Ah, now this is classic Robin Hood. It’s not gritty action and realistic CGI arrows whizzing by, nor is it overtly cute and turned our heroes into singing cartoon animals. The Adventures of Robin Hood is probably the best story told on film featuring the legendary outlaw of Sherwood Forrest. The thrill of adventure, romance and action are in perfect harmony here, while still keeping the legend in tact.
The film tells the classic story of Robin Hood. While King Richard the Lionhearted (Ian Hunter) is off fighting in wars and becomes captured in Vienna, Prince John (Claude Rains) takes advantage of his absence and taxes the Saxons to no end, claiming it will pay for Richard’s release. When Saxon Lord, Sir Robin of Locksley (Errol Flynn) learns of Prince John’s plan to seize the throne he begins a rebellion against Prince John and his Norman supporters who prey on the Saxons. Robin gathers and protects all who support King Richard and along the way meet timeless characters like Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette), Little John (Alan Hale), and Lady Marian (Olivia de Havilland) who becomes lover and a great help from the inside to Robin.
There is, of course, the classic archery tournament, set up as a trap by Prince John. It’s one of the most iconic scenes in any Robin Hood story. It’s here the the award for art direction was won. From Marion’s elegant dress to Robin’s thrifty disguise the costumes in this scene are very detailed and beautiful. All around are brightly colored banners and tents that make me really appreciate the early film in color. And somehow, there is that unbelievable shot where Robin splits an arrow down the middle. I don’t think there was a special effects award yet, but that shot would have wont it.
I believe this film has some of the biggest and best action scenes you will find in the 1930’s. Director Michael Curtiz, who took over for William Keighley at times, became the man behind the great action sequences. It’s amazing to watch whole castle halls suddenly turn into epic sword fights with hundreds of extras clanging metal. There’s even a wonderfully ingenious shot where a sword fight goes off camera, but the shadows are projected onto a wall until they come back into the frame. And it’s not all swords and arrows, there’s a horse chase and a moment where Robin releases a gate, rides the pulled rope up and scales the wall to slow his enemies down. It’s a wonderfully simple mechanic idea that we’ve seen in countless films, but here it just seems grander without any CGI.
If you want to see any Robin Hood film, I strongly suggest The Adventures of Robin Hood over all the others out there. You won’t find a better mix of fun, action and romance in any others. And you certainly won’t find a more charismatic Robin than Errol Flynn.
“Where’s your sense of adventure?”