Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Adventures of Robin Hood (Curtiz. Keighley. 1938)

“Men, if you're willing to fight for our people, I want you!”

I have to admit, there are some films on the 1077 Films to See Before You Die that I am giddy to watch. As a kid, I always wanted to be Robin Hood. I loved how suave he was. I loved how he was able to stir up trouble for all of the right reasons. I really loved how he always presented the moral high-ground. Okay, you caught me, I am ginger and I loved that he wore lots of green. Either way, our hero shows all of those traits in the colorful and timeless masterpiece, The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Directed by Michael Cutriz and William Keighley, the film basically tells the long known story of Robin Hood. It opens with a scene of Robin and his ward fighting off the evil forces of Prince John and it never looks back from there. Robin Hood is played by one of my favorite actors of all time, Errol Flynn. Though his performance as everyone’s favorite bandit is now legendary, he was not actually the first choice for the role. Warner Brothers’ Studio wanted the title role to be played by the much shorter James Cagney- who was their biggest star at the time. But after Cagney quit the studio, The Adventures of Robin Hood was left without a star and put on hold for three years.

This is one of the most interesting instances of everything going right in Hollywood. If Cagney would not have walked out on his studio we would never have gotten to see Errol Flynn in his most famous role. At 28 years old, Flynn played Robin Hood with a masculine vibrato that counteracts his campy appearance. It was Flynn who invented the modern day image of Robin Hood. He created a character that was deadly in combat but debonair in speech. He worked with a quick and sharp tongue that helped you follow his moral superiority over the shallow Prince John. Flynn never seemed out of place as this character. In fact, he played him so well that fans had a hard time letting him move on from his Robin Hood image.

Besides Errol Flynn’s brilliance, The Adventures of Robin Hood is notable in film history because it was a physically ambitious project. Upon its release in 1938, this film actually boasted the most hired stuntmen ever in Hollywood. What can you expect? The word adventure is even in the title. You see these stuntmen making unbelievable jumps from ankle-breaking heights and you have to wonder how they managed to pull it all off. There was not any computer animated anything in the 1930’s. These stunts were real and the stuntmen in The Adventures of Robin Hood were accomplished artists.

Of course, it is important that I mention the single aspect that makes The Adventures of Robin Hood a staple in classic film, Technicolor. The artistry of the film is astounding. Somehow, Cutriz and Keighley were able to make all of the color pop right off the screen to create one the most aesthetically pleasing backdrops in film. The greens and reds of Sherwood Forrest perfectly complemented the particular costumes of our heroes, yet it clashed with the outfits of their enemies. The Adventures of Robin Hood was one of the earliest pioneers of using color in cinema. It is also the most beautiful color production I have seen so far. Artistic merit alone makes this a film worth seeing. You will be blown away by the advanced coloring techniques throughout the entire thing.

One fun note to point out- the trick shot you see at the end of the archery contest actually happened. It was not trick photography. The shot was made by the head archer on set, who also happened to be Robin’s opponent in the contest. Fun fact over…..

I already did admit that I wish I was Robin Hood. He is one of the coolest and most sophisticated characters in almost any mythos. Flynn is perfect in his most memorable film and most acclaimed role. You know, it almost seems too easy to write a positive review for one of the most loved films in history. But even I cannot find something about The Adventures of Robin Hood worth complaining about.

The color is breathtaking, the acting is iconic, the story is formidable and the stunts are impressive. I guess I have to fall into the crowd with this one. You will find yourself rooting for Flynn as he robs from the rich to give to the poor. Robin Hood is my jam. Errol is the man. And The Adventures of Robin Hood is a masterpiece. Good luck finding a better film from the 1930’s.

The Adventures of Robin Hood: A

My Next Film…..Umberto D (De Sica. 1952)

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