The archetypal Hollywood swashbuckler, The
Adventures of Robin Hood is everything big-screen
In his defining role, Errol Flynn establishes himself as the quintessential Robin Hood, jaunty, dashing, and fearless, while Olivia de Havilland (Maid Marian), Basil Rathbone (Sir Guy of Gisbourne), and Claude Rains (Prince John) shine in supporting roles.
The story is the classic Robin Hood tale, and it’s all here: the fateful shooting of the King’s deer; Robin’s ignominious duckings upon his first meetings with Little John (Alan Hale) and Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette); Robin’s penchant for entertaining wealthy victims in high Sherwood style before relieving them of their gold; the trap archery contest which a disguised Robin wins by splitting his opponent’s arrow; the return of Richard (Ian Hunter) from the Crusades disguised in monk’s attire.
Innovations on the legend include a bravura early scene in which Robin boldly confronts Prince John at dinner and promises to oppose him by every means possible, and the initially prickly relationship between the rough Saxon Robin and the noble Norman Marian.
While not the acrobat Douglas Fairbanks Sr. was in the 1922 silent version, Flynn is still a consummate action hero, leaping, climbing, and fighting with great alacrity. His best stunt recalls Fairbanks’s great scene on the drawbridge chain, as Robin slashes the rope holding up a castle portcullis, then rides the rope to the top of the wall as the portcullis comes crashing down, trapping the pursuing soldiers inside the castle while our hero drops down on the other side to freedom.
Oo-de-lally! As post-Sleeping Beauty Disney animated features go, Robin Hood is a fine entry, better than The Sword in the Stone or The Fox and the Hound but not as good as The Jungle Book or The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
Silent action king Douglas Fairbanks Sr. is the most exuberantly athletic of Robin Hoods, for sheer physicality perhaps outdoing even Errol Flynn’s definitive performance.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.