(For those following at home, Lisa is attempting to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing 38 films by this Friday. Will she make it? Keep following the site to find out!)
Flamboyant. Athletic. Joyous. Determined. Handsome. Outspoken. Bigger than life. Revolutionary. Anarchist. Sexy. Libertarian. Is there any doubt why Errol Flynn remains the definitive Robin Hood?
And. for that matter, is there any doubt why the 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood remains not only the definitive Robin Hood film but also one of the most influential action films in history?
The Adventures of Robin Hood tells the story that we’re all familiar with. The King of England, Richard The Lionhearted (Ian Hunter), is captured while returning from the Crusades. His brother, King John (Claude Rains, in full autocratic villain mode), usurps the throne while Richard is gone and immediately raises taxes. He claims that he’s only doing this to raise the money to set Richard free. Of course, the real reason is that John is a greedy tyrant.
The only nobleman with the courage to openly oppose John is Sir Robin of Locksely (Errol Flynn). Sir Robin protects his fellow citizens from John’s main henchman, Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone, also in full autocratic villain mode). In fact, Robin is so brave that, on multiple occasions, he even enters Sir Guy’s castle so that he can specifically tell King John and Sir Guy that he has no use for their laws. This, of course, always leads to Robin having to make a dramatic escape while arrows flies and swords are unsheathed all around.
And through it all, Robin Hood keeps smiling and laughing. He’s a wonderfully cheerful revolutionary. He may be fighting a war against a ruthless and unstoppable enemy and he may be the most wanted man in England but Robin is determined to have fun. One need only compare Robin to his humorless foes to see the difference between freedom and bureaucracy.
(We could use Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood today, though I suspect our government would just blow him up with a drone and then issue a statement about how, by stealing money from the rich and giving it to the poor, Robin was keeping the government from being able to rebuild bridges and repair roads.)
When Robin isn’t exposing the foolishness of organized government, he’s hanging out in Sherwood Forest. He’s recruiting valuable allies like Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette) and Little John (Alan Hale, Sr.) He’s playing constant pranks and promoting revolution and, to his credit, he’s a lot more fun to listen to than that guy from V For Vendetta. He’s also romancing Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland) and good for him. Two beautiful people deserve to be together.
Even better, he’s doing it in glorious Technicolor! There’s a lot of great things about The Adventures of Robin Hood. The action scenes are exciting. The music is thrilling. The film is perfectly cast. Errol Flynn may not have been a great actor but he was a great Robin Hood. But what I really love about the film is just the look of it. We tend to take color for granted so it’s interesting to watch a film like The Adventures of Robin Hood, one that was made at a time when color film was something of a novelty. For those of us who spend a lot of time talking about how much we love old school black-and-white, The Adventures of Robin Hood is a film that says, “Hey, color can be great too!”
But what I mostly love about The Adventures of Robin Hood is just the pure joy of the film. Just compare this Robin Hood to the grimly tedious version played by Russell Crowe.
(True, nobody in The Adventures of Robin Hood shouts, “I declare him to be …. AN OUTLAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWW!” Actually, now that I think about it, Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood would have worked much better if Oscar Isaac and Russell Crowe had switched roles.)
The Adventures of Robin Hood was nominated for best picture and it probably should have won. However, the Oscar went to Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You.