The Adventures Of Robin Hood

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Adventures Of Robin Hood
"The film is completely unabashed and utterly committed to delivering on its promise of adventure."

The story of Robin Hood is one that has been told many times in cinema but never with as much panache as in this 1938 classic. Errol Flynn, at the height of his powers, plays the titular hero with an unmatched swagger and there's plenty of swordplay and derring-do as he takes on Basil Rathbone's malevolent Guy of Gisbourne. The Russell Crowe version may arguably be more realistic but this is a lot more fun.

Robin finds himself in exile due to the dodgy dealing of Prince John (Claude Rains), who usurps the throne after his brother goes missing in the Crusades. Fortunately for him, he's made a good impression on the peasants in the area, so despite his noble heritage they show him support and he makes his home in Sherwood Forest, a notoriously difficult place for the authorities to control. There he takes up the hobby of robbing the rich and giving to the poor, getting along merrily until, one day, the caravan he robs turns out to have Olivia de Havilland's Maid Marian in its midst (riding Trigger, the horse who would go on to make Roy Rogers a star). Marian despises him for the criminal her is, but her experiences in her camp change her mind. When the two develop feelings for each other and she has to return to the castle, the stage is set for an altercation.

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The action that follows is full of classic moments. There's the target shooting contest where Robin spectacularly reveals his mastery of the bow, a dramatic escape powered by pies and a late night romantic moment in which he scales the castle wall to be with his beloved. Throw in evil scheming, dark dungeons, pitched battles and a stunning final duel, and you have a cinematic romp that's hared to beat.

An early venture into colour, the film would have seemed even more spectacular on release, when it packed out cinemas and was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Michael Curtiz and William Keighley's direction is relentlessly energetic and Erich Wolfgang Korngold's swelling music gives it plenty of atmosphere. The cheery songs used to rally the men may seem a bit twee these days but that's part of its charm. The film is completely unabashed and utterly committed to delivering on its promise of adventure. It succeeds in spades.

Reviewed on: 26 Jan 2016
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Classic version of the outlaw tale.
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Director: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley

Writer: Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I Miller

Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Patric Knowles, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale, Melville Cooper, Ian Hunter, Trigger

Year: 1938

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


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