Before "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", Michael Curtiz co-directed this, "The Adventures of Errol Flynn"... after doing 111 other projects and before doing 54 more projects. If you think that I'm exaggerating those numbers, I'm not, and before death finally caught up to Curtiz, his name was attached to 166 projects, so I reckon it's safe to say that he had a relatively successful career, as surely as Errol Flynn led a relatively successful career as a swashbuckler, back when most people actually knew what in the world the term "swashbuckling" means. Well, of course Flynn was going to lead a successful career as a swashbuckler, because the man had the name of a pirate, or at least the name of an aviator... I reckon. I'm sorry, I'm from Alabama, where we don't say "aeroplane" as much as you ignorant Yankees might think, but have to hear it all the time from the satire by, well, you ignorant Yankees who don't realize that we are, in fact, much more cultured nowadays, so much so that we gladly embrace this here old movin' pitture about some fruity-lookin' feller usin' some kind of a fancy bowin' arrow that wouldn't stand a bit of kudzu's chance in a tractor race against my crossbow to save some lady, which is irocnick, or whatever them college folks say, because all he's gonna end up doin' is beatin' her if she comes close stepping out of the line that God put women in to make sure that they don't go and mess up this purtty world that us kindly white men worked so hard buildin' (*insert spit and subsequent ting sound effects here*). Interesting how this opener to a discussion dealing with a classic swashbuckling film set in England during the Middle Ages ended up touching upon redneck satire, but hey, I could have picked a more irrelevant topic, seeing as how we are talking about someone who lived so far south that he was born and raised in Australia, kind of like that Keith Urban feller who plays country music like good ol' Hank Williams. Shoot, I can't even joke about Urban's music being real country, rather than just pop rock with a twang, and besides, I'm really going off topic at this point, because this film is so old that it came at a time when we were just getting used to country music. Oh well, it's still a decent flick, and yet, much like yankee views on the South, its not without some questionable spots.
It's a fluff piece of the 1930s, so of course certain lively touches have dated, yet that doesn't really make them any less cheesy, because even though the film hasn't turned cornball by now, it is not without somewhat cheesy moments of fluffy filler that throw you off, though not quite as much as the focal unevenness. The film isn't dizzyingly inconsistent, but it does have a tendency to break up direct, if a tad aimless sections in its narrative as an adventure film with some shifts into typically ultimately necessary, but hardly organically incorporated happenings that could have perhaps fit more comfortably in the midst of this film's focal structure if storytelling actually took the time that it should, or rather, any time to meditate upon fleshing its story out. Again, this is a harmless adventure flick, and one revolved around a highly recognizable legend, so it's not like I'm asking for much by any means when it comes to development, but the film feels very undercooked, featuring lapses in exposition that dilute both the full effectiveness of the characters' motivations and the firm distinguishing of the members of this conceptually dynamic character roster, while leaving certain events to feel hurried in and repetitious, and further detrimental to your engagement value. Something of a core problem that sparks the aforementioned unevenness, underdevelopment is arguably the final product's biggest consequential problem, and yet, with that said, the underdevelopment isn't too disconcerting, which means that there's even less to the cheesiness and unevenness, thus leaving the final product with only so many errors in storytelling, but primarily because, quite frankly, there's not a whole lot to this story to begin with. When I called this film a fluff piece, I really did mean that it was harmless fare for its time, with a topic that could be built into a strong story, but is instead the basis for a barely consequential popcorn storyline, which may ultimately be presented in a fashion that is entertaining enough for the final product to succeed just fine as a fun popcorn flick, but is just too thin to be all that memorable. Consequential flaws are made a bit more glaring by this story that isn't as rich as it perhaps could have been, slowing down momentum that was never to have too much kick, until you end up with a fluff piece that it plenty of fun, but a fluff piece, nevertheless, complete with not enough kick to be especially memorable. Still, while the final product isn't necessarily a deeply rewarding ride, it is a ride that's reasonably worth taking, having shortcomings within its story's concept and telling, but enough in the way of fun factor to liven up your mood a bit, just like how sharp musical aspects liven up the film itself.
This film's score, composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Great name), is by no means especially unique, but it's hardly as trite as plenty of other film scores of the classic era of Hollywood, and that allows you to have a bit more appreciation for this score's strength, which is indeed mighty, combining soulful elegance with thrilling boastful through thorough liveliness that helps greatly in bringing this film's high entertainment value to life, while also helping to sell you on this film's tone. What sells you on the actual look of this film is, of course, the efforts of art director Carl Jules Weyl and costume designer Milo Anderson, who do a decent and rather stylish job of restoring the Middle Ages through nifty designs that go complimented by Tony Gaudio's and Sol Polito's lushly colorful and comfortably scoped Technicolor cinematography. Gaudio and Polito add the film's good looks with then-fine photography that is still fairly pretty to this day, while also putting tight framing to good use during the action sequences, which are few and far between, and held back by sensibilities of the time, but still well-shot, well-choreographed and all round well-staged enough to thrill just fine, not necessarily as a reinforcement of what sense of consequence there is to this fluffy storyline, but certainly as a compliment to the swashbuckling adventurousness of this popcorn piece. Some of the liveliness touch-ups just discussed are about as strong as I make them sound, with some being even stronger, because even though the film has dated as a popcorn entertainer, enough color within its musicality, look and action has stood the test of time for the film to get off a pretty good start when it comes to standing as a fun flick. Of course, what really secures the final product's entertainment value is the sketching out and telling of this story, which is, as I've gone on and on about, hardly all that rich, to where you get all that much of a sense of weighty meat, but still colorful, with a harmless adventurousness that gives this film the potential of being, if nothing else, the fun fare that it ultimately is, largely thanks to both a script by Norman Reilly Raine and Seton I. Miller that delivers on plenty of sharp wit, as well directorial performances by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley that hit one lively beat after another. Curtiz and Keighley keep pacing brisk and spirited, gracing this film with a charm that goes fed by the charisma found throughout this cast, from which leading man Errol Flynn stands out by making sure that his being well-cast does not go to waste, nailing the heart of the legendary Robin Hood with such assurance that he becomes the role and, by extension, both one of the most memorable portrayers of a highly recognizable character, as well as a driving force in the film. This flick is what it is, and what it is is merely popcorn fare that was never to be all that compelling or memorable, so all it can be is entertaining, and sure enough, if this effort is nothing else, it is plenty of harmless fun, with style and charm that remain sharp enough to this day to entertain thoroughly, even if such entertainment comes at the expense of kick to substance.
When the adventure is done, cheesy spots and some focal unevenness prove to be offputting, though not as much as the underdevelopment and structural hurrying that are still not too worthy of complaints, as this film's story concept is a shoestring-thin one with limited consequence and memorability, thus making for an underwhelming final product, but one still reasonably worth checking out, as lively score work, appealing production designs, handsome cinematography, thrilling action and an adventurous narrative, brought to life by witty writing, well-paced directorial storytelling and charismatic acting - especially by the well-cast and immersed Errol Flynn - go into making 1938's "The Adventures of Robin Hood" a fun popcorn piece that won't stick with you for very long, but proves to be enjoyable while it occupies your reasonably well-spent time.
2.5/5 - Fair