Originally broadcast on the BBC in 1970, Robin Redbreast is technically an episode of the old “Play For Today” series. It’s a self-contained tale of folk horror, however, and I am counting it here as a horror movie for two reasons. First, it has been on my shelf for too long without me having actually watched the thing. Second, I knew that it had a good reputation, which meant that I would be happy to bring it to the attention of anyone who may not have heard about it before now.
Anna Cropper plays Norah Palmer, a city woman who moves to a small country village to give herself a bit of a time out after the end of a relationship. Once there, she gets to know a local man who answers to the name of Robin (played by Andy Bradford). Although their interactions are sporadic, it’s not long until Norah starts to feel that the other locals are doing their best to push the two of them together. They may all just be trying to help her find happiness, or perhaps the motives are more sinister.
Director James MacTaggart does excellent work here, mixing in a few exterior sequences throughout to detract from the fact that this is a TV production mostly set in the one location, but his most important work is the unfussy positioning of the players, and getting them to deliver the dialogue contained within John Bowen’s script, which features a number of obvious highlights and plenty of small pleasures to savour. Nothing ever sizzles, but it all simmers nicely for the entire duration.
Cropper is very good in the lead role, especially in the latter half of the story, and Bradford is convincing as a decent, if rather boring, man. Although they would be classed as the nominal leads, both are slightly overshadowed by Freda Bamford and Bernard Hepton, portraying knowledgeable locals who seem to always know everything that’s happening in the village. All of the characters are clearly defined from their very first onscreen appearance, and the cast interact well with one another.
If you have any interest in folk horror then this is definitely one to watch. It serves as an interesting stepping stone on an uneven, country road that should lead people to more well-known movies (The Wicker Man, The Blood On Satan’s Claw, Wake Wood, A Field In England, and many more). And it also has an ending that proves to be surprisingly creepy.
DIRECTOR: JAMES MACTAGGART
WRITER: JOHN BOWEN
STARS: ANNA CROPPER, ANDY BRADFORD, FREDA BAMFORD, BERNARD HEPTON
RUNTIME: 76 MINS APPROX