Well, this has been an…interesting few months hasn’t it? 2016 refused to leave without taking a few more beloved stars with it, we saw a changing of the guard that has everyone either flocking to the church or the streets, heck, the last few weeks alone has thrown the world into such uncertainty and madness that I just want to lose myself in a bit of escapism that has nothing to do with what’s going on outside right now.

I’ve got it! Harry Potter! I love those movies. There’s nothing more magical and escapist than the tale of a boy who discovers he’s a wizard and goes to school and fights an evil power-mad sorcerer whose followers share his outspoken racism and Nazi-like methods of suppression…

Maybe a comedy is what I need. Something timeless and hilarious, like the Marx Brothers. Those guys are great! Their best movie is this one called Duck Soup where Groucho suddenly becomes president of an entire nation, puts a bunch of his crazy inept friends on his cabinet, and his loud mouth and ego plunges his country into a giant war…

You know, there’s a number of unappreciated animated gems I have on my Shelf, and one of them is Twice Upon a Time. Only recently released to DVD after years of petitioning from fans, it tells the tale of a mime and an Animorph with the voice of Garfield trying to stop a foulmouthed despotic little madman from turning the world into an inescapable bomb-ridden nightmare and OKAY THIS JOKE IS DONE.

The point is it’s been bloody difficult to find almost any form of entertainment that doesn’t feel touched by current events in any way. Many films that I usually enjoy in times of crisis have served as reminders of the world we’re living in now. Indiana Jones? Makes me wish that dealing with meddlesome Nazis was as simple as finding and opening the Ark of the Covenant. Star Wars? Hard to look at objectively now that my country has officially become the Empire. Disney? Bob Iger is on the council of a certain Oompa Loompa reject and is too afraid of losing profits if he stands up to his tangerine overlord.  I just…I just want something that can raise my spirits. Something other people in the film community and the public can get behind. A symbol.

Something that appeals to the best of us.

Something good.

Something decent.

Something pure.

Something…classic.

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Huh. Good thing I already put the film’s name in the title.

Let’s face it, whether you’ve read the original stories or not, we’re all familiar with the legend of Robin Hood; a merry bandit who robs from the rich and gives to the poor, is best friends with Friar Tuck and Little John and woos the fair Maid Marian when not schooling Katniss Everdeen in the art of archery. My introduction to the legend of Robin Hood was the same as many other kids in my generation, the classic animated Disney version, which I often find to be forgettable.

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Why is it that you guys always appear before I can elaborate?

“Forgettable” in this case means that everyone seems to forget about Disney’s Robin Hood until someone mentions it, and when that does happen, the response is always “Oh yeah, forgot about that movie. That was actually pretty good.” It’s not until I sit down to re-watch it every now and then that I find myself saying those exact words. Compared to most other films in the Disney canon it’s a very simple retelling, but that’s where the charm lies. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and allows you have as much fun as the characters are when they’re on their hijinks. An underrated classic to be sure. My second intro to the famous outlaw was the Mel Brooks’ comedy “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”, which – going out on a limb here – I also find underrated. It’s not Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles-levels of humorous or clever, but that’s what I think irks so many people about it. They WANT it to be as funny as Brooks’ classics and are so disappointed when a joke falls flat or they re-use a gag from an earlier film that they’d rather harp on it than enjoy what does work in the movie. Personally, I think it’s fine, and Cary Elwes gives in a good performance that’s like if Westley from The Princess Bride was allowed to do more than what the average comedic straight man is allowed. Then again this was technically the first Mel Brooks movie I saw that made me want to check out his other movies, so that could be the nostalgia goggles talking.

Oh and there were also those episodes of Goof Troop and the Beetlejuice cartoon, but I’m sticking to films so moving on.

Now my father is a big fan of classic movies. He speaks of John Ford the way film buffs talk about Hitchcock and Spielburg, he keeps a signed photo of James Cagney on the wall of his rec room, and one of his prized possessions is an original movie theater lobby card for The Quiet Man. I can remember from a fairly early age him sitting down and watching the film we’ll be looking at today whenever it was on tv (usually on Christmas Eve and always at the part where the Merry Men sneak into Nottingham Castle with the Bishop for some reason). For whatever reason, I had no interest in watching it with him, until he got the dvd from Netflix one night and asked if I wanted to.

