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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.


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.
Jan. 13th, 2005 05:34 am (UTC)
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.
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!

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