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When I was twelve I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) and was extremely underwhelmed as the film had an overcomplicated plot and featured characters lacking in any depth. Where that film failed this timeless 1938 classic succeeds as it features perhaps the definitive swashbuckler leading man in Errol Flynn and makes a strong argument for the use of Technicolor. It is very easy to fall in love with the film as it is relentlessly entertaining and refreshing in how straightforward it is as it does not attempt to reinvent the wheel but does what has been done before exceptionally well. Unlike later imitators like Ivanhoe (1952) it is still a rousing piece of entertainment and would still bring joy to youth audiences today with it's optimism and simplicity.
In the late 12th century the honorable King Richard the Lionheart, Ian Hunter, who is devoted to helping the poor and disenfranchised is taken hostage by Leopold V, Duke of Austria and if the English want him back they will have to pay a ransom. In his place his treacherous and corrupt brother Prince John, Claude Rains, ascends to the throne and begins to steal from the poor for his own gain and force them to pay high taxes. The man who defends the poor is Sir Robin of Locksley, Errol Flynn, who steals from the rich and gives to the poor but he faces opposition and in trying to win the heart of Maid Marian, Olivia de Havilland, he must teach her about inequality. He earns a victory in an archery tournament meant to lure him to his execution but when he arranges with Marian to have the King saved she is imprisoned and he must find the King and help him take his rightful place on the throne before it is too late.
The look of the film is extraordinary as the vaunted bright colors produced by Technicolor are on full display here and it allows the film to be more memorable than most from this era. While later iterations of this story would adopt a cold, blue sepia tone that did not allow for the inherent fun and wackiness of the situation to be exploited. The brightness of this film matches it's innocent tone and sense of freewheeling adventure as it allows for the loveliness of a young de Havilland to be highlighted and the bright fabric of their costumes to come to life. To an adult audience it will be immediately clear that the film has been shot on a studio back lot and an orchard owned by the studio somewhere out in California but this artificiality does not really matter. While watching the film you can revert to feeling a sense of childlike wonderment with the larger than life characters and fantastical locations.
What the film also benefits from is smart writing as unlike Ivanhoe it follows the very simple story of a man with socialist ideals facing off against an evil villain who saves the day and gets the girl. It helps that all of the characters proclaim their feelings without reservation and seem to exist in a world where moral grey area does not exist. If performers without the force of personality of de Havilland or Rains had inhabited these roles they might have seemed flat and lacking but they are each aware of what sort of film they are in and play to their strengths wonderfully. She is all doe eyes and breathless proclamations and he plays the type of stern elder statesman who would become his bread and butter in later years. Flynn is not an actor I am enamored of but he fits into this film nicely and for the low bar that he has to jump over with all of the excellence around him he is quite competent. It is easy to see why de Havilland Flynn made so many films together, eight in total, as they have wonderful chemistry and her potential as a great dramatic actress shines through in many of their romantic scenes.
I can't recommend this film enough as while it is hardly important in terms of it's content it stands up as one of the best swashbuckler pictures ever made.
The greatest version of Robin Hood!
Michael Curtiz' swashbuckling adventure classic The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) remains my favorite incarnation of the Saxon lord robbing the rich and giving to the poor.
Errol Flynn portrays the green hooded archer Robin of Locksley as a charming and charismatic leader and loyalist to King Richard the Lionheart. Flynn is the quintessential actor for Robin Hood due to his amiable attitude, dazzling swordplay, and astonishing archery. Basil Rathbone is sublimely entertaining as Sir Guy of Gisbourne as the villain with his hard glares and disdainful misgivings.
Olivia de Havilland is lovely and enchanting as the heroine Maid Marian. She uses her hopeful eyes to display a fervent amour for Robin Hood, a respectful admiration for Hood's good deeds, and a distrustful disgust at Prince John's treachery and ambition. Speaking of Prince John, Claude Rains is funny as the dastardly monarch, who reign of cruelty terrorized England in the Medieval Ages.
Michael Curtiz' direction features all manner of innovative direction and thrilling action that makes this shorter film feel only a half hour long. From long range arrow shots, splitting arrows, sword fights down staircases, to shadows duelling, Curtiz' style leaps from the screen into your imagination. Combined with Erich Wolfgang Korngold's sweeping romantic score, The Adventures of Robin Hood is a treasure chest of delights.
In all, The Adventures of Robin Hood is a pleasant time with every viewing no matter how many times I return to Sherwood Forest.
What's not to like? Brilliant colors. Rousing story. Olivia De Havilland.
Dashing Flynn in the definitive swashbuckler, winning hand of de Havilland (never lovelier as Maid Marian), foiling evil prince Rains, dueling wicked Rathbone. Erich Wolfgang Korngold's outstanding score earned an Oscar, as did the art direction and editing. Scripted by Norman Reilly Raine and Seton I. Miller. Arguably Flynn's greatest role.
So so so good!!! For a movie like this to work you need a great villain and Basil Rathbone is very great! Lots of great dialog, including one of my all time favorites. Marion: why, you speak treason!! Robin: Fluently!!
Simply beyond criticism
Amazing old-fashioned techni-coloured romp. Fantastic light hearted fun
A really fun, fast pace adventure with only a few technical flaws here and there
The Adventures Of Robin Hood is truly a influence worthy noting of action, adventure and the all-around hero of Errol Flynn
Not a fan of these kind of movies, but this version of Robin Hood is watchable from beginning to end. Flynn was an excellent choice and makes this movie. Why didn't they show this to us when we were kids? The version I saw was not very good. The technicolor seems off -- not real -- but that is my only criticism. An interesting myth told in an interesting way that grabs your attention and keeps it. That's what a movie should do.
The best, GREATEST thrilling and inspiring movie ever made! With 2 of the best movie characters ever portrayed: Errol Flynn as Robin Hood and Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy of Gisbourne!