My relationship with classic cinema is a bit odd. Growing up in the home video boom of the ’90s, I was exposed to classic films by my parents. However…they were all animated Disney films. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. Just a fact.
Regardless, it’s only now, with my school’s Film Arts Committee, the Internet, and us finally getting digital cable, that I’m delving into classic film. So when I saw The Adventures of Robin Hood was going to be on Turner Classic Movies, I hit record without a thought.
My only real knowledge of Robin Hood comes from a junior novel I once had called Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest, which followed England’s legendary, maybe-not-made-up-entirely folk hero from his beginning till King Richard the Lion-Heart returned to England.
This 1938 film is pretty much that book, although it is a very much for all ages film. And wow! What a film!
I mean, everything about this movie works. The Technicolor is fabulous; the setting and costuming is wonderful with much attention to period detail and the staging is perfect.
And man, what a cast! Before this film, my only familiarity with Errol Flynn was as the punchline to a couple of Looney Tunes punchlines. But man, is he a star here. He plays Robin–here mostly called Sir Robin of Locksley–with just the right amount of charisma and charm. Brilliant stuff.
He’s pitted against Claude Rains as Prince John and Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy de Gisbourne. Interestingly, TCM host Robert Osbourne’s opening bit made it seem that this movie was originally aired as part of a Claude Rains marathon. I found that a bit off.
Don’t get me wrong; Rains is fine as the simpering, conniving Prince John–and he certainly doesn’t need my comments on his acting–but Rathbone–best known to your grandparents as Sherlock Holmes–outdoes him at every turn. He makes Sir Guy a cackling, swashbuckling, villain in the purest sense of the word.
Watching this movie, I not only found visual cues that I think Brave might have borrowed, but I saw imprints for every action movie I could think of. In particular, a brilliant swordfight sequence between Robin and Sir Guy at the end has probably inspired a lot of other films.
This movie deserves all of its acclaim and more; it really is that good. It’s no surprise that this film won 3 Oscars for Best Editing, Best Art Direction and Best Original Score. Incidentally, this is the first movie I can EVER think of that made me want to hunt down a CD of its soundtrack.
The entry on the film in this book I have called 500 Must-See Movies said it “set the all-action standard by which other screen swashbucklers would be judged.” I tend to agree with that, and I also think this film’s mix of action, pacing and wit is something that, by and large, action films seem to have lost these days.
Enjoy the weekend. Anyone have more classic films for me to watch, leave a comment!