Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950)

Without specifically saying so, “Rogues of Sherwood Forest” suggests itself to be a kind of sequel to the “Adventures of Robin Hood”, and features the son of Robin Hood. This conception is given added credence with the repeat performance by Alan Hale as Little John. (This was Hale’s third performance in the role, the first being the Douglas Fairbanks version. Sadly, it would also prove to be his final film). However, this being 1950 Hollywood, no specific details are given regarding his father’s marriage to a Marian, or how babies might be made. (Note: In 1939, Tarzan and Jane could not be filmed as a married couple in the jungle and had to “find” a son in the wreckage of a plane in “Tarzan Finds A Son”.) Similarly, the “Marian” in this story is the conveniently similarly named Marianne de Beaudray. But don’t let any of that put you off.

The plot involves Little John and young Robin, Earl of Huntingdon, returned from the Crusades and living in an England ruled by King John. The King holds a grudge against Robin because of his father’s exploits as the original Robin Hood, and so arranges a jousting contest in which the young Earl is meant to be killed. Needless to say, after some flirting with Lady Marianne, Robin survives the contest.

King John is having trouble enforcing his rule in England, and needs more troops to impose his will on the people. He seeks to buy Flemish troops from the Count of Flanders, but to do so he must raise the money by introducing punitive taxes. When Robin opposes him he is outlawed and his lands confiscated. Robin then responds by becoming the outlaw his father once was and, at Little John’s suggestion, gathers together the original “merry men” (though not, it should be stressed, the original actors apart from Hale). And, of course, Marianne plays her part as an informant to the outlaws regarding the King’s plans.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film. A colourful, light hearted piece of entertainment with all the iconic outlaws present, even if (as is the point), they are more advanced in years than most films depict them. It would have been nice to hear how the original Robin had died (we don’t), and yes it is a bit strong to suggest King John signed the Magna Carter because of Robin Hood’s son. But hey, those fans who prefer their Robin Hood in such splendid attire, with lots of galloping of horses hooves through the forest, as lots of arrows find their targets in the chests of shiny helmeted soldiers, will find plenty to enjoy. I certainly did.

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