This particular version of the Robin Hood story is a rather lacking one. I’m not one to go around blaming one particular person when it involves such a collaborative craft as filmmaking, but it’s clear that this is all star Richard Todd’s fault. Todd’s problem as Robin Hood is mainly that he doesn’t look or act like a convincing rogue, but like a guy playing dress up in the school play.
There are some scenes where he actually looks like a dwarf standing next to some of the other actors and I was starting to wonder whether this wasn’t some version that had recast the Robin part as some kind of wood gnome. And maybe I was spoiled by Errol Flynn, but where was the sword fighting in this movie? And for that matter, where was the bow and arrow action?
There was also the rather silly Bat Signal-like system the Merry Men had of keeping everyone up to date on all the forest gossip, but was it just me or does the idea of guys randomly shooting arrows through the forest into Robin’s secret camp strike you as a wee bit dangerous?
This isn’t to say that Richard Todd doesn’t go through motions of our favorite woodsy rogue though. He smirks frequently, flirts and bickers with Maid Marion and whines endlessly about how great King Richard is and how sucky Prince John is.
For a movie that doesn’t even run an hour and a half, they spend a lot of time setting up Robin’s secret origin. We get to see the good guys go off to the Crusades (King Richard and Maid Marion’s father) and we see Robin and his father hanging out together at the big archery competition and also get to see Robin and Marion rolling around the forest with one another. I thought this was a Disney movie!
Even worse was when Friar Tuck was sitting all by his lonesome in the woods talking to himself in a woman’s voice! Paging Norman Bates! Paging Norman Bates! A fat, bald guy has just stolen your gimmick!
The murder of Robin’s father turns Robin into an outlaw with a heart of gold and it isn’t long before we see that not only is the sheriff so evil that he would have Robin’s dad killed for not joining up with the bad guys, but he would also raise taxes and steal everyone’s goats! First Prince John connives to usurp his brother’s throne and now his cronies are kidnapping farm animals!
Robin and the rest invade the big “Bring Richard’s Wimpy French Ass Back Home” telethon that the Queen is holding in Nottingham’s town square. The sheriff is cajoled into donating and claims that he just can’t give any more, but Robin and his compatriots though have snuck into his castle and liberated all his treasure and “donate” it for him in front of everyone!
A plan is promptly hatched by Prince John and the Sheriff to steal it all back from the Queen and the archbishop while it’s in route to the ransom location. This plan is even made more cunning in that they are going to steal it all back while dressed up as Robin Hood and his Merry Men!
The plan is thwarted and a final showdown is hastily arranged back at the castle so that Robin can rescue Marion and confront the Sheriff.
Instead of the monumental sword fight where Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone clashed like two young gods bent on rending the very Earth from its axis before yielding to one another, you had Richard Todd watch as Peter Finch (yes, the one from Network) gets crunched in a draw bridge before Todd hastily climbs over it and falls into the moat below. The Sheriff of Nottingham defeated by a defective garage door? Is Prince John going to slip in the shower?
The rest of the cast is passable though they aren’t given a lot to do, other than to appear for their standard incidents. Little John gets his moment in the sun during the big stick fight on the bridge with Robin (the closet we get to any real action from Robin). Friar Tuck gets to do his thing when he and Robin fight over who’s going to carry the other across the river. (It goes on so long that when the Sheriff shows up to arrest Robin, you breathe a sigh of relief). Will Scarlet even gets to do his classic bit where he stands around wearing a red outfit instead of green.
Nothing much in this seems too authentic since this is one of those costume movies where everyone is dressed in bright colors and all the clothes look like they had just been bought from the Nottingham branch of JCPenney’s.
Even more questionable was the amount of the budget that must have been devoted to Brylcreme for all the men in this movie. These guys had hairdos that look like they were sculpted by Rodin. Can you imagine how nasty it would be to be running around the forest and sweating all that gunk in your eyes? Or how much the bugs would appreciate it?
It’s all innocuous enough, but it has noting to offer that Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood didn’t do ten times better. And in a scheme so devious that even the evil Sheriff of Nottingham couldn’t have conceived of it, two more Richard Todd/Dinsey collaborations, The Sword And The Rose and Rob Roy, The Highland Rogue follow this pointless retread.
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