004 - The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938)

 As a child, I saw the Disney version and was quite convinced for many years that the archer himself was a fox, leading the other animals against the cowering Prince John. A TV remake on the BBC a couple of years ago failed to make it past the first series despite a fanbase, and it goes to show that the legendary tale of Robin Hood has been told in film so many times that it starts to become boring after a while. The latest in the line of Robin Hood films was a high budget blockbuster by Ridley Scott but even he could do little to spice up a worn out franchise.

But where did it all start?

Before taking up the challenge, I have to admit that I had never heard of The Adventures of Robin Hood. Such was my naivity that when I bought the DVD and saw the horrifically coloured cartoony image on the front, I sniggered at Empire. The writers had possibly lost the plot on this one.

The tale is similar to the Disney version - in fact it seems as if the cartoon has taken the storyline and personified the characters as drawn animals. Sir Robin of Loxley (Errol Flynn) rebels against Prince John (Claude Rains) who is trying to take the throne from King Richard the Lionheart who has been kidnapped while fighting in the Crusades. Prince John's trusty right hand man, Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) has been charged with getting taxes from the Saxons to line Prince John's pocket in the pretence of paying the ransom of King Richard. The film tells the story of Robin's fight to free the Saxon people from the rule of Prince John.

Theatrical Poster
The opening scenes really set the pace of the film. The occasionally comic fight scenes were matched only by Flynn's hilariously false laugh. The set was unrealistic by modern standards and the costumes made Robin Hood look more like Peter Pan. The shooting of the whole film in olden Technicolor made the colours overly vivid and slightly garish.

Despite these - or rather because of these - the film really appeals to me. Having grown up in a lifetime of modern takes on this classic story it is nice to be treated to something a little more traditional. The fact that the film is occasionally amateurish compared with the films that I'm used to.

Anyone who enjoys the tale of Robin Hood should really watch this after the other versions - as I have done. Without doing this, you won't appreciate the film to its whole potential.