Note : this review is a contribution to the Swashathon : a blogathon of swashbuckling Adventure hosted by Movies Silently.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz & William Keighley, 1938)
When Prince John and the Norman Lords begin oppressing the Saxon masses in King Richard's absence, a Saxon lord fights back as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla army.
When watching The Adventures of Robin Hood I was telling myself how at this time it was such a great cinematic spectacle. To be in a huge theatre full of people and with the volume very high I bet it was quite something to attend. In fact, the huge sets, big stars, thunderous music, and the presence of fearless stunt men the effects of the quality of the production were palpable even alone in my living room in 2015. The experience of this show should have been grandiose for the public back in 1938. It is also not obvious that it left a permanent mark for the future generations of filmmakers. Another influence it would have is on the Disney pictures that have wonderful colors and the use of the music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Leo F. Forbstein. The orchestrations have been recognized by the American Film Institute as the 11th greatest film score of all time.
Another aspect that is quite remarkable about The Adventures of Robin Hood is how it screams loud and clear classic Hollywood with the presence of Flynn and Havilland. Together, they have made eight films of epic scale. Flynn, the ultimate adventure player close with his predecessor Douglas Fairbanks in the Robin Hood role, represents charm and the humanity in his personification of the green clothed hero.
The messianic figure of Robin Hood painted here in this version of the legendary lord who steals from the oppressor and gives back to the poor and the outcasts is brilliantly represented. It is simple suspicion but I would make a parallel between Robin Hood and the politics of President F.D. Roosevelt who at the time tried to help people in America suffering from the Great Depression. It is probably also a metaphor on the fact that German dictator Adolf Hitler was trying to rule Europe like Prince John who was without any other consideration than his court. Much like Hitler’s politics of racism and national-socialism. This observation might be wrong or too Historically oriented about the meanings of the epic entertainment that is the action filled film we are discussing here but I’m a believer that movies are more than just entertainment.
Lastly, this film is indeed a lot of fun with its many actions sequences and gentle comedy. The presence and charisma of Errol Flynn is central to the success of the story and later would be linked with this role for the rest of his career. To many, he is the incarnation of Robin Hood even more than the flour logo. The chemistry between Flynn and Olivia de Havilland is another noticeable aspect of Robin Hood and the lady is funny and have great eye contact with her co-star. With all that said, I cannot pass over the directing of Michael Curtiz, just like the couple of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, Curtiz knew how to direct his actors in a way that a romantic tension is palpable without a single word said. Curtiz probably sensed the mutual attraction of his two stars and knew just how to utilize it and shoot it on film.
The Adventures of Robin Hood is a Hollywood production that still stands as one of the greatest action/adventure movies of all time. Iconic, classic, and enjoyable.