Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Bandit of Sherwood Forest (1946)

Above: Cornel Wilde as Robert, Son of Robin Hood.

Robin Hood, now the silver haired Earl of Huntingdon some 20 years after his exploits as the legendary outlaw of Sherwood Forest, learns that The Regent William of Pembroke is scheming to revoke the Magna Carta. The aging Robin argues against Pembroke and as a consequence is outlawed, whilst the Boy King is also kidnapped by Pembroke from the Queen. And so it is that Robin Hood / Earl of Huntington calls together his outlaw gang of old (seeming hundreds of whom come charging out of Sherwood Forest riding stallions and looking like a cross between the 7th Cavalry and Geronimo’s Apaches), whilst the Queen and Lady Catherine take shelter with the “old hag” Mother Meg.

Above: An aging Robin Hood with Merry Men Little John and Alan A Dale.

The actual hero of the film is Robert Hood, son of Robin, who in time honoured tradition proves his strengths in a good hearted sword fight with Friar Tuck. This idea of making the son of Robin Hood the central character will be used again in 1950’s “Rogues of Sherwood Forest”. However, the difference here is that the original, aging Robin Hood is still alive and fights alongside Robert.

Above: The original Robin Hood as earl of Huntington.

It would be easy to be cynical about the Bandit of Sherwood Forest, especially Cornel Wilde’s padded shoulders and huge pointy hat which make him look like Peter Pan on steroids. Also, note how in 1946 it was perfectly acceptable for the hero to creep up on a girl he’d never met, spy on her bathing, then forcibly kiss her, all within the space of about 60 seconds, only to have her fall instantly in love with him. However, I found it to be an enjoyable, well crafted, colourful adventure, in which all the legend’s main characters are present. (Apart from Marian, where there is an almost unspoken implication that Robert was raised by the “old hag” Mother Meg). As with the aforementioned “Rogues of Sherwood Forest”, “Bandit of Sherwood Forest” is intended to be seen as a possible sequel to the Errol Flynn classic, and comes complete with an attempt to duplicate the former film's staircase duel at the end.

(Note: The media would have you believe Russell Crowe was the oldest actor to play Robin Hood. Now you know better! Russell Hicks was 51 years old when he played the role in this film.)

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