Friday, September 24, 2010

Robin Hood (1973)

Robin Hood and Little John
Walkin' through the forest
Laughin' back and forth
At what the other'ne has to say
Havin' such a good time
Golly, what a day.

Made by Disney, 1973
83 minutes, color

Plot * *
Like most Robin Hood books and movies, this one is very episodic. It’s not bad, however, and very easy to follow. Prince John lays trap; Robin responds. There are the cute and amusing subplots involving the rabbits (Skippy and company, Robin Hood’s first fans) and Maid Marian. There is a satisfyingly big showdown with some good storytelling techniques; namely, things don’t go as planned and our hero isn’t let off easy. He may be fighting idiots, but sometimes idiots have good luck.

Characters * * *
The characters are fairly stock-like normal Robin Hood characters, amusingly displayed as various wild animals. They’re fun to watch, especially when they interact.
The best thing to say about the baddies is that they’re just that: bad. No nonsense there. Prince John is (as usual) a spoiled brat who loves money. The Sheriff is a willing henchman who enjoys collecting money but will also sing songs against his monarch. Sir Hiss (Sir Guy) is Prince John’s nervous advisor.
Lady Kluck is an amusing take on the “Maid Marian’s nurse” character. For once, she can stand on her own and fight with the best of them. Ridiculous, of course, but a riot to watch, especially considering she’s a chicken (literally).
Little John comes across as big and easy going, who is content to follow Robin’s whims, after first pointing out their likeliness to fail. After he has pointed it out and been rebuffed, he resigns to his fate with a (to quote him) “here we go again” attitude.
One also mustn’t forget the most useful occupation of Alan-a-Dale that I have seen: he’s the story’s narrator.
As mentioned before, the subplot with Skippy the bunny is very cute and also gives a very subtle why to the dramatic excursions for money, and some more depth to the title character. Robin takes time from his gallivanting to visit a young “boy” for his birthday. He then later gets in trouble rescuing Skippy’s younger sister, all without being cheesy. I hadn’t noticed it before my latest viewing, and I really like this touch.

Golden Arrow * * * * *
As I have probably mentioned somewhere (perhaps the Forest of Lies page?) this is the Robin Hood I grew up on. As I watched it last week, I realized it isn’t really a bad one to grow up on. It has a very good Robin Hood feel; it may have been what tempered some of my liking for that feel. It’s a lark, no one really gets hurt permanently, and good wins out over bad, despite the fact that bad is almost literally in charge. Also, it gets major bonus points (an extra star, actually) for being the only film or TV Robin Hood I have ever seen that shows Robin Hood as a true master of disguise. This is an element very important in the books. The movies? Jonas Armstrong and Errol Flynn both do a terrible job of wearing disguises. Russell Crowe never wore one that I can remember, and I haven’t heard anything of Kevin Costner either (though I haven’t seen that one). Over the course of this 83 minute film, Robin wears disguises five times, and they aren’t half bad: he dresses as a blind beggar twice, a gypsy (woman--hee), a stork, and Nutsy (a vulture/guard). Of all of them, Nutsy is probably his weakest, and in all of them he adopts different accents and mannerisms. He’s brilliant, as he should be. Thank you, Disney, for getting it right.

“Fluently!” * * *
I leave this category at three stars, because I’m not sure how much of my grinning during my latest viewing was nostalgia-inspired rather than wit-inspired. The dialogue, however, is quite good, and quotable, which is always a bonus. (“Oh he’s sooo handsome--just like his reward posters.”) Prince John cracks me up. Scratch that, almost all of them crack me up, even the sweet Marian.
“Marian, my love, will you marry me?”
“I thought you’d never ask--” *as Robin fights off several soldiers* “--but you could’ve chosen a more romantic setting.”

Others * * * *
Warning: not to watch for sticklers over historical accuracy. To be perfectly honest, not many Robin Hood’s are historically accurate, but considering this one’s archery tournament has helium get the picture.
Another slight thing is in Robin dressing as a gypsy--there is a fortune-telling sequence of several minutes. It is very obviously fake and is humorous, but it’s still there.
Overall all though, it’s wonderful good fun, and even a slight more besides. It doesn’t have all the trappings of a usual Robin Hood (it doesn’t have the time), but it does have the whole feel and the fun of one. It has some catchy music, too.
Also, keep your eye out for the humorous twist on the Robin Hood meets Little John story.

Robin Hood and Little John
Runnin' through the forest
Jumpin' fences,
Dodgin' trees,
An' tryin' to get away
Contemplatin' nothin'
But escape an' fin'lly makin' it
Oo-de-lally, Oo-de-lally
Golly, what a day.

Oo-de-lally, Oo-de-lally
Golly, what a day.


Image is the theatrical release poster, from Wikipedia article.

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