Anthony's Film Review
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
If you see just one Robin Hood movie, it should no doubt be this 1938 classic...
The legend of Robin Hood is not one of those stories that can be attributed to a single storyteller. Rather, this is a story that has existed through time by word of mouth. According to one of the documentary features on the DVD for The Adventures of Robin Hood, the legend kept adding on to itself depending on what people over time had interest in. In the beginning, Robin Hood was a mischievous jokester. Later, people made him a more noble character, and when people later on wanted romance, they added the character of Maid Marian. Naturally, numerous motion pictures and other adaptations to this day have their own take on the legend.
In the legend told by this 1938 movie, King Richard the Lion Heart goes off the fight in the Crusades, leaving his brother Prince John to fill the throne. But the kingdom suffers from Prince John's oppression. With strict laws and unfair taxation policies, many men, women, and children are forced out of their homes and into a life of poverty or even death. As long as King Richard is gone, they are powerless to rebel against Prince John. One man, however, is brave and noble enough to stand against this oppression and unite a band of merry men to aid him. That man is Sir Robin of Locksley.
Australian actor Errol Flynn is an outstanding, if not perfect, choice to play the dashing Robin Hood. He has an admirable screen presence, whether he is charismatic with his merry men, assertive with Prince John, or laughing freely after a joke on Friar Tuck. He is also physically capable and exciting to see during the film's spectacular swordfights and action scenes. Best of all, Flynn is great when he shows Robin Hood's noble side. In the eyes of Prince John as well as Sir Guy of Gisbourne and the Sheriff of Nottingham, he is an outlaw who is nothing but trouble. To everyone else, he is a real hero, doing whatever it takes for the greater good.
I should also add that the rest of the cast is excellent. Olivia de Havilland is wonderful as Maid Marian, who slowly transitions from someone suspicious of Robin's actions to someone loving him. Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy is brilliant and just the kind of actor to play someone so villainous. Every single character has a memorable screen presence, no matter how small. Will Scarlett, Little John, and King Richard himself command the screen just as much as Robin Hood. The film holds together very well because of the cast.
I was also amazed by the overall production, both from my viewing of the film plus the behind-the-scenes featurette on the DVD that originally aired on Turner Classic Movies. Even for a film in 1938, it required much choreography and stunt work for the fight scenes, art design and location planning for an authentic 12th-century look, composing for the sweeping musical score, and sound plus editing to polish the final product. You can tell that everyone on the project was devoted to making the film. It really shows in the excellent quality of the final product. Watching it on DVD where the picture was amazingly restored, I fell in love with it as much as those who saw it over six decades ago.
The Adventures of Robin Hood is a film that will thrill people of all ages. It is a film that takes people back in time, both to the artistic Golden Age of Hollywood and the simpler times of 12th-century England. With heart, imagination, and spirit, it is a gem in movie history. The Adventures of Robin Hood is the definitive Robin Hood movie of all time, one that will forever exist as a timeless classic.
For more information about The Adventures of Robin Hood, visit the Internet Movie Database.