Dr Syn: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (1964)

Dr Syn movie poster- a painting of a man standing next to a scarecrow, underneath are men riding horses, Walt Disney Dr Syn written underneath

Dr Syn © Walt Disney

Directed by: James Neilson
Starring: Patrick McGoohan, George Cole, Michael Hordern, Tony Britton, Sean Scully, Alan Dobie
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
Kent Locations Used: Romney Marsh, St Clement’s Church Old Romney

In 18th Century England, the Vicar of Dymchurch (Patrick McGoohan) takes on the alias of The Scarecrow. Alongside his gang of smugglers, they turn against the King and his high taxes, by smuggling goods across the Romney Marshes. The Scarecrow comes under threat from the Kings army after they learn of his rebel gang, and he becomes a wanted man. Aided by the locals, the Scarecrow must come up with a plan to get rid of the Kings army whilst maintaining his successful smuggling operations that many locals have come to rely on.

St Clements Church and cemetery- horse are being walked along the path by cast in period costumes

St Clements Church © Walt Disney

The film was released as part of the Disney Treasures Collection in 1964. Walt Disney adapted the stories from the original DR Syn books written by Russell Thorndike, and the later book ‘Christopher Syn’ written by William Buchanan. Originally, the production was only intended to be aired in three parts on Disney’s weekly television show Wonderful World of Colour, but was later adapted for release on DVD.

The film stars Patrick McGoohan (Treasure Planet, Columbo), George Cole (Cleopatra, The Adventures of Quentin Durward),Michael Hordern (The Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden), Tony Britton (The Day of the Jackal, The Way We Live Now), Sean Scully (Phoenix, Born to Sing) and Alan Dobie (Cribb, Kessler).

Romney Marshes were the background to the production and so featured throughout the film and consist of around 100 square miles of coastal marshlands located in South East Kent. It is a popular tourist destination due to its sandy beaches, historic buildings and diverse landscape which is perfect for walkers and cyclists. Romney Marsh has also featured in Parades End (2012), Great Expectations (2012) and The Inspector Lynley Mysteries – Natural Causes (2006).

St Clement’s Church in Old Romney doubled as Dr Syn’s Dymchurch parish church in the production. Walt Disney funded the repair of the building in order to use it as a filming location. The interior was painted pink by the crew and remains so to this day.

The 3 Part TV series first aired in 1963 and is available to watch on DVD.

For more information about Kent’s Filming History please visit our Movie Map.