Monday, September 12, 2011

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

The Adventures of Robin Hood
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."
This movie is my ultimate Robin Hood experience.

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.
Originality isn’t top in this, but considering I don’t think that was necessarily the point, it doesn’t matter that much. Its un-originality isn’t boring and doesn’t have the feeling of “re-hashed.” It takes the best from the books and plays it out on the big screen with gusto and delight. It succeeds far more than the “more original” attempt of last year did.

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.
As this is the film that got me interested in film history and Technicolor in particular, it deserves (re) mentioning that this film is shot in color, and it just teams with bright life. I’m always a bit struck by how rich the colors are. Sure, it has a tendency towards the ridiculous, but it gives even more of the feel that we’re in a kind of fantasy history--the good and the bad both exaggerated to extreme lengths. It’s very fun to watch. (And this is perhaps the only Sir Guy who wears clothes which can be called “pretty.”) As a film history tidbit, if I remember correctly, this was the most expensive film ever made when it was made--at 2 million un-inflated dollars. This came a lot from the use of Technicolor cameras that make it so vivid.

This, however...gorgeous.
(This is getting ridiculously long now, but I have to say: the soundtrack is awesome too, especially if you buy a new recording of it!)

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: Fluently.

(Robin: 3. Marian: 0. Sheriff: -346)

Half of the credit for this goes to my sister.
I could quote for ages, because Flynn’s Robin is perhaps the wittiest Robin ever to exist, but it really deserves to be in context.

So. Watch it. Now. This is Robin Hood done right.

 (This is where you say...may I obey all of your commands with equal pleasure, sire!)

 Plot: * * *
Characters: * * *
Golden Arrow: * * * * *
"Fluently!": (For crying out loud, this category is named for this movie!) * * * * *
Others: * * *
Overall: * * * * *


Josiphine said...

Ahh, I want to watch this again now! I laughed out loud at the exerpt you had, :)

Nairam said...

I've watched it a shameful amount of times...shamelessly. It's ridiculous how much I love this movie. Mostly it makes me happy. :D

Taylor Lynn said...

Haha, it looks good! I like to watch old movies sometimes, and I'm glad you enjoyed this one. :) It sounds really funny - I may need to check it out!

Godsgirl95 said...

I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!! I saw it on TV a few months ago, and I absolutely love it. I really want to get it for myself. (and I loved the 'Politically Incorrect' pic!)

Reel Popcorn Junkie said...

Nairam, This is a great adventure film. How about a nod for the great supporting cast with Alan Hale, Melville Cooper and Eugene Pallette? What great talent. What a super film.

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