Directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley
Starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone
Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Released on May 14, 1938
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Robin: “Come, Sir Guy, you wouldn’t kill a man for telling the truth, would you?”
Sir Guy: “If it amused me, yes.”
Robin: “You’re lucky my humor is of a different sort.”
And so Errol Flynn bounds onto the screen as Robin of Locksley, wit flying. Sir Guy: 0. Robin Hood: 1.
I still remember when I first watched this movie, about three and a half years ago. It was a crackly VHS, it was a siblings’ movie night, and I had bruised my second toe so badly that I had to hold an ice pack on it for the entire 102 minutes.
And oh, how I laughed.
From the moment he rode onto screen, Flynn was the epitome of every Robin Hood in every book I’d read. The effect flowed from him into the rollicking fun of the rest of this gorgeously and gaudily colored film. I laughed because it was perfect, I laughed because the dialogue was good, I laughed because I was having fun. And really, at its heart Robin Hood is about doing good and having a wonderful good time while doing it.
|"'Twas he who did the falling in."|
The plot is loosely bound together by cause-and-affect. Robin saves poacher, Robin goes on bad list. Robin now on bad list, he *of course* enters castle with a deer perched on his shoulders. Robin escapes, Robin is declared outlaw. Sir Guy declares he’ll “have him dangling in a week.” (Sir Guy: -1. Robin Hood: 2.). It goes on. It packs 3 high-action (though, granted, “old telly”) scenes in its hour and a half, and pays tribute to main stories: Little John, Friar Tuck, King Richard, a magnificent robbery, and an archery tournament. It’s beginning credits say the screenplay is “based on ancient Robin Hood legends” and that’s a very fair assertion (with the exception of the Hollywood-necessary Maid Marian character, who is a late edition to the legend).
The characters, are, perhaps cliché. At the same time, they are spot on with regular interpretations. One notable thing is that while the Sheriff isn’t the least bit scary in this version, Prince John and Sir Guy make up a villainous duo quite well. They also manage to have a “Marian’s maidservant” character who isn’t highly annoying, and actually enjoys an amusing and sweet subplot of her own.
|Bad guys in pretty clothes.|
Another thing not high in the list is historical accuracy. Some of Marian’s costumes in particular is quite peculiar. (On that note, Marian changes clothes every time you see her in a new scene, saving near the end. Most of the dresses are gorgeous, even if not quite accurate--maybe the person in charge of the costume department was showing off?) This film relishes in all of the birthright of the Robin Hood legend--and that includes persisting inaccuracies. It is, however, better than the BBC Robin Hood.
|I am not a fan of this ensemble.|
I’ve saved the best for last. The dialogue. Ooh, the dialogue. More than anything else it makes this cheesy old film. It is filled to the brim with the perfectly evil, the bold good, and the witty. Mostly the witty.
Sheriff: You think you’re overtaxed, eh?
Robin: Overtaxed, overworked, and paid off with a knife, a club, or a rope.
Marian: Why, you speak treason.
(Robin: 3. Marian: 0. Sheriff: -346)
|Half of the credit for this goes to my sister.|
So. Watch it. Now. This is Robin Hood done right.
Plot: * * *
Characters: * * *
Golden Arrow: * * * * *
"Fluently!": (For crying out loud, this category is named for this movie!) * * * * *
Others: * * *
Overall: * * * * *