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THE TRIUMPH OF ROBIN HOOD (Umberto Lenzi, 1962) **1/2
Having just watched Ridley Scott's recent 'serious' Hollywood version of the Robin Hood legend, I have decided to counter it by catching up on some of the lesser adventures of the legendary archer that the Cinema has had to offer over the years. Perhaps they do not come any more obscure than this light-headed but surprisingly colorful Italian romp helmed by a consummate craftsman whom I have had the pleasure of meeting personally at the 2004 Venice Film Festival.
The title role is portrayed by one Don Burnett who, being a dead-ringer for Rock Hudson, makes for a handsome lead even if his characterization of Robin Hood is far too passive for its own good (and perhaps explains why this turned out to be his last film!); for the role of his damsel-in-distress, we get Gia Scala (fresh from her Hollywood success in the previous year's THE GUNS OF NAVARONE) but, for some odd reason, the film-makers decided to rename her character Anna (at least in the original Italian soundtrack) rather than the proverbial Marian!
For the record, the copy I acquired sports English titles but two audio options: in Italian (which, as is my custom, is the one I went for) and English; given that the plot seemed fairly disjointed at times and the film featured a handful of unnatural transitions, I suspect that the atypically trim 77-minute version I watched is merely the slightly condensed U.S. release with an overdubbed Italian soundtrack.
Many of the famous Sherwood Forest characters are here present and accounted for: Little John (Samson Burke of "Maciste" fame who, bafflingly, gets to re-enact the legendary riverside duel with an even bigger opponent than himself!), The Sheriff of Nottingham (Arturo Dominici who is forever hiring-and-firing his clumsy oaf of a henchman, Nello Pazzafini), Friar Tuck, Prince John (who only makes fleeting appearances in the film's final 20 minutes), King Richard The Lion-Heart (ditto) and even the name of Ivanhoe is bandied about a couple of times but he never appears in the flesh.
I guess it would not have been a traditional Robin Hood adventure if there was not the obligatory comic relief (provided here, in particularly lamentable fashion, by one of the Merrie Men) but Lenzi's judicious packing of his film with constant (if imperfectly executed) action sequences smooths over these incongruities and makes for a mostly diverting and unassuming frolic that, especially for fans of the genre, pleasantly whiles away the time.
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