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USA 1938
Directed by
Michael Curtiz / William Keighley
102 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Adventures Of Robin Hood

Although these days the stuff of parody one can imagine the impact that this top drawer production (the most costly Warner Bros. film had made to that date) would have had on audiences of the time with Errol Flynn in probably his most iconic role as the legendary outlaw of the title.

Set in England in the year 1191, Saxon peer Sir Robin of Loxley has taken up arms against the wicked Norman prince John (Claude Rains) who trying to grab the throne while his brother, King Richard the Lionheart (Ian Hunter) is being held hostage after returning from the Crusades. The other main characters are John’s sadistic right-hand man Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone), the nincompoopish Sheriff of Nottingham (Melville Cooper) and Richard’s ward, the winsome Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland).

Today, despite its rich Technicolor visuals (the production used all 11 of the Technicolor cameras then in existence all being returned to Technicolor at the end of each day's filming), excellent production and costume design (de Havilland shows off a fetching array of gowns) the film is at best a memento of times long gone the action scenes, sped up to look more exciting, in particular looking sub-optimal and the unceasing merriness of Robin’s men wearing very thin. Historical authenticity is evidently largely confined to the costumes, everything else bar the characters names being pure Hollywood (rasp-voiced character actor Eugene Pallette is particularly incongruous as Friar Tuck) with the film having none of the dramatic depth that makes, say, Gone With The Wind, released the following year, an enduring classic.

Having said that Flynn is entirely the English legend (remarkably, James Cagney was originally cast in the role) - dashingly devil-may-care, lithe and unimpeachably noble and de Havilland looks gorgeous, On the other side of the portcullis Rains is more smarmy than tyrannical whist Rathbone plays the villain literally right to the hilt. The film won Oscars for Art Direction, Editing and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score

FYI: William Keighley began directing the film but was removed by the producers and replaced by Michael Curtiz who had made a star of Flynn with Captain Blood (1935), a film that also featured de Havilland, Rathbone and Korngold’s music.




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