Monday, January 18, 2010

Good with a Rifle, Quick on his Feet and Bloody Fearless. The Amazing Stories of Richard Sharpe.

Bernard Cornwell began writing the character of Richards Sharpe in 1981 with Sharpe's Eagle, It is however chronologically the 8th book in the series. It was followed by Sharpe's Gold, Company, Sword, Enemy, Honour, Regiment, Seige, Rifles, Revenge, and Waterloo. Thats the initial 12, they were a huge hit in the UK, so the BBC developed a TV series around the character, initially to be played by Paul Mcgann (the Doctor from Fox's 1996 Doctor Who Movie) but he couldn't so they cast Sean Bean instead. This created some problems as Sean Bean is really nothing physically like the Literary Sharpe apart from being tall and lanky. But he did such a good job, and made the character so memorable that the program ran from 1993 till 1997, and then had two more episodes made between 2006 and 2008 which are Braveheart levels of historically inaccurate.

The Television series began with, at the time, the first novel chronologically, 1988's "Sharpe's Rifles" and then continued from there through the novels more or less chronologically, though the Series played very loose with the books continuity. The show featured some really great actors like Brian Cox, and in 1997's "Sharpe's Waterloo" the now hugely popular Paul Bettany as the Prince of Orange.

The Show was so popular that the Author went back and wrote a further 10 novels and 3 short stories, these however attempted to retcon the changes of the TV series into the original 12 novels, they mainly slot into different places in the existing framework, and start the series off with Sharpe in India in what is the " Indian Trilogy " of " Sharpe's Tiger ", " Sharpe's Triumph " and " Sharpe's Fortress ".

I'd caught a few of the TV movies on PBS at various times in the past, and really enjoyed them. So when I got Netflix I quickly put the 12 they had to to the top of my list, the two from 2006 and 2008, hadn't come out in the US at that time.. and due to their continuity problems (They adapt the " India Trilogy " but move the timeline forward nearly 30 years in order to still use Sean Bean and Darragh O'mally, the actors from the first 12 telemovies) I will wait till they air on PBS before deciding if I want to buy them.

If you like Napoleonic era fiction, or are a fan of Patrick O'Brian, then the sharpe's series is something you should check out, as its a really nice companion, it being about the British Army during the same time period that O'Brian's is about the British Navy. A worthy heir to Fenimoor Cooper's Leather stocking tales, Dumas' D'Artagen romances and Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel.. I've only finished the first 6 of them so far, but I'm already wishing the series was longer than it was.

I'd planned to purchase the Sharpe's TV series, but as with most television programs from the UK, they are outrageously expensive. The Four packs retail at around 80$us each, while the 12 pack which comes in a rather nice wooden ammo crate retails for an astounding 349.99$us.. The exact same product (albeit with different packaging) is only 25.49£ in the UK.. thats roughly 50$us. A Savings of nearly 300$.. which will add up to just about half of what the US set costs after you buy a Region Free DVD player which converts from PAL to NTSC in order to actually be able to watch it. I try not to complain about these discrepancies too much, as I know that across the pond they pay more for US products than I do.. But there does come a point when absurdity strikes and incredulity takes over, and this is such an occasion.

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