Monday, March 20, 2006

robin and marian (1976)

Robin and Marian is in this reviewer’s opinion the finest Robin Hood film of all. Gritty in its realism, bitter sweet in its sadness, amusing in its humour, Robin and Marian contains several career best performances from a predominantly British cast, and is with ease the best film Richard Lester ever directed. The film opens with the aftermath of the Crusades. Robin and Little John are still alongside King Richard (Richard Harris), but sickened and disillusioned at the actions of a King who has become an insane, murderous tyrant. When they return to Sherwood Forest they find their old hiding places overgrown and neglected. Only Will Scarlet and Friar Tuck remain, although Maid Marian having become a nun is not far away. Robin is amused and flattered to find there are tales and ballads about his exploits, but the dawning realisation that he is no longer a young man haunts him, and thus the tone of the film is set: Robin Hood, an outlaw out of time, seeking one last blaze of glory.
Sean Connery as Robin Hood and Audrey Hepburn as Maid Marian have seldom been better cast as the two lovers of legend, their performances filled with pathos and humour. Nicol Williamson lacks the physical stature one normally associates with Little John, but is outstanding in the role of the loyal friend who will pass Robin his final arrow. Both Ronnie Barker as Friar Tuck and Denholm Elliott as Will Scarlett are excellent in their roles, avoiding the caricatures of previous Hollywood versions, whilst Richard Harris' portrayal of King Richard as a mad Crusading tyrant was a "first" in the genre.
Another key factor in the films success is the absence of Guy of Gisburne and the reinstatement of the Sheriff of Nottingham as Robin Hood's true arch enemy. In this role Robert Shaw is the perfect counterpoint to Connery. This Sheriff is a warrior, a man who will not tolerate the interference of King John's Knights in the affairs his Nottingham, and clearly someone who also misses the battles of old. Indeed it is apparent when Robin and the Sheriff meet that they both relish the thought of the fight which must surely follow. One can see that, if not for the respect the Sheriff secretly holds for Robin, the outcome of that fight may have been totally different.
But this is not a children's film. Rated PG, it does not contain all those hearty tales of the golden arrow, the riverside encounters with Little John and Friar Tuck, the ballads 'round the camp fire. The only part of the familiar legend present here is Robin's final arrow, and his request to be buried where it falls. Highly recommended for those Robin Hood fans who wish to see the legend given a darker, more gritty treatment. (See comments box for more cast details).

Robin Hood website for film reviews
Robin Hood website for Robin Hood pictures

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

robin hood fights guy of gisburne

Top: Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) and Guy of Gisburne (Basil Rathbone) during the climax of the classic Adventures of Robin Hood. Beneath: Michael Praed as Robin Hood gives Robert Addie as Guy of Gisborne a rough time, but fails to heed Will Scarlet's advice to kill him in Robin of Sherwood.
Above: A spectacular picture from the climax of The Adventures of Robin Hood as Robin Hood and Guy of Gisburne lock blades in one of Hollywood's most memorable duels. In real life Flynn and Rathbone were the very best of friends.
For more information about Guy of Gisborne / Gisburne click here and here.

Above: Robin Hood holds off Gisbourne and his hounds. Wall plaque, Nottingham Castle Green.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Alan a Dale, Outlaw of Sherwood.

Above: Alan A Dale in his latter years. From "Rogues of Sherwood Forest" (1950).
Alan A Dale makes relatively few appearances throughout the films and television programmes devoted to the legend of Robin Hood. But any schoolboy growing up in post war Britain would be familiar with this outlaw from his numerous appearances in boys annuals of the time. Robin Hood first encountered Alan A Dale singing alone in the depths of Sherwood Forest, despairing over the loss of his girlfriend, the maiden Ellen, to an old Knight. Robin took pity on him and rescued the fair Ellen during her wedding ceremony. She went on to marry Alan, who in turn became a faithful and loyal member of Robin Hoods Merry Men.

Far too many films combine the character Alan A Dale with that of Will Scarlet. And yet two people could not be less alike. Alan was a good natured, even tempered woodsman, with a gift for story telling, whilst Will Scarlet gained his name partly because of the coloured fabric he might rob from the rich and wear as trophies, but mostly because because of the anger inside. The above statue, which stands outside the gates of Nottingham Castle, depicts Alan A Dale (left) alongside Will Scarlet. Note that Alan is playing a small harp. This is correct, even though he is most popularly pictured with a mandolin, as in the Walt Disney film The Story of Robin Hood, and the Hammer films Sword of Sherwood Forest and Challenge for Robin Hood. But note also that the artist has persisted in depicting Will Scarlet as a "dandy". This is certainly incorrect.

Actually hear Alan A Dale sing on THIS LINK.

For more information about Alan A Dale follow this link and also visit the website Robin Hood Pictures at .To see where Alan A Dale met Robin hood in Papplewick, see THIS LINK.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938

The Adventures of Robin Hood is probably the most successful and popular Robin Hood film of all time, winning three academy awards. Errol Flynn relishes playing Hollywood's swashbuckling interpretation of the lead role, opposite Basil Rathbone's dastardly (and camp) Guy of Gisbourne, and the emphasis throughout is clearly on action and romance. This movie was clearly a huge influence on future Robin Hood film makers, especially the decades later Kevin Costner version Robin Prince of Thieves which emulates much of its vine swinging through the forest style.
All the elements of the traditional legend are present: The encounter on the bridge with Little John; crossing the river with Friar Tuck; and the Golden Arrow contest. Maid Marian played by Olivia de Havilland, is elevated to the status of royal ward, and the elaborate costumes come thick and fast. Indeed, what in 1938 was considered one of the film's strengths, its colour and spectacle, is today a part of it's downfall; the merry men of sherwood resembling at times a group of garden gnomes rather than Saxon outlaws. (This can be particularly distracting during the speeded up fight sequences in Sherwood Forest!) Another weakness is the foppish Will Scarlet character, Robin's closest friend right from the outset of the film, and dressed from head to toe in Technicolour scarlet.
Nevertheless, one cannot help but be thrilled at Robin's impudent entrance into the heart of Nottingham Castle, throwing a dead stag before Prince John's guests, and at the sword fighting climax between Robin and Sir Guy, casting dramatic shadows across the walls; a fight which passed into Hollywood legend and rightly so. The real life hellraising friendship between Rathbone and Flynn, and the oft reported fact that de Havilland was actually in love with him, surely helped the on screen chemistry. Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood is certain to retain its popular status with the general public and with younger fans, although hard core Robin aficionados might prefer a less flambouyant interpretation of the legend.

The Pictures of Robin Hood website and the Robin Hood website both feature more pictures from this film together with reviews of other Robin Hood films.

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