Little did I know that it would become one of my favorites from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

 

The film begins with a bit of prologue in text form stating how in the early days of England, King Richard the Lionhearted left England in the hands of his friend Longchamps while he went to fight in the Crusades. Unfortunately Richard’s scheming brother Prince John (Claude Raines) has his eyes on the throne. John has the support of the rich and corrupt Normans, but he’s got nothing else save for the power of positive thinking. Then, on a day that I assume was January 20th 1191, a messenger goes through England proclaiming some woeful tidings. King Richard was taken captive while on his way home from the war. The Saxons, the common people of England who adore Richard, are terrified, mostly because Prince John has chosen that time to wrest control of the land from Longchamps and start squeezing the masses dry with his unyielding taxes. In a nice bit of symbolism, when he and his right hand man Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) drink a toast to their successful coup, Richard spills a goblet of wine red as blood on the floor. He shrugs but does nothing. The camera lingers on the wine, betraying Richard’s contempt for the blood he will soon spill.

The commoners suffer as the days turn into weeks and any protests are met with torture, death, or worse. While riding through Sherwood Forest, Sir Guy spies a little man shooting a deer. Guy moves to punish him for killing an animal on the king’s grounds, but instead of begging for mercy, the man, Much the Miller’s Son, stands up to Guy by saying he wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for his kind taxing people like him into starvation. This attracts the attention of Sir Robin of Locksley (Errol Flynn) and his friend Will Scarlet, who happened to be passing by.

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“I can’t refuse the call of my fanfare!”

Pardon the pause in this review, but I can’t proceed any further without talking about Errol Flynn. He is the classic swashbuckling action hero in every sense, not only doing the majority of his fights and stunts but pulling them off while making it look like breeze. “The Adventures of Robin Hood” was originally written with gangster actor James Cagney in mind and was passed from one director and screenwriter to another in an attempt to live up to the popular Douglas Fairbanks version made sixteen years prior. Yes, you read that correctly, this movie is technically a remake. Thankfully, this is one rare instance where the remake not only blows the previous incarnation out of the water, but makes it the standard that all other takes try to emulate. Errol Flynn is one of the reasons why, and it is impossible to imagine this movie with anyone else in the titular role. His Robin not only leaps into the fray at will, but he enjoys every moment of it. He’s quick on his feet and almost always with a plan or a quip, but he’s rarely a showoff. Everything he does he does with earnest. Errol Flynn admitted in his biography that he found the part of Robin to be one-note and dull; his performance, however, is anything but.

On overhearing Much’s loyalty to Richard, even in the face of death, Robin comes to his rescue and scares off Sir Guy with one of his arrows. Much offers his services to Robin in gratitude, and Robin only asks for the deer he shot. Sir Guy is holding a feast in honor of Prince John and Robin’s looking to make a spectacular entrance into his new administration.

That night the party is in full swing (though John had to settle for a chamber orchestra that covers Bruce Springsteen for entertainment since anyone he approached to perform either declined or dropped out). Also joining him is King Richard’s ward, the Lady Marian Fitzwalter (Olivia de Havilland). Sir Guy has had the hots for Marian some time and John hints that a marriage between the two would make for a strong alliance, but she would rather keep him at arms’ length. The conversation turns to Sir Robin, who’s been going by the name “Robin Hood” when defending the locals of Nottingham, and speak of the devil…

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“Heard you like venison, John. Hope this fits on the grill!”

Prince John politely welcomes Robin and gives him a place at the table, but motions to the guards to batten down the hatches while Robin helps himself to the feast. Robin, for all his witty banter and appetite, makes no pretense as to why he’s really there. He warns everyone present that the people of Nottingham are overworked, overtaxed, and they won’t stand for it any longer, so if John knows what’s good for them he’d better back off before he’s got a revolt on his hands. It leads into one of the most badass lines of dialogue in the movie:

Marian: You speak treason!
Robin: Fluently.

John informs the guests that the heavy taxes are going to a ransom he’s gathering to free Richard, all the while Robin notices the only doors in and out of the great hall are being locked. It’s subtle, but you can tell he’s already planning his way out. John also announces that he’s officially given Longchamps the boot offscreen and demands that everyone in the room swear their loyalty to him as prince regent. The nobles and knights pledge but only Robin is brave enough to stand up and call him a traitor.

