Acorn Media // 2009 // 716 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // February 21st, 2013
"The prisoner in the dock has been far too long left to his fate for want of counsel." -William Garrow
Talk about your unlikely heroes.
Garrow's Law: The Complete Collection groups together all twelve episodes of the bright yet understated BBC series, which brought the legend of barrister William Garrow -- played with sly wit, a twinkle in the eye, and copious hair extensions by Andrew Buchan -- out of mothballed oblivion and shone a much-deserved spotlight on his unique contributions to our modern system of justice.
British-born Garrow (1760-1840) rose from humble beginnings to pre-eminence in London's legendary Old Bailey, once the bulwark of England's legal establishments. We have Garrow to thank for making "defense counsel" a regular part of our trial process, but before you start groaning about overpaid sleazeballs who routinely keep mobsters and corporate sharks from getting the justice they truly deserve, keep in mind that English court rooms in the eighteenth century were the last place you wanted to be if you were targeted by the prosecution.
Long before the practice of providing legal aid for those who couldn't afford it, those accused who were too poor to lawyer up usually went down...hard. The number of hang-able offenses was staggering (ripping someone else's clothes, for example, got you a trip to the gallows), and it wasn't until the advent of Garrow that due process allowed for presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and that hearsay was deemed inadmissible in court.
Garrow became famous (some might say infamous) for his dramatic flair, routinely subjecting prosecution witnesses on the stand to a severe London broiling, and thus raising the spectre of reasonable doubt.
But don't get the idea that Garrow's Law is nothing but powdered wigs and procedure; far from it. By cherry-picking cases from the Old Bailey's records and engaging in a bit of dramatic license, this short-lived series managed to find time for suspense, politics, and even a bit of illicit romance between our avenging attorney and one Lady Sarah Hill (Lyndsey Marshal, Rome), a married woman with child and a well-connected husband (Rupert Graves, Death At A Funeral) with blood in his eye and a judge in his pocket.
How much of this can actually be believed? A helpful extra titled "William Garrow: Fact and Fiction" is on hand to help you sort things out. Additional extras include two behind-the-scenes featurettes, photo galleries, cast biographies and yet another (brief) bio of the real Garrow's storied career. Acorn Media's anamorphic widescreen presentation does these episodes proud with clean, detailed images, and a fine a 2.0 stereo audio track for accompaniment. Though most of the court regulars are particularly well-spoken, English subtitles have been provided to ensure maximum understanding.
File this quaint, colorful ballad of an unsung hero under: Appeals.
Tell the hangman to take the day off.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 716 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Galleries
* Cast Bios