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Archive for December 21st, 2009

Robin Hood

Who was Robin Hood? There are many stories and songs about the character that originated the legend we all know about. Many modern versions of the story particularly movies make Robin a contemporary of Richard the Lionheart during the time of The Third Crusade (1189–1192). Many of the stories are interwoven with the stories of King Richard and his brother King John. There is little evidence of there been any truth to this, There are suggestions that if there was a Robin Hood he may have been around many years after this time possibly the mid 13th century. There are also huge discrepancies as to where he lived. All this suggest that there were probably several characters over many years whose activities where merged together for artistic licence. Whatever the truth Robin Hood has been the subject of many movies and with a new one staring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett and directed by Ridley Scott due out next year I thought I would look back at some previous films.

Robin Hood (1922) aka Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood: This silent movie is sometimes referred to as the original Robin Hood movie. It wasn’t actually the first, but it was the first on a large scale. Based on a screenplay by Douglas Fairbanks (under a pseudonym) who also producer and star. The production was huge costing a around a million dollars (average ticket prices at the time where around one fiftieth what they are today). The story follows what are now the norm with Robin joining King Richard the Lion-Heart on the Crusades leaving Prince John in to run the country. By modern standards the film (as with most silent films) looks very dated but is an interesting starting point.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938): Making full use of its three-strip Technicolor photography the film is a riot of colour. For this reason the brightly coloured sets and costumes have been ridiculed imitated and spoofed ever since. Putting this aside it is a great film with a fantastic cast including: Errol Flynn as Robin Hood, Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian, Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy of Gisbourne and Claude Rains as Prince John.

Robin Hood (1973) (Disney version) I wasn’t going to mention this one as I haven’t seen it since I was a kid and it didn’t originally spring to mind as a seminal Robin Hood movie but then I remembered that it is  #10 on Ross McG’s Top 100 movies (form Ross v Ross ) so I thought I would throw it in. The film follows the traditional narrative that we associate with the myth and as Ross points out in his appraisal of the film “Maid Marian was a fox” nothing unusual there you may think but in this case she literally was Vulpine! According to Ross it is “the best damn cartoon ever made”. the costumes and are clearly inspired by The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), see above. Like so many Robin Hood films, not a classic but its good fun and far less offensive than most of Disney’s output.

Robin and Marian (1976): Long after the end of the crusades and following the death of Richard the Lion-Heart (Richard Harris), Robin Hood (Sean Connery) and Little John (Nicol Williamson) return home to England to find Maid Marian (Audrey Hepburn) has become a nun. Its not long before Robin is at odds with his old nemesis The Sheriff of Nottingham (Robert Shaw). Dealing with a much older Robin than we are used to creates a very different vibe to other movies and is worth seeing for that reason alone. The real reason to watch it is for the all star cast, especially Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn in the title roles.

Robin Hood (1991): Lost in the shadow of Kevin Costner, John Irvin’s 1991 movie has a real authentic feel to it. Concentrating on the relationship between the Normans and the Saxons this film tries to go back to the older legends that created the Robin Hood story. Robin is actually a Saxon noble Sir Robert Hode (Patrick Bergin) a real person of the era who may be the origin of Robin Hood. There is no Sheriff of Nottingham or Guy of Gisbourne, they are replaced by Sir Miles Folcanet (Jürgen Prochnow) and Baron Jeroen Krabbe (Roger Daguerre) respectively. Most of the other usual suspects are present including Maid Marian played by an excellent Uma Thurman. Edward Fox makes a small but memorable appearance as Prince John.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991): Robin of Locksley (Kevin Costner) is an English nobleman returning home from the crusades along with a Moor, Azeem (Morgan Freeman) whose life, Robin saved In Jerusalem. The film then follows the usual predictable story of Robin fighting the injustice of the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. The film was hugely successful grossing more than eight times its budget. It has however been roundly criticised for Kevin Costner’s portrail of Robin with blond highlights and American accent. He actually does a decent job as a charismatic Robin but lets be honest the real reason to watch the film is for Alan Rickman and Michael Wincott as Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Gisborne. If you want to find a reason to criticize the film try its geography; Robin and Azeem appear to arrive in Dover, walk to Hadrian’s Wall before ending up in Locksley, all in a day.

Robin Hood on TV

Robin of Sherwood (1985-1986): Probably the best TV version of Robin Hood, Robin of Sherwood ran for 26 episodes over three series. Michael Praed played Robin of Loxley, for the third season he was replaced by Jason (son of Sean) Connery Robert of Huntingdon. This mirrors the suggestion that Robin Hood was more than one person. Combining realistic period setting s with a sense of realism and a hint of mysticism the program worker really well.  Another notable member of the cast was Ray Winstone as Will Scarlet. The series came to a premature end for fanatical reasons.

So what can we expect from Ridley Scott? This may give you an idea:

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