Robin: What else do you call a man who takes advantage of the king’s misfortune to seize his power? And now with the help of this sweet band of cutthroats, you’ll try to grind the ransom for him out of every helpless Saxon. A ransom that will be used, not to release Richard, but to buy your way to the throne.

John: And what do you propose to do?

Robin: I’ll organize a revolt. Exact a death for a death. And I’ll never rest until every Saxon in this shire can stand up free men and strike a blow for Richard and England. […] From this night on I’ll use every means in my power to fight you.

John decides now would be a perfect time to nip this upstart in the bud and orders an attack. It’s Robin against the bloodthirstiest knights in Nottingham. They’re in chain mail and armor. He’s in tights. They have clubs, swords and crossbows. He’s got his trusty bow and arrow.

The poor fools never stood a chance.

Robin’s escape from the castle is one of the many action highlights of the film. Errol Flynn kicks ass and takes numbers on so many levels; he uses every weapon he can get his hands on and bests everyone he meets, though boy do they put up one hell of a fight. He takes full advantage of the terrain, climbing up balconies, kicking over tables and leaping down stairs. Not even Sir Guy can keep up with him. Oh, and did I mention those are real arrows being fired in this scene? Every actor who had to play someone being shot onscreen were padded and paid an extra $150 per arrow to be shot at by professional archer Howard Hill, who was also given a small role as one of Robin’s competitors in the archery tournament.

All those shots are real.

ALL OF THEM.

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“Well, at least I didn’t take one to the knee.”

Robin exudes more of his cleverness by telling the men stationed outside that there’s a traitor trying to escape and tricks them into barricading the doors against Sir Guy and his men. He meets with Will and Much and they evade their would-be captors in Sherwood Forest.

Back at Guy’s castle, John writes the orders that marks Robin as a wanted outlaw and seizes his title and property. He and anyone that assists him will be put to death if caught. While he’s at it, he starts to make good on collecting the “ransom”, starting by targeting those he thinks can spare it.

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“Let’s see, there’s Planned Parenthood, PBS, the National Endowment of Arts, the EPA…”

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“Your Highness, we could save millions by not building that wall to keep out the Saxons -“

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“NOBODY. TOUCHES. THE WALL.”

The next morning as Much spreads news to the people of Nottingham that Robin’s looking for men to fight with him, Robin and Will cross paths with a brawny fellow by the name of John Little (Alan Hale, Sr.). Fun fact, not only did Hale play Little John in the version of the film starring Douglas Fairbanks sixteen years prior, but he played him again in another version called “Rogues of Sherwood Forest” in 1950. Talk about being born to play a role!

John refuses to move out of Robin’s way so he can cross a stream, and rather than stand and argue like a bunch of Zaks they decide to settle the matter via quarter-staff duel.

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“Ok, if you win, you can go. But if I win, everyone has to call you by your last name first and first name last until the end of time.”

The fight nearly comes to a standstill, but John manages to best Robin and gives him a good dunking. There’s no hard feelings though, and Robin invites Little John to join his soon-to-be-formed band of merry outlaws. They meet up with Much who succeeded in recruiting what looks like nearly half the country, and they all swear to fight for a free England alongside Robin. Prince John buckles down on his cruelty, but at nearly every step his men are bested by Robin’s outlaws and a fuckton of arrows. The coolest example is a tax collector about to force himself on an innkeeper’s daughter getting one in the back so swiftly that it snuffs out a candle as it flies by.

One day, Robin and his men come across a sleeping friar in the woods. Robin wants to recruit him by messing with him for a bit and seeing how he holds his own in a duel. Little John almost tells Robin that this is Friar Tuck, one of the greatest swordsmen in the land, but Much hushes him up quick in favor of watching Robin unexpectedly get his butt handed to him in front of his men just for laughs.

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“My subscriber count on ThouTube has been sinking and this is a viral goldmine!”

Robin steals Tuck’s mutton, drops a fish in his lap and makes him carry him across the river like a less cuddly version of Yoda. Halfway there Tuck throws him off, whips out his sword, and the two fight until Robin calls it a draw. Friar Tuck is welcomed into the group. I should note here that at this point that Robin and his men have switched from their regular clothes into nearly identical brown and green tights and blouses to better camouflage in the forest, all except Will Scarlet. He…didn’t quite get the memo.

