The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
I had seen "The Adventures of Robin Hood" some time ago, when I was but a wee lad. To me, it was a thrilling adventures that gave me the right to brandish any implement I wanted as a sword and wreck havoc to the house and my siblings...my parents didn't agree with me. Still, a decade plus late, re-watching the movie was a trip down memory lane, and quite an enjoyable one at that.
Sticking fairly close to the Robin Hood myths, summing everything up in less than two hours, "The Adventures of Robin Hood" could seem like a piece too light for its own good. Robin Hood, played effortlessly energetic by Errol Flynn, seems invincible to all. Even when he's captured when know that they can't kill him, his men can rescue him. He trained them so in essence he's saving himself.
The peril of the film is non-existent...I'm getting ahead of myself.
The film begins with most everything already in the past. King Richard, always followed by "The Lion Hearted" has left for the crusades, but he hasn't given Prince John the throne. No, but John is a clever boy and it doesn't take much man power to force the ruler-in-stead from the throne. John usurps the reign and he starts taking the livelihood away from the people in his land.
Not keen on the idea of being a loyal subject who just pays taxes and wallows in misery, Robin Hood decides to introduces a little communism into the system. He robs from the rich and gives to the poor and he has a merry gathering of men.
Robin assembles the best robbers who all have the best intentions. They are determined to level the playing field.
Perhaps the biggest success of the movie is Claude Rains playing Prince John with calculated coolness.
The oddity of the film is most likely due to the duo direction it receives from Michael Curtiz (of "Casablaca" fame) and William Keighley (not of "Casablanca" fame).
The action sequences, which usually involve bunches of men falling from the trees onto unsuspecting horses and soldiers, have a dance-like choreography to them—it's too much sometimes.
The King's ward is a beautiful woman named Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland). When a large sum of the people's money is being transported, Robin Hood and company descends on the men and steals the loot from under their noses. He is captivated by the beauty of Maid Marian and wants to win her heart, so he shows her the great deeds he has done. He is lifted up on a savior's pedestal, asking nothing in return for his heroic acts, only the semi-adoration of a beautiful woman. The audience is somehow okay with this attraction being based on looks alone, we don't doubt the love the two come to share—perhaps it's the stories we've all heard before.
Little John, Will, Friar Tuck—all the important people are here. Most adaptations of Robin Hood now have the Sheriff of Notingham as the uber-bad guy, but here it's Prince John's right hand man Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone, delightfully evil). Sir Guy has it in for Robin ever since he was humiliated in front of his men. He believes in power, he is given power and that power he abuses.
The romance, the action, the thrills—though at times it plays like a saccharine sweet overdose of adventure, "The Adventures of Robin Hood" is a classic and a mighty enjoyable one at that. It is the perfect example of the escapism of film.
Posted by Micah Jones