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Sword Buyers Digest - 2014
September 01, 2014

Nice to be "back in the digest groove" as it were and good to see you back again for the September issue (this is issue 86, and this December - as hard to believe as it is - will be the 9th year of the Digest!).

And this month, we have another comeback - a mammoth edition of Collectors corner with Dan Dacombe!

So sit back, relax and I hope - enjoy (I normally would recommend sitting back with your favorite beverage of choice, but Collectors Corner can be a choking/keyboard spraying hazard - so best to keep the airways clear when reading!).


1. From the Desk of Paul Southren

2. Collectors Corner with Dan Dacombe

3. Video of the Month

4. Best Forum Posts

From The Desk of Paul Southren

August was another one of those "iceberg" months, with not a lot seemingly going on above the surface but behind the scenes, we are crazy busy!

Not only are we preparing for a (this time, non-disruptive!) forum upgrade, but late last month while searching for something totally unrelated I stumbled upon some old notes, photos and unreleased videos I had prepared several years ago for some sword reviews that never quite eventuated and got filed away in a rather obscure place..

Interestingly enough, simply looking through the materials brought back all my thoughts and impressions - and so, this month, I will do my best to piece it all together and do a few new (old? New?) reviews! (Can't wait - writing reviews, especially those that challenge the status quo are what I enjoy the most about SBG!).

So stay tuned - it should be a lot of fun!

On other SBG news, the SBG team and I have been madly working away to find better and faster ways to respond to and assist customers of the SBG Sword Store - including the creation of a huge "self-help" desk which we are currently filling with helpful advice and information that applies not just to the products in our store, but which could be helpful to ANY sword enthusiast.

It is turning out to be a pretty intensive exercise, so the exact launch date has not yet been determined, but once it comes out, we think it will be well worth the blood, sweat and sword oil (oops, I meant tears).

At the same time, we have also gained access to a wider range of swords and sword related products we can potentially add to the store. Naturally, as always, we will ONLY be adding the swords and products we stand behind and would buy ourselves, so we aren't going to become a sword super store selling everything and anything. But some of the new products (especially those that are not widely available elsewhere, but we feel SHOULD be) are quite exciting, so stay tuned and we will announce everything as it is added in the official SBG-Wordpress-Store-Blog

It will be well worth a look (who knows, you might find some special introductory discount offers in there, would not be the first time..)

Collectors Corner with Dan Dacombe

Collector's Corner has returned as a regular part of the SBG Digest. Complaints about this development can be made to whichever spiritual figure you hold in esteem, but they won’t help one bit.

Hi everyone, and welcome to Collector’s Corner. I’m your host Daniel Sinclair, and I’ll be making vague attempts at sword-related articles here once a month in the SBG Digest. It’s been a little while and I’m a bit rusty, so pardon me while I scrape the barnacles off my word processor and get started. Also please pardon me for using the word “rusty,” which I know is a naughty word among us sword-collecting folk.

Anyways, today we’ll be reviewing a “sword movie,” or a film where swords and sword-fighting features somewhat prominently. Some of these films are great, some of them are crap, but I try and review them all fairly – even when I’m mentally giving the costume department a good dressing-down while I’m in the theatre. I haven’t written in a while so I’ve got a good backlog of sword movies to get through… let’s get started!

September 2014: Sword Movie Review – Robin Hood (2010) starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett

Ah, Robin Hood. Our old friend. Robs from the rich, gives to the poor, wins archery contests while dressed as a stork, you know the fellow. Despite being an almost certainly fictional character he has been a part of English folklore for generations and captured the imagination of many a young lad or lass. How many of us played at archery as children, pretending to be the noble outlaw defending the downtrodden and righting the wrongs in the neighborhood until the larger children chased us down and beat us with sticks? I’m going to guess “everyone,” or else I’m going to feel a little silly. Robin Hood has been depicted on screens large and small countless times. This latest adaptation continues the brave tradition of classic English folk heroes being portrayed by actors who can’t maintain British accents. But at least Russell Crowe is an Aussie, making him sort of nominally British (the Queen is on Australian money, right? That’s makes them British doesn’t it? Kinda?) Long live the Queen, I guess?

