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A hero of British TV comedy embarks on a special journey through time.

By Andrew Osmond     December 05, 2000

Blackadder: Back and Forth, just released on British video, was originally made for the big screen at London's Millennium Dome. (Cynics might say it therefore qualifies as a hitherto unseen work, but that's quite enough of that!) The thirty-minute adventure sees the devious Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson of Mr Bean fame) and his ever-pungent servant Baldrick (Tony Robinson) build a time machine, courtesy of a long-lost sketchbook by Leonardo da Vinci.

Blackadder was one of the most successful TV comedies in Britain, surviving through four six-part series: The Black Adder (1983), Blackadder II (1986), Blackadder the Third (1987) and Blackadder Goes Forth (1989). A decade on, the new adventure adopts the format of Time Bandits and the Bill and Ted films, with the hapless heroes meeting a T-Rex, Robin Hood, Shakespeare, the Roman army and the Duke of Wellington (well, actually, they land on Wellington.) There's also a strikingly faithful reconstruction of the Elizabethan Blackadder II, probably the best-remembered version of the show.

As well as Atkinson and Robinson, all the series regulars are back in character: Tim McInnerny ('Darling'), Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Miranda Richardson (unforgettable as a demented Elizabeth I), Patsy Byrne ('Nursey') and Rik Mayall. The film is scripted by the series' veteran writers, Richard Curtis (who went on to cinema fame with Four Weddings and Notting Hill) and Ben Elton. There are also guest appearances from Colin Firth (best-known as Mr Darcy in the 1995 mini-series Pride and Prejudice) and supermodel Kate Moss (as Maid Marian!).

Production values, while not exactly blockbuster-level, are impressive. Even the T-Rex (well, the head of a T-Rex) looks fearsome before succumbing to a whiff of Baldrick's underwear. The wooden, pulley-driven time machine also has a pleasantly retro-feel. However, the film really works as an anniversary reunion rather than a new episode of the series. Many of the gags are familiar, and this Blackadder lacks the bite of the TV versionunderstandable, since it was made for a family audience. On the upside, the video includes a surprisingly good 'Making of' documentary (another half-hour), full of interviews, production footage, deleted scenes and outtakes. It also includes many of the best moments from Blackadder's past.

[Note: This title is currently only available on PAL-format video.]


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