The first film version of Dr. Syn appeared in 1937, with George Arliss making his final screen appearance in the role. Alas, I haven't seen this version, which sounds promising based solely on the involvement of Margaret Lockwood and director Roy William Neill (a "B" movie auteur responsible for classics such as the Sherlock Holmes pic The Scarlet Claw).
|Cushing as Parson Blyss.|
|Cushing as Captain Clegg|
With a running time of 80 minutes, Captain Clegg is a compact tale that sacrifices character development in favor of a brisk pace. The casting of the always reliable Peter Cushing as Blyss/Clegg helps significantly. Even if we don't really understand what makes Clegg tick, Cushing excels at playing the charming local parson in one scene and transforming into the stern, demanding Clegg in the next.
|Yvonne Romain as Imogene.|
In the end, Captain Clegg is a solid costume adventure with some visual flair (the marsh phantoms are eerie) and a strong lead performance from Cushing. What it lacks, though, is a good song...
|Patrick McGoohan as Dr. Syn.|
|And McGoohan as The Scarecrow.|
The supporting cast is first-rate, with British stalwarts such as Michael Hordern, Patrick Wymark, and Geoffrey Keen. But what makes Scarecrow memorable is the marvelous McGoohan, a genuinely spooky Scarecrow mask, and a song forever etched into my memory. However, for those who have never heard the Scarecrow ballad, I've attached a clip from the show's opening. You also get to see the marvelous costume and hear that downright disturbing Scarecrow cackle (I don't think it's McGoohan).
There are several re-edited versions of The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. If you're a true fan, look for the Disney Treasures edition, which has some awesome bonus features--but may cost around $120 since it's out of print!
Do I have a preference between the Disney and Hammer adaptations of Scarecrow? I'm a big fan of Cushing and McGoohan and both films feature colorful scenery, spooky night riders, and an entertaining premise courtesy of Mr. Thorndike. If Disney's version gets a slight nod, it's just because that song is so darn catchy.