This movie apparently started out on the drawing board as an intriguing new look at the Robin Hood legend where the Sheriff of Nottingham was the heroic main character, turning the whole story on its head for a fresh new direction. Of course once a director was hired they proceeded to rip out everything new and different in the script, so we wound up with yet another retelling of the same story and the Sheriff of Nottingham reduced to even more of a weenie than he usually is.

Peoples’ hearts threatened with spoons: zero.

Other changes were made to the story for “dramatic license,” as the saying goes. Robin is the son of a stone mason who was so ahead of his time he invented concrete roughly 600 years early, and like in previous incarnations is a master bowman. Because this Robin is played by the large and imposing General Maximus, though, he also kicks all sorts of ass with both sword and war hammer.

You should see him fight with a mobile phone. Scary stuff.

Maid Marion is played by the incomparable and beautiful Cate Blanchette, who is so wasted in this role that you just feel sort of uncomfortable for her in every scene she’s in. In fact, there were a few pretty well-known actors who look like they’re vaguely startled to be there – William Hurt as William Marshall, Danny Huston as King Richard, and – especially exciting for this Canuck – Alan Doyle, lead singer of the Canadian Band “Great Big Sea” plays the minstrel Allan A’Dayle (or at least shows up as himself in the film and fits in comfortably with the locals, like some cheerful Newfie time-traveller). Mark Strong rounds out the cast as the villainous Sir Godfrey (a character basically filling in for Guy of Gisbourne, who is nowhere to be seen despite being pretty much exactly like Sir Godfrey in the stories).

Godfrey, clearly wondering what he’s doing here instead of Guy of Gisbourne

Many classic characters and themes – such as Friar Tuck, and Robin Hood’s roots as an outlaw and robber – barely appear in the film. Ostensibly, the reasoning behind this was to show the beginnings of the Robin Hood legend in the context of England’s political climate at the time. Realistically, what we get instead is a bit of a confusing mid-crusades mash-up with confusing sub plots and actors just a bit older than we’re used to seeing in these roles. If this truly is the beginning of the Robin Hood mythos, they’re going to have to change the name to Robin Hood and his Geriatric Men.

Maid Marion, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood middle age a second marriage.

We meet this Robin Hood on the crusades, an archer in the service of King Richard. In a surprising move, the film actually shows an almost-accurate depiction of the death of King Richard. Those unfamiliar with the story of King Richard’s death will be saddened to learn that he unfortunately did not return from the Crusades to rescue England from the wicked prince John and make out with his female relatives at their weddings.

“Yes, I’m here to help my cousin with her tonsillectomy?”

Robin and his men desert from the army after the king’s death, only to be caught up in political intrigue and feats of daring-do along the way. Robin actually acquires a special sword from a dying knight (Sir Robert of Loxley), and swears to return it to Sir Robert’s father. This sword plays an important role in the film and bears the inscription “Rise and Rise Again Until Lambs Become Lions” – symbolic of the strength of the English citizen, no doubt, although it also sounds like the sort of tattoo a drunk college girl would get. The sword was briefly in production by Windlass Steelcrafts and was surprisingly popular for a movie sword with obvious plastic Mardi Gras beads on the hilt. But hey! A hero’s gotta have a hero’s sword, amiright? Blue plastic add-ons aside it’s nice to see a fancy sword so important to the plot, although Russell Crowe is a bit rough with it – at one point using it to lever up an enormous block of stone, presumably because he was in a hurry and also wanted to see if he could make it suitable for stabbing around corners.

By impersonating Sir Robert he makes it all the way to Nottingham, where he is roped into continuing the charade by Sir Robert’s father in order to ensure that Sir Robert’s widow, Maid Marion, does not lose her lands to the Crown. Cate Blanchett plays Marion quite appropriately in this scenario, considering she found out she was widowed and then got surprise-remarried about three minutes later. Of course, the faux-marriage paves the way for genuine feelings later. The film actually plays the romance between the two of them in a fairly believable manner, even if it’s a bit slower and less clothes-tearingly-heated as most tv/movie romances are these days.

