I had missed out on this one a couple of times on Italian TV in a relatively brief space of time; having finally acquired it not too long ago through the very same channels (the film seems to be only available elsewhere in a poor-quality English-dubbed print), I thought now was high time that I check it out i.e. in the wake of the brand-new Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe epic ROBIN HOOD, since it is yet another version of these popular events though you would you be hard-pressed to gather as much from the absurdly misleading U.S. moniker! Anyway, having been rendered aware of the movie and I definitely became interested, given the involvement of director Ferroni as well as stars Giuliano Gemma and Mark Damon one still could not have foreseen just how well-made this turned out to be in all departments!
For starters, the look of the film courtesy of authentic and expansive locations, a soft-yet-appealing color palette and stylish costumes is quite rich for a "Euro-Cult" offering that seems to have garnered so little credit over the years. The action, too, is plentiful and vigorous and the performances reasonably committed for this sort of thing; to be sure, while essentially a romp, the film generally refrains from campiness and ends up a decidedly more considerable effort than, say, Umberto Lenzi's not unenjoyable if invincibly juvenile THE TRIUMPH OF ROBIN HOOD (1962) which I actually watched a day previously as part of a mini-marathon of little-seen outings revolving around this legendary outlaw.
More significantly, however, thanks to an above-average script co-written by one of Italian cinema's stalwart scribes Ennio De Concini I would say that the film under review even approaches the level of some of Hollywood's innumerable renditions of the exploits of The Bandit Of Sherwood Forest (to name one of the better, albeit not obvious, such examples). In fact, some of the more interesting twists in the familiar plot include: Gemma as the heir to the Nottingham dukedom despoiled of his heritage; his asking to join the already-established "Merrie Men" but then rising to lead the band and give it purpose; Prince John (whose role, as in the afore-mentioned THE TRIUMPH OF ROBIN HOOD, gets rather downsized here) is played as a slightly effeminate youth; the finale, then, sees the traditional return of Richard the Lionheart (after the many hardships and intrigues in raising the required ransom) to his rightful throne and Robin's one-on-one with the usurper/oppressor.
Damon, a "Euro-Cult" lead in his own right, surprisingly accepted a secondary role in this case as Allen-a-Dale; that said, he would receive compensation two years later with a remake of another swashbuckling classic, "Ivanhoe", titled THE NORMAN SWORDSMAN and which I have also just gotten hold of. Silvia Dionisio, then, is Maid Marian who, having been promised to the Duke Of Nottingham when still a child and oblivious of Robin Hood's true identity, is naturally initially averse to the attentions of the ostensibly commoner outlaw (this lends the whole an unexpected, yet timely, class struggle angle) and, by the way, she also proves to be Robin's chief rival in the archery contest!
Another novelty resides in the presence of a female villain played by Helga Line' (overlooked by the male counterpart she is devoted to in favor of the somewhat bland heroine); more familiar and welcome cast members would be Mario Adorf (as Friar Tuck) and Nello Pazzafini (playing Little John incidentally, he had been the chief baddie's long-suffering lackey in the earlier Lenzi film!). As expected, the score by Gianni Ferrio is a rousing one (albeit intermittently punctuated by a jubilant yodel!) which cements a surprisingly solid overall achievement.
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