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Review: Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Some things are perhaps better left to a less critical eye. As a boy, I wanted to BE Robin Hood. I took archery lessons at the local park. I watched the Disney animated film. Robin was suave with the ladies, and smarter than the bullies, and I've always loved a trickster.

But this is a fairly ripe old chestnut. I enjoyed it even as I realized that Robin Hood: Men in Tights and that ST:tNG episode have pretty much ruined the Robin Hood mythos for me. It's a punchline now, when once it was enough to make me play "quarterstaves" with a few other kids on the block until we all got bruises.

Anyway. It was a bit odd to see (first of all) that the film was in color, and second that it was such a prototype for all the action films that came later. Yes, maybe Buster Keaton deserves the crown of "first cinema action hero" (he did, after all, perform all his own stunts), but it's really Errol Flynn who set the pattern, leaping and fencing (badly) and unstoppable. The slightly forced one-liners, the slightly wooden acting, and even the comic relief sidekick are all right there. Even the arrow tricks are just gunplay sequences, and the horse chase has it all. Oddly, I didn't like Errol as Robin; too prettified and full of himself. I did enjoy Claude Rains as the scenery-chewing Bond-esque villain; he doesn't stick around to see Robin get the noose.

The best part of this film was seeing how parts of it were plundered and reworked by later directors. The Men of Sherwood looked remarkably like the ewoks in their ambush scene, right down to the rope vines. The worst part was the color palette, which put far too much pastel into the Middle Ages. An executioner in pink tights is just plain wrong.

Adventures of Robin Hood: By modern action adventure film standards ★★★☆☆, or ★★★★☆ with forgiving eye. Highly recommended for boys under the age of 10.

Comments

( 8 sutras — Your wisdom )
tibbles
Jan. 12th, 2005 10:33 am (UTC)
*nods* I can see that.

I fully recognize that the reason I love the movie so much is because I DID see it when I was under 10, and so it always has that quaint, wonderful feeling to it when I watch it.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 12th, 2005 11:32 am (UTC)
I Disagree
I saw the film for the first time in 2001. I loved it - 5 stars! Where you see "far too much pastel", I see glorious Technicolor. I agree this is a prototype for later action films, with respect to story structure. However, what recent films lack is a sense of fun. Really, has any action hero been more joyous than Errol Flynn's Robin Hood?

I like being a boy under 10.

Jay
clevermanka
Jan. 12th, 2005 03:55 pm (UTC)
Yup. I love this movie because it was the first Robin Hood I ever saw (besides the one in my imagination). Everyone is a stereotype, and even the bad guy is handsome. It's a pretty, wildly innacurate piece of fluff that introduced me to the action movie genre at a tender age. =)
ladieophilia
Jan. 12th, 2005 06:39 pm (UTC)
like to comment on the era that it was made in, and that a lot of the reasoning for it being the way that it was is because it was trying to raise the spirits of the people at the time. It was one HUGE metaphore. I think that era is my favorite era for movies because of all that sparkly hope that it just oozes. At the same time I can understand why one would feel that this is too much. Because it is too much most of the time. Yes they are all pretty, yes they are all typified, and yes there is a lot of pastel, but I love it. Robin Hood would not be the same without Errol.
But for books, Rafael Sabitini was a writer during that era and he did pirate stuff. _Captain Blood_ was turned into an Errol Flynn movie as well. I think that you would really like the books (because they are not overly done like the movies at the time) but the movie has the same hokey-like feeling that Robin Hood has.
the_monkey_king
Jan. 12th, 2005 09:17 pm (UTC)
I'm a huge, HUGE Sabatini fan. In many ways, I prefer his swashbucklers to those of Dumas (heresy, yes, I know).

I've read the Caesar Borgia book (and what a character to write an apologia for!), Captain Blood, and Scaramouche, and enjoyed them all enormously. I think I need to make time for The Sea Hawk</a> and/or The Hounds of God.

And yeah, the visuals in my head always beat the stuff on screen. Or maybe the sparkly hope of the period rubs me the wrong way these days.
godeater_sw
Jan. 13th, 2005 05:34 am (UTC)
Dumas
You prefer an author writing in the swashbuckler genre to Dumas?

I'm stunned! Heresy, indeed. Or worse--casuistry? Something is seriously awry, at any rate.
ladieophilia
Jan. 17th, 2005 03:27 am (UTC)
Re: Dumas
Not nessisarily. Dumas was swashbuckler, but really only in the Three Musketeers. His passion actually laid a lot more in character developement more then in the whole fight scenes. If you stray into things like the Count of Monte Cristo and what not, then you see that. This is also appartent if you go to his house, because out of all the things that he has kept, swords is not one of them.
So why is Dumas considered such an epic swashbuckler? I guess that you could say that it is because he really got the ball rolling with his Musketeers. But when you read books by authors like Sabintini, who were influenced by Dumas, then you really get to read ripped up, slashed up fight scenes. Even in his fight scenes without swords there is the same playful energetic drive. Sabintini is the quentisential swashbuckler!
captain_cynic
Jan. 12th, 2005 08:59 pm (UTC)
Sorry to intrude...
Wolfgang!

This is Ron Bedison, former Alternity playtester. If you remember me, please email me at r.bedison@comcast.net. Thanks!

I now return you to your regularly scheduled nostalgia. :)
( 8 sutras — Your wisdom )

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