I've never heard this before. That's pretty damn creepy. Can't imagine the sociological damage it had on kids in the 60's!
The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, was produced as a three-part television film in color by Walt Disney in 1963, a miniseries before the term was ever coined. It was shot on location in England and was directed by James Neilson. It starred Patrick McGoohan of Danger Man/Secret Agent and The Prisoner fame in the title role, with George Cole as Mipps and Sean Scully as John Banks, the younger son of Squire Banks (Michael Hordern) and Dr. Syn's second lieutenant. Part One dealt with the arrival of General Pugh (Geoffrey Keen), who had been ordered by the War Office to smash the smuggling ring and the efforts of The Scarecrow to rescue a Dymchurch man who had been captured by the Naval Press-gang and used by General Pugh as bait in a trap; Part Two centered around how The Scarecrow dealt with the traitorous Joe Ransley (Patrick Wymark); and Part Three showed how The Scarecrow rescued Harry Banks (David Buck) (Squire Banks' eldest son, a press-ganged man who had escaped from the Navy) and American Simon Bates (Tony Britton) from General Pugh's clutches in Dover Castle.
McGoohan was almost completely unknown in the United States at the time; Secret Agent had not yet become a success on American television. While originally conceived and edited for American television (and announced in an advertisement by NBC in the Tuesday, July 9, 1963 issue of The Hollywood Reporter), The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh was re-edited for a British theatrical run before the American television debut. Titled Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow, the British theatrical version was released on a double bill with The Sword in the Stone, and ran during the 1963 Christmas season (advertised in the January 1964 issue of Photoplay). This version was shown in Europe as well as Central and South America through 1966.
In the 1970s, the production was re-edited again for its first American theatrical release, on double bills with both Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Treasure Island. (The VHS version of the 1980s, sharing the removal of the Scarecrow's laugh from Terry Gilkyson's title song, was expanded to include the story material from all three TV episodes, while retaining feature film structure and credits; it was available for a relatively short amount of time.) Shortly after the US theatrical run, it was re-edited yet again for a two-part presentation on Disney's television series in the 1970s, simply omitting the middle segment. The original three-part miniseries version was first shown on Disney's Wonderful World Of Color, February 9, 16 and 23, 1964, and shown again there a few times, included in a late 1980s Wonderful World of Disney syndicated rerun package, and cablecast in 1990s on the Disney Channel. This version generally followed the storyline of The Further Adventures of Dr. Syn and made it clear that Syn did not die or stage his own death: at film's end, he is having a cup of tea with the Squire, who admits to now owing a debt of gratitude to the Scarecrow.
On November 11, 2008 The Walt Disney Company released a limited pressing of 39,500 issues of The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh in DVD format for the first time as a part of the Disney Treasures collection, and was now called Dr. Syn: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. The issue sold out in three weeks, but as of February 17, 2009 the DVD was made available for members of the Disney movie club for $29.95. The two-disc set includes the American television version and the original British theatrical version Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow in widescreen format. It also includes the original introductions by Walt Disney (in which he erroneously indicates that Dr. Syn was an actual historical figure) and a documentary on Disney's interest in the property.
The church in the movie is St Clement's Church in the village of Old Romney, which was restored by the film company.
@ johnjohnson- Thanks for the info. I can tell you I was in diapers when this premiered, thus the reason I have no recollection of this program. I saw a lot of Disney's double feature reissues in the 70's, but don't recall this film being attached to any of those billings. It seems it's been locked away and forgotten until recently, which explains why I never heard of this title.