Young Robin Hood, in love with Maid Marian, enters an archery contest with his father at the King's palace. On the way home his father is murdered by hench men of Prince John. Robin takes ... See full summary »
Young Robin Hood, in love with Maid Marian, enters an archery contest with his father at the King's palace. On the way home his father is murdered by hench men of Prince John. Robin takes up the life of an outlaw, gathering together his band of merry men with him in Sherwood Forest, to avenge his father's death and to help the people of the land that Prince John are over taxing. Written by
The Story Of Robin Hood And His Merrie Men (Ken Annakin, 1952) ***
I had watched this just once growing up, as opposed to the numerous viewings allotted to the definitive 1938 Errol Flynn version, so I was curious to know how it has held up (particularly since I recently enjoyed another Walt Disney epic starring the recently-deceased Richard Todd i.e. ROB ROY, THE HIGHLAND ROGUE ). As can be intimated from the rating above, my reaction to it was by and large a positive one; to begin with, the copy I acquired even if viewed on a small TV screen was gorgeous, making this surely among the studio's most handsome-looking live-action efforts. Another immediately striking element is the casting modest in comparison to the earlier Warner Bros. super-production perhaps but no less capable and, more importantly, fitting to each respective character: Todd, one of the few Robins not to sport a beard(!), is suitably dashing and good-natured (though lacking the athleticism of Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks before him); incidentally, having mentioned Fairbanks whose 1922 ROBIN HOOD was treated with such rigor as to have the semblance of authenticity this one too would appear to want to present the 'true' story (not merely picking up from the moment King Richard played by an unrecognizable Patrick Barr left for the Crusades but also insisting on providing a back-story and a noble heritage for our hero even the famous archery contest occurs prior to his having turned outlaw and, what's more, Robin is beaten by his own dad in it?!). Anyway, to get back to Todd's fellow actors, pretty Joan Rice makes for one of the youngest yet most spirited Maid Marians; among the "Merrie Men", typically, the ones to get most prominence are Little John (James Robertson Justice who else? but with hair dyed blond!), Friar Tuck (James Hayter and, for some odd reason, fancying himself a singer in the film's corniest scene!) both of their introductions at least stick to the legend and Allen-a-Dale (Elton Hayes, whose brief cinematic career seemed to be stuck playing minstrels in historical efforts!); for what it is worth, the presence of the last two mentioned constitute the film's severest drawbacks to this viewer. On the side of the wrongdoers, we get Hubert Gregg as a particularly sly (though rather youthful) Prince John and, surprisingly, Peter Finch as the Sheriff of Nottingham (effective apart from an unbecoming coiffure incidentally, I may be watching his one other film in this vein i.e. THE DARK AVANGER aka THE WARRIORS , with Errol Flynn no less, this coming week-end); by the way, another novelty to the lore which turns up here but hardly anywhere else is that of having a benign but obviously ineffective Queen Mother (a suitably regal Martita Hunt). While there is not quite the emphasis on spectacle or elaborate action set-pieces we find in other versions (though the drawbridge climax is undeniably thrilling), the film which, at a mere 84 minutes, does not run the risk of overstaying its welcome is very entertaining for the most part and, as I said, looks good enough to smooth over the occasional deficiency.
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