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Will, honey, I hate to nitpick, but speaking as an art major, red and green don’t go well together. At all. I know Scarlet’s in your name, but unless you’re trying to hide out as a parrot, you’re more likely to get killed on sight wearing colors that clash that badly and brightly.

Anyway, Will informs them that the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy are riding out with the tax money to be delivered to Prince John. Robin immediately begins plotting and the day after we see the band preparing for their ambush set to one of the better pieces of Korngold’s score. Listen to it and tell me you don’t hear the influence it had on the likes of John Williams and pre-Inception Hans Zimmer.

Sir Guy’s entourage approaches accompanied by Lady Marian. The cowardly Sheriff suggests maybe they should have brought more backup since they’re crossing into Robin’s territory, but Guy is feeling pretty cocky and looking to show off in front of his would-be bride. No sooner does he boast about Robin not daring to attack a party as large as his than the Merry Men leap from the trees and disarm their foes. Robin, meanwhile, makes his grand entrance and welcomes them to Sherwood, though there are some present that doubt his identity.

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“Nah, that couldn’t be him!”

Marian demands that her protectors fight, but the Sheriff is too afraid and Guy knows (but won’t admit) that he’s woefully outnumbered. Her lady-in-waiting, Bess, is the only one ready to give the outlaws a piece of her mind whether they like it or not. Bess is played by Una O’Connor, a pretty well-known character actor for the time. Anyone familiar with the classic Universal monster movies might recognize her as that one screeching harpy from Bride of Frankenstein. Or that other screeching harpy from The Invisible Man (which, by coincidence, also starred Claude Raines). She seems to specialize in playing old ladies that love to rant at the top of their lungs. What separates Bess from those other roles is that while she does sound like a cat being dragged up and down a xylophone when she’s riled, she does more than stand around and shriek. She’s a good mother figure to her ward, has kind of a cute romance with Much that parallels Robin and Marian’s, and when push comes to shove, she gets things done. She’s to this movie what Lady Cluck is to the Disney Robin Hood, and is made all the more surprisingly likable for it.

Robin escorts his captives to their camp, where a great celebration is held with plenty of food and dancing. The Merry Men force Sir Guy, the Sheriff and their men to dress in rags and daisy chains while they spend the day in their brocade and silk. Robin, who’s clearly been attracted to Marian since he first playfully exchanged insults with her at Prince John’s dinner, tries to coax her into joining the festivities but she’s having none of it. Having been raised among the aristocracy and sheltered from John’s treachery, she still sees him and his men as traitorous criminals. Wanting to prove that their loyalty to their king is true, Robin interrupts the feasting by asking if they should keep the stolen treasure for themselves or use it for Richard’s ransom. Not a single Merry Man there hesitates to shout “For Richard!” That, in addition to Robin showing her around a makeshift refugee camp he’s created for some of Prince John’s worse-off victims, marks the beginning of Marian’s turnaround. This is only the second of eight movies that had Errol Flynn and Olivia de Hamilland playing love interests to each other, and someone in the casting department must have been extremely astute in noticing how much chemistry they have. The two play off each other so well you may want to keep the fire extinguisher ready when watching this movie; you never know when your screen might start fizzling.

Robin has his men escort Marian and Bess home on their horses while Sir Guy and his henchmen must trudge back to Nottingham Castle on foot. He also tells Guy to thank Marian for saving his life, because there’s no way he would have left Sherwood Forest alive if it weren’t for her.

Back at home, Sir Guy and Prince John fume over this recent humiliation, not helped by the Sheriff pointing out to Guy that Marian and Robin spent quite a bit of time together alone in the forest. They try to conceive a plan to trick Robin into getting captured and it’s the Sheriff who comes up with a good idea for once. He proposes that they hold an archery tournament with the prize being a golden arrow presented by Lady Marian, two things Robin won’t be able to resist.

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“Wouldn’t a solid gold arrow be really heavy and impossible to fire?” “It’s mostly for show, really.”

