Yes, you read that right. This film is 89 years old. This film is in black and white.* This film is silent.
This film was worth it.
Of course, such a statement is coming from a Robin Hood-and-old-films junkie, so take my word for it at your own risk.
Or, watch it yourself. I didn't realize this until I searched for images, but the film is in the public domain (big surprise), and you can watch it in its entirety at this site I've linked to. The quality of the DVD I watched was rather better, but I feel I had an enormous stroke of luck to find that the junior college here had a copy. (I know, weird, huh?)
So, though this post has been running in my head a bit "freestyle" I might as well go with my old review system...let's get started!
Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood
Produced & Written By: Douglas Fairbanks
Starring: Douglas Fairbanks
Distributed by: United Artists
Release Date: October 18, 1922
Plot * * *
It's hard to smack this one for originality issues, considering it came before all of the other Robin Hood TV and film that I've seen! (I THINK only one other movie came before this one.) Anyway, the plot is fine. The first hour or so is a bit slow, especially in the about 30-45 minutes before we even get started on the crusades. It picks up considerably halfway through, though. The crusades bit is pretty interesting, actually--we never actually get there, and Robin (*ahem* the Earl of Huntingdon) gets thrown into prison for desertion. Scary. It's a bit more "big picture" than the Errol Flynn rendition, which was interesting. You don't see as much of the merry men, but rather focus on Robin, Richard, Guy, John, and some politics. Or a lot of politics. Anyway. I had an ACT this morning and watched this until 10:06 last night because I didn't want to shut it off early!
Characters * * *
Pretty stereotypical here, but done well all the same. Fairbanks plays a very...er..."bouncy" Robin. It was interesting--I think it might have had to do with the filming process back then (it's also at the time where everyone walks fast and jerkily), but he looked like he was always bounding six inches off the ground after he stopped being a knight. Must've been getting rid of all that armor or something. Robin also had a nice little twist that last about 30/45 minutes where he was scared silly of women and Richard was trying to get him a "maid." Quite amusing.
A high point for me was actually the depiction of Richard. Though they definitely played him more on the nice side, I thought it was still decently accurate. He acts very much like a king, if that makes sense, and has a temper issue at one point. He was both not perfect and lovable. He also contributed heavily to a humorous scene before "The End" flashed.
Overall, I cared about the characters--partially because you go into a Robin Hood film caring about them anyway, but they certainly didn't do anything to drive me away--and what was happening to them, even if Marian was a bit creepy-looking.
Golden Arrow * * * * *
This felt very much like Robin Hood, even with the first half not having Robin Hood AS Robin Hood...it was a lot of fun. And that, to me, is one of the main parts of the Robin Hood legend. Sherwood is a place of good times, and good winning out over evil. This captured that well.
“Fluently!” * * *
I know what you're thinking. "How on earth can you ever RATE the DIALOGUE section? It's silent!"
Why yes, yes it is. Thanks for reminding me. The first bit of dialogue flashed on screen for Robin is as follows: "Exempt me, my lord! I am afeared of women!"
End of story.
Okay, I'll go on. The dialogue in here isn't always amusing (though it's very Shakespearen--which was fun for me), but the film actually is. Some of the amusement comes from the exaggeration of silent film and the very oldness of it, I admit, but the intended humor also comes across pretty well. As I said before, it was fun. Maybe not witty, but it is funny.
Others * * *
There's not a whole lot to mention here that I haven't elsewhere. I suppose the negative things would be: Marian's polka-dot dress (I am not making this up), some torture-like things shown (but not gruesomely), and one death in particular that's kind of gross...even though it's downplayed by the silent black-and-white part. I watched it with my nine-year-old sister, and we both said "eww" and moved on.
I can't think of anything on the positive and extra side...though the slow part of the plot was also kind of interesting, especially with Robin's desertion.
The parallels to 1938 are fun.
Oh, and Douglas Fairbanks. I heard elsewhere that he got his fame for "not standing still." Well, he doesn't. He's fun to watch as an unquenchable Robin that does have a serious side, and the stunts are cool too.
Overall Thoughts and Rating * * * *
If it's not obvious by now, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. That's about all I have say. Thank you, Fairbanks, for a great time.
*Actually, this film is "tinted" b&w, something I'd never heard of until I watched it. They apparently washed the b&w film in different colors (or something) for different scenes (or even parts of scenes). Kind of odd, but you get used it.