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The Lord Shetland film franchise is a series containing seven films revolving around Lord Edgar Shetland, a character conceived by English novelist Peter Brown in the 1950's. The Shetland novel series spanned eleven pulp-style novels following the adventures of the irresponsible Shetland, who in public is a debonair playboy in the late Victorian era of the Kingdom of England, but is secretly a master of disguise, whose costumed alter egos include a mysterious caped swordsman known as the Wraith and a romantic, swashbuckling, masked rogue called Blade. He does battle with a series of sensationalized villains both as Shetland and as his costumed doppelgangers.
Timothy Dalton Trilogy
A film adaptation of the Shetland series had been in the works for years but had been mired in development hell, as the brand was not as popular in the United States as it was in England until the late 1970's, and a developer for a television program had been difficult to find due to the financial difficulties sustained by ETV during the early 1980's economic turndown. Also, during the 1970's, the books became harder to find in circulation as their popularity waned.
During the 1980's, however, the Shetland sereis burgeoned in popularity in America and the books, which hadn't seen significant circulation in England since the early 1970's, experienced a renaissance. Pacific Print finally decided to capitalize on the popularity of the series as well as the wealth of source material from the pulpy novels by producing a film titled simply Lord Shetland, and attached popular English actor Timothy Dalton to the lead.
Dalton proved to have the perfect balance of debonair disinterest, playboy mentality and hard-edged wit to play the part, and the film was marketed in the US as a "19th-century swashbuckling Batman." Due to the popularity of Batman in the United States, the marketing campaign pushed the similarities between the two films for its 1989 release and the first film was a huge success, spawning two sequels also starring Dalton, The Revenge of Lord Shetland and Lord Shetland Strikes Again in 1992 and 1994, respectively. Neither were as financially or critically successful as the first, and Dalton had by then become a household name interested in a variety of other projects.
Return of the Wraith
Christian Bale Reboot
In 2005, it was announced that Christian Bale would appear in a reimagining of the Shetland series, which would reboot the series to explore the origins of the character. The reboot had been in production since 2002, when Pat Alden had expressed his interest in producing and acclaimed director Al Gore was attached to "resurrect" another moribund franchise, much as he had done with 1996's Deception entry in the Martin Jones series.
2006's Shetland was a critical and commercial success, focusing on the development of Lord Shetland as a vigilante and his background. The film, which also starred Pierce Brosnan and Helen Haggis in supporting roles, followed Shetland's battle with the villainous Count Retchfield.
Bale would appear in Rise of Shetland and Return of the Wraith in 2008 and 2010 to wrap up a trilogy not unlike that of Timothy Dalton in the late 1980's and early 1990's.