul Beeson: Cinematography
Anthony Mendleson: Costume Design
Peter Boita: Editing
Gerard Schurmann: Original Music
Walt Disney: Producer
Robert Westerby: Script