Game of Thrones it’s not.

“What’s a guy gotta do to get some tail around here?”

At this point, the plot and pacing of the movie breaks down. We are treated to a rushed, confusing mess of plot points involving an impending invasion by France, English knights betraying the crown and letting French soldiers muck about on British soil, a potential rebellion by the English nobles and (somehow) this all ties into stuff that Robin Hood’s stonemason father did when Robin was but a wee lad. Going over every plotline in the film here would take waaaaay more space than Paul wants to give me – but that’s ok! Because everyone forgets about the rebellion and whatnot and rushes to the coast to defend England from the French invasion force. For some reason (dramatic licence, yaaaay!) everyone decided that Robin Hood would be a great guy to lead the English army – this would be a poor choice even if he WAS Sir Robert, and not just a deserter/budding outlaw, since Sir William Marshall is there but let’s just go with it shall we?

Besides, it’s not like it matters who leads the English - In a startling lack of foresight, the French invasion force decides to pick the most castle-like landmass on the English coast to assault. The ensuing rain of arrows from the tops of the cliffs of Dover is, mystifyingly, a complete surprise to the French troops.

Not pictured: Tactics.

The predictable result is a bloody battle, done about as well as you’d expect in a movie with a budget as big as this one had. I enjoyed the pretty accurate portrayal of the English longbow, which was arguably the deadliest ranged weapon in the world for centuries. Poor France can’t catch a break, though, they come out of this film looking One complaint I had about the grand finale of the film was that the climactic finale fight between Robin and Godfrey was made slightly less compelling as we all saw Godfrey have difficulties easily dispatching an old, blind man earlier in the film. Twit. Oh, and Maid Marion shows up for the final battle because why the hell not at this point.

“This is the set of Elizabeth, right guys?”

As the film ends, the legend begins…

So, bottom line – is it worth it? I enjoyed the movie because it held my attention, but was disappointed that it seemed to fall short as a Robin Hood story in so many ways. Other film versions of Robin Hood (Prince of Thieves, Men in Tights) have “been there and done that,” so to speak, and I didn’t really feel like this one brought much more to the table. If you’re looking for a decent medieval movie that will deliver some good action and acceptable atmosphere, go find the DVD. Otherwise – let’s sit back and see if the original script for this movie gets picked up…

That’s all for now. See you next month – Stay Sharp, and Stay Safe.

Video of the Month

While I think this video perpetuates a couple of historical inaccuracies regarding Viking swords (they were not all heavy "baseball bats" and while the steel was relatively poor quality, advanced pattern welding techniques made them much stronger than the presenter suggests).

Never-the-less this video covers a lot of interesting points, has some great fight sequences and is a fast paced, action packed video well worth your time to check it out..

Oh, and whatever you do, DON'T try the "whack to the hauberk protected stomach" test at home!

Best Forum Posts

SBG Forum: UPS Blues

To be fair, we only really hear about the times they make a dogs breakfast out of a shipment rather than the hundreds of times they deliver as promised. But when they screw it up, they REALLY screw it up!

SBG Forum: Gladiator Swords by Windlass

The old and the new, with a special announcement for enthusiasts of functional Gladii..

SBG Forum: Re-wrapping the hilt of a medieval sword

Brenno's hilt wrapping guide put into action over the weekend results in a nice, clean new wrap. If you want to try it yourself you can find the step by step guide HERE

SBG Forum: Robin Williams - R.I.P.

Apart from being one of my personal favorite comedians, Robin Williams was also one of us, and had his own sword collection.. Many a time I had planned to interview him about this, but never seized the day, and now it is too late.. Very sad - here the forum pays tribute. Carp Diem. R.I.P. Mr. Williams…

Thanks for reading folks, hope you enjoyed it, learned a couple of new things and had a bit of a chuckle. Talk to you again all next month with our scary Halloween edition! Until then, happy swordening!

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