RogerBW's Blog

The Adventures of Robin Hood 11 August 2020

1938 adventure, dir. Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland; IMDb / allmovie. Prince John oppresses the Saxons; a Saxon lord fights back.

This was a film that had to tread carefully: the 1922 silent Robin Hood had used many of the traditional story elements and United Artists was known to be somewhat lawsuit-happy, so some new ones were dug up for this production (such as the fight with Little John on the bridge, and the piggy-back incident with Friar Tuck). Perhaps because of that, there's no setup: at the start of the film Richard is already imprisoned and Robin is already an outlaw fighting on the side of Right, with backstory to be filled in later, though he gathers more of the traditional band in the first act.

This is a fast-moving film: its 97 minutes are packed with action with only occasional pauses for dramatic speeches. Without the need to repeat a complicated explanation several times for the hard of thinking, all the dialogue serves to move the plot forward. This was Warners' first big-budget film in three-strip Technicolor, and not only is everything thoroughly saturated, they don't want to waste expensive footage on boring static things.

But it's the cast that's glorious here. Errol Flynn is perhaps more important for his physicality than for his acting, and Olivia de Havilland's Marian is thoroughly underwritten (though she is the only character who undergoes any sort of transformation; and her gowns are lovely, mostly silver lamé that perversely grabs the attention by being the one thing in the scene that's not saturated colour);

but we also have Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy, Claude Rains putting on a splendidly casual evil as Prince John, and Melville Cooper as a cowardly braggart Sheriff of Nottingham. Any one of those performances could anchor a film, and we get all of them.

Korngold's score probably saved his life (without that job, he would still have been in Vienna for the Anschluss), and does a good job of setting a mood but keeping to the background – except when it's forced to be diegetic, as we suddenly cut to some trumpeters miming in time to the music. That's a distracting stylistic choice, but to my mind the only mis-step by Curtiz (who was brought in to move things along when William Keighley was being too slow for the studio's preferences).

This film stands up splendidly even now. More recent productions tend to be dark and serious, but Flynn's Robin laughs even as he knows his life is on the line. One could do much worse.

Trailer here.

I talk about this film further on Ribbon of Memes.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1