Sure enough, Robin and his crew show up to the tournament, though apart from wearing a wide-brimmed hat Robin is barely disguised. He doesn’t even have anything covering part of his face, and Prince John, Sir Guy, the Sheriff and Marian all know what he looks like. Prince John even comments on how “familiar” Robin looks! Was it too much trouble for him to put on a fake beard? Did Clark Kent not have a spare pair of glasses on hand? Who’d have thunk the stork disguise put on in Disney’s Robin Hood is more convincing than the classic live-action one?

Robin plows through the competition, ultimately winning with his famous splitting-the-arrow down-the-middle trick. Believe it or not, to this day there are people trying to figure out how they managed to do it without CGI. I’m not familiar enough with archery to know if it’s possible to do that in real life, but if the shot wasn’t real, they did an impressive job making it look like it was.

Marian recognizes the part she played in the trap too late but is forced to go along with it as Robin is brought before her. Sir Guy chooses that moment to unmask Robin (a term I use here loosely) and orders his arrest. Unfortunately Robin’s escape doesn’t go over as well as his previous one, even with the aid of his friends and the surge of rebellious spectators. With his work done, Prince John briefly departs for London, leaving Robin’s fate in Sir Guy’s hands. Marian attends Robin’s “trial” but is powerless to do anything. In any other movie there would be a moment where Robin calls her out for supposedly betraying him which would have the audience rolling their eyes for minutes afterwards. Here, it’s reduced to a single look Robin flashes at her, which does two things:

  1. Eliminates a truckload of pointless drama.
  2. Feels more powerful than any amount of words. You practically wince from the sting that he is both reeling from and shooting at her.

Robin is set to be executed the next day and thrown in prison. Marian can’t rest knowing that a good man, even a bold and reckless man like him, is about to be put to death. She gets Bess to divulge the whereabouts of an inn that the Merry Men frequent and where she often meets up Much to share a drink, including the password that will allow her to talk to the men directly. Marian makes the journey there herself and finds Robin’s friends failing to formulate a plot to rescue him. She begs them to let her help, though they are distrustful of her Norman heritage. Only Friar Tuck is willing to give her a chance and asks her to prove her loyalty by swearing to the Holy Mother that she is on their side. With her pure intentions and soul verified, Marian tells them her idea.

The following morning Robin is led out to the gallows amid protests from the proletariat. Sir Guy, the Sheriff and his other toadies are prepared to watch him hang, unaware that the Merry Men are dispersed among the crowd (and better disguised, I might add.) Before the noose is dropped, they attack the hangmen and free Robin. They give chase throughout the town and Robin even rides part of it out on horseback with his hands still tied. In another badass move, he also risks recapture just to close the portcullis and prevent the knights from following him and his men into Sherwood. What else can I say but it’s another great bit of action.

Then we come to one of my favorite romantic scenes in any film period. It’s remarkably free of the flowery prose you’d expect in a film of this caliber and time period, and it does not suffer one bit for it. The dialogue sounds realistic without being dull, and Errol and Olivia’s chemistry radiates from the screen. Once again, much of how I feel about this part also comes down to Korngold’s sweeping score. It’s not surprising that it’s become a standard for most orchestral concerts; it is that beautiful.

Picture if you will night falling on Nottingham Castle. Robin is climbing up the ivy leading to Marian’s room as the moat shimmers below in the moonlight. He finds her and Bess discussing the newfound feelings she has for a certain dashing rogue. Robin enters through the window claiming he knows the cause of these feelings – she’s in love with him, as much as he is with her. Marian denies that they were talking about him, even as he flirts with a giggling Bess. Robin tells her he’s come to thank her for what she did to save his life. Marian shoos Bess out and tries to send Robin away for his safety, once again saying she doesn’t love him. Robin pretends to leave and makes a big deal out of ensuring he exits in his usual swashbuckling manner, which is just the thing to make Marian change her mind. Ever defiant, however, she doesn’t flat out tell him “I love you”. When a hopeful Robin asks her to, she simply smiles and says “You know I do.” And when those violins swell as Robin and Marian fold in a passionate kiss I just…

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So perfectly frucking romantic.

