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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