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5.0 out of 5 stars He's going to rule the world!, May 16 2010
This review is from: Black Adder: The Ultimate Edition (DVD)
You have to give the Blackadder family credit -- they're tenacious. "Black Adder - The Complete Collector's Set" chronicles this odd, sardonic family's presence throughout the greatest eras of British history. The first season stumbles somewhat, but the following seasons are brilliant -- sardonic, kooky, and sometimes rather sick.

On the day of the Battle of Bosworth Field, the Duke of York (Brian Blessed) and his son Harry (Robert East) accompanied the king (Peter Cook) into battle. His second son Edmund (Atkinson) hopes to come along, but he oversleeps -- and when he arrives, he accidentally kills the king, and Edmund's his father is made king. He dubs himself the "Black Adder" and decides to one day become king of England... too bad nobody likes him.

He's followed by a string of descendents through the ages -- all more acid-tongued and intelligent than he, or anyone else around them. And they're always accompanied by a Baldrick. That includes Lord Edmund Blackadder, the favorite of the demented queen Bess (Miranda Richardson); Edmund Blackadder Esq., valet and butler to the half-witted Prince Regent (Hugh Laurie); and Captain Blackadder, a soldier in World War I who spends his time trying to get out of it.

These unlucky Blackadders find themselves dealing with demented Puritans, hosting bawdy drinking parties, crazed bishops, even crazier princes, giant turnips, the Red Baron, drag musical acts, Spaniard inquisitors, and almost being shot for eating a carrier pigeon. Startlingly, the final season -- although another is in the planning stages -- ends on a very poignant note.

But there is an upbeat ending overall -- the final episode introduces us to the modern-day Blackadder, a sharp-tongued aristocrat dining with the modern-day descendents of Prince George, Queen Elizabeth, Melchett and Darling. Not to mention Baldrick in a truly horrifying porno apron.

Blackadder reveals that using da Vinci's plans, Baldrick has constructed a time machine, and bets £30,000 that he can bring back historical items. It's actually an elaborate scam... until the machine works, and Baldrick and Blackadder find themselves spinning helplessly through time, with no idea how to get home. And in a couple of side-stories, Ebenezer Blackadder discovers how his pleasant cheery attitude will affect his descendents; and the last two Loyalists to King Charles (in other words, Baldrick and Blackadder) deal with the impending execution of the king ( "No, it's not! It's a huge pumpkin with a pathetic moustache drawn on it!").

The series starts off a little weakly -- the first season is funny, but not outrageously so, and Prince Edmund is the incompetant twerp rather than Baldrick or Percy. But things blossom with the arrival of a new writer in "Blackadder II," and sets the tone for the rest of the series: a smart, bitter man who's constantly surrounded by nincompoops.

There are one or two dud episodes, but the majority of them shine with comic genius, from the kookily childish Queen Elizabeth ("Who's Queen?") to Baldrick's rancid boxers killing the dinosaurs. Atkinson gets most of the good lines ("He's the most over-rated human being since Judas Iscariot won the AD31 Best Disciple Competition") but the rest of the cast usually gets in some great ones too ("A total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through!").

Atkinson, of course, rules the whole series a series of acid-tongued Blackadders who have influence but no power, and Robinson is great as the gross servant who always has a cunning plan. The rest of the cast reappears regularly -- Laurie as a series of half-witted bluebloods, Richardson as drippy young women, Fry as cunning advisors and hearty generals, and McInnery as airbrained idiots and prissy assistants.

Aside from being polished up in the remastering process, apparently this edition is going to have deleted scenes, audio commentaries (YAY!) and interviews. It's probably not worth the shell-out if you already own the whole thing, but definitely is if you don't.

The complete series of "Black Adder" is a comic cornucopia -- it starts off a bit weakly, but once it gets its footing, it's absolute hilarious. A must-have.
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