Robin is ready to elope with Marian on the spot, but Marian has other plans. She can no longer stand by while her own people commit atrocities she has blinded herself to. As much as it pains them both, Marian tells Robin that in this crazy England the lives of two people aren’t worth a hill of beans, and she would do them and the cause good by staying and scouting for information directly from Prince John. Robin reluctantly agrees and they share one last heartbreaking kiss before he leaves, neither of them knowing if this will be the last time they see each other.

Sometime later at an inn not too far away, a group of religious pilgrims listen to the woes of the innkeeper who’s another target of Prince John and the Normans’ ruthlessness. His shooting off at the mouth is cut short by the arrival of the Bishop of the Black Cannons, a powerful Norman clergyman under John’s thumb. As the Bishop laments that his entourage was attacked by Robin Hood and his men, he catches a pilgrim referring to one of his own as “sire”. This peaks the Bishop’s interest and after convincing the pilgrims to stay the night as his guests, he hurries to Prince John’s place to tell him that his brother has unexpectedly returned home.

John is, unsurprisingly, upset on hearing the news and conspires with Sir Guy to have Richard assassinated before his presence is discovered. With him out of the way, there’s nothing stopping John from proclaiming himself King of England. As they finish giving the orders to a disgraced former knight named Dickon, Sir Guy catches Marian leaving the hall, having heard their entire conversation.

Marian returns to her room and writes a letter detailing John’s plot but Sir Guy barges in before she can have Bess deliver it to Robin. Rather than toss the note in the fire when she has the chance and whip up a new one later, she hides it in a chest and does a very poor job distracting Guy from where she obviously stashed it.

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Marian is led away and put on trial by Prince John. As much as I admire Olivia de Hamiland’s turn as the saintly Melanie in Gone With the Wind, Marian is my favorite role of hers by far, and this scene is one of the reasons why. She has gone from demure silence and blissful ignorance to being as outspoken and brave as Robin. Marian stands up to her accusers and denounces the Normans for their actions, proclaiming she would do it all again for England. And oh, that ice-cold glare she gives Prince John when he condemns her, a ward under the protection of the king, to the chopping block, accompanied by a deadly quiet “You wouldn’t dare.” A long cry from the sweet naive Southern belle she’s famous for.

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“Do you read the bible, John? There’s this passage I’ve got memorized, Ezekiel 25:17.”

John, the callous bastard that he is, withstands her frosty glower and informs her that since he’s going to be the new king in a matter of days there’s nothing stopping him from making her death sentence his first royal decree. He drops her in the dungeon and begins prepping for the big day, confident that nothing can stop him. Thankfully Bess hid herself before Marian’s capture and ran to the Merry Men’s inn to beg Much for help. He promises her that they’ll save Marian and leaves to intercept Dickon. Much ambushes him on the road and the two get into a violent knife fight, but it fades out before we can see the outcome.

The pilgrims from the night before are out traveling when they are halted by Robin and the gang. He politely demands that they hand over whatever they have on them for the sake of the poor. When the leader says they’re working on behalf of King Richard, Robin brings them into their fold. He gets to talking with their leader about why he’s doing what he does and wins him over, even when being brutally honest about how easy it was for the land to fall into disarray due to Richard leaving.

Meanwhile, Will finds Much unconscious and bleeding and returns him to the hideout. Much comes to and informs Robin of everything that happened, including him taking out the assassin meant for Richard. Robin orders his men to begin searching for the king and bring him to safety, but his new friend reveals that he’s none other than Richard himself, home at last with his men from the Crusade.

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“Sir Dubya the Simple wanted to carry a banner proclaiming ‘Mission Accomplished-eth’, but we convinced him it was a bad idea.”

Robin believes they should storm the castle to stop the coronation and rescue Marian, but Richard reminds them that they don’t have a giant, dread pirate, wheelbarrow or holocaust cloak at their disposal. They do, however, have the whereabouts of a craven Bishop who’s performing the ceremony tomorrow…

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“Keep walking, Bishop, or we’ll fire you out of your own cannons.” “They’re not the same -” “You heard me!”

