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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

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. =)

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