Amid big-budget medieval pageantry, King Richard goes on the Crusades leaving his brother Prince John as regent, who promptly emerges as a cruel, grasping, treacherous tyrant. Apprised of England's peril by message from his lady-love Marian, the dashing Earl of Huntingdon endangers his life and honor by returning to oppose John, but finds himself and his friends outlawed, and Marian apparently dead. Enter Robin Hood, acrobatic champion of the oppressed, laboring to set things right through swash buckling feats and cliffhanging perils! Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
some dated histrionics, but still impressive almost a century later
This early silent epic was actually the sixth version of the classic English fable to reach the screen, and it remains, even today, by far the biggest. Every shot is framed to highlight the extraordinary production design, which included a full-scale medieval castle built just off Santa Monica Blvd in Los Angeles, reportedly the largest set ever constructed for a motion picture. The film draws heavily on the romantic heritage of chivalry, and favors the origins of the character over his legendary exploits, following the Earl of Huntingdon (not Locksley, as in later films) into the Crusades, where he and King Richard are marked for death by the treacherous Sir Guy of Gisbourne. It isn't until the fourth (or fifth) reel that Douglas Fairbanks (in one of his definitive roles) finally exchanges his suit of armor for Robin's trademark feathered cap, and goes (literally) skipping through Sherwood Forest. Viewers more accustomed to the Errol Flynn archetype may find it an odd interpretation of the role, depicting Robin Hood as a girl-shy, over-age adolescent, liberated when he turns outlaw. And Fairbanks, always more acrobat than actor, all but dances through the part.
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