Richard, Robin and the Merry Men infiltrate Nottingham Castle disguised monks accompanying the Bishop. As John is about to be crowned, Richard makes himself known and it all comes down to one last battle for the kingdom. Everyone gets their moment to kick some ass, but the fight belongs to Robin Hood and Sir Guy. Each time you see a closeup of Erroll Flynn or Basil Rathbone sweating to keep up with the other, you know it’s real. It is undoubtedly the second greatest sword fight ever put on screen, and I say second because the greatest will always belong to The Princess Bride; coincidentally, it happened to be choreographed by the same fencing champion that coached Erroll Flynn in the art of sword fighting known nowadays as “Flynning”. I will give it to this movie, however – in terms of iconography this is by far the most influential sword fight in film. It cuts back and forth between the two men and their dueling shadows cast against the great stone columns and walls, not once dropping the intensity or pace. It’s easy to see how this has inspired countless of other fights, in both homage and parody.

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Robin succeeds in making it a fair fight and is willing to let Guy live as long as he can go rescue Marian. It’s only when Sir Guy stoops to dirty tactics that Robin finally does him in. His friends hold off the guards while he frees Marian from her cell.

With the battle won and Richard back on the throne, Prince John and his cohorts are forever banished from England. Richard reinstates Robin’s title and wealth, but all Robin really wants is for the loyal men of Sherwood to be pardoned and Marian’s hand in marriage, which Richard is all too happy to grant. As his friends close in on the couple to congratulate them, they both sneak out the door to ride happily ever after into the sunset.

 

Truthfully, I don’t know what else I can say about The Adventures of Robin Hood. The story captures the grand scope of this legend, making you feel the size and weightiness of scenes like the tournament and the coronation. It’s so tight not a character or moment feels unnecessary or out of place. The script crackles with excellent banter between the characters, whether it’s Friar Tuck and Little John’s jabs at one another, Sir Guy and Prince John’s menacing threats, or Robin and Marian’s rousing speeches. I especially enjoy how Marian skirts the line between damsel in distress and badass; though Robin is ostensibly the main character and a great hero, it’s she who goes through the most change. This was also Warner Bros.’ first big film in Technicolor, and if the screengrabs are any indication, the colors pop out in glorious fashion (seriously, the only way to view this movie is to buy the blu-ray). I may joke about the costumes (I didn’t even get to mention the weird things Bess keeps wearing on her head) but all of them are exquisitely detailed. I think they even show a bit of Marian’s character arc through her costume changes; they begin richly colored and extravagantly patterned before she gets to know Robin, but as she changes over the course of the film her gowns and headdresses become simpler (but no less lovely). The moment where she and Robin bare their love for one another is also the only scene where her head isn’t covered, which you could read into and come up with your own conclusions.

Also, I know I’ve mentioned Korngold’s score a bit throughout the review, but I don’t think I mentioned one important fact about him. He was approached for the job after he orchestrated the swashbuckling pirate epic Captain Blood (which also starred Errol Flynn, Olivia de Hamiland and Basil Rathbone in similar roles), but he initially turned it down to continue work on one of his operas. He later reconsidered, just in time for Hitler and his forces to begin their march across Europe. Korngold, a native Austrian, was given the chance to escape the purge and come to America thanks to this movie. In his own words, Robin Hood saved his life. His efforts didn’t go unrewarded as he won a much-deserved Oscar for it that year. I’ve heard him say another reason why he chose to score this movie was because at that time the world needed a Robin Hood. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it goes without saying this is another one of those times.

Still, though the current regime is weighing the world down, the message the people are sending hasn’t been silenced. Every action taken, no matter how small, has given birth to the most powerful weapon of all: hope. And no amount of angry Twitter rants or “alternate facts” can change that.

We the people are fighting like hell to stop the reign of a ruler we didn’t want, and we won’t stop until he and his selfish and cruel followers are brought to justice. Until the country we loved and once touted as the greatest in the world lives up to the ideals of life, liberty, and equality that our forefathers fought to preserve. Until every man, woman, and child, be they immigrant, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, black, or white, can stand up for a land that is truly free.

Because here’s the thing – as much as we all wish for one person to stand up and take the reins for the fight against the injustices wreaked by our own nation, each of us has the power to do that.

Because we are ALL Robin Hood.


Thank you for reading. If you like what you see and want more reviews, vote for what movie you want me to look at next by leaving it in the comments or emailing me at upontheshelfshow@gmail.com. Remember, you can only vote once a month. The list of movies available to vote for are under “What’s On the Shelf”.

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