Plot: What’s it about?
As always Brother Cadfael (Derek Jacobi) finds himself in the midst of a murder mystery, but this time around, it might be so simple to discover the truth. Cadfael was once a warrior in the Crusades, but now he is a devoted monk and more often than not, he is called upon to use his wisdom to solve crimes. This time, it all starts when a young man appears at Shrewsbury Abbey and pretty much begs to be allowed in, to join them as a novice. This seems strange enough at first, but then things take a darker turn and that’s when the tensions really begins to tighten down. A missing cleric has been found, but not in the desired sense, as he has been murdered. The corpse has been burnt to an extreme extent in some places, which leads Cadfael to think this was a brutal crime indeed. As the young man has arrived under unique circumstances, he is singled out as the prime suspect, but Cadfael thinks otherwise, even when the man admits to the crime. As he believes the newcomer is innocent, Cadfael must now uncover the truth about the murder and in this case, that will be much easier said than done.
If you’re a fan of suspense/mysteries, then you will not want to miss the Cadfael series, which ran on television before hitting the home video ranks. I’d seen a couple of the episodes, but I was looking forward to these discs from Acorn Media, so I could see the complete editions. This installment is The Devil’s Novice and while it wasn’t flawless, it was a well made episode and one that was well worth the effort. The suspense was well crafted and as always, the visuals were top notch and add even more to the atmosphere involved. The costumes, locations, and overall production design are very good, which of course makes it even that much better. Derek Jacobi (Dead Again, Gladiator) plays Cadfael to sheer perfection as usual, with a more than competent supporting cast behind him, so the characters are brought to life in fine form. I do think some will be let down if they’re fans of the novels, but all things considered, The Devil’s Novice is a worthwhile release, at least in my opinion. In the end, this installment in the Cadfael series is recommended and since the disc is also solid, I see no reason to miss this one, if you’re at all interested.
Video: How does it look?
The Devil’s Novice is presented in a full frame transfer, which preserves the film’s intended aspect ratio. This was a made for television program and as such, is not as refined as most feature films, but I think the image is more than acceptable. As is often the case with British television shows, the picture is a little soft, but enough to lessen the experience much. I found the brighter scenes to be more pleasing to the eyes, but even the darker sequences look good, so no real complaints. If you factor in the source material and the nature of this program, I think this transfer is more than adequate, if a little lacking at times.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio is presented via a stereo track and given the material, it is more than sufficient. This film is not reliant upon audio for much, outside of the dialogue and infrequent other needs, so don’t expect a powerful performance from your system. The materials have a little wear and tear that’s evident, but the elements seem to come across well enough, so I won’t knock the score much in the end. The dialogue seems to be presented in fine form and since that’s the focus here, I am giving this one a good score. This disc also includes English subtitles, should you need them.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes talent files on Derek Jacobi and author Ellis Peters, information on other episodes of Cadfael, a production scrapbook with still photos, and audio comments by Jacobi. The comments come in the form of an audio interview, which runs only a few minutes, but is a welcome addition nonetheless.