Welcome to the latest installment of The Bucket Cine-list, in which we take a look at the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. The movie in the spotlight this week is the 1938 adventure classic The Adventures of Robin Hood.
Robin of Locksley (Errol Flynn), a Saxon noble in England, saves a peasant from the forces of the wicked Guy of Gisbourne. Stripped of his land and power after his behaviour, and angered by the mistreatment of his countrymen by Prince John (Claude Rains), Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone), and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Melville Cooper), Robin sends out a call for the men of Sherwood to unite with him and fight the injustice until the good King Richard returns from the Crusades. Robin Hood and his Merry Men struggle to fight the good fight, encountering both friends, foes, archery tournaments, evil plots, and even romance along the way.
Reasons for its significance:
The Adventures of Robin Hood was an enormous production filmed in Technicolor – before that was common practice – that went on to be a critically-praised smash hit. The buoyant adventure was a huge influence on the genre of adventure films and further solidified actor Errol Flynn’s status as a major star. The film called the composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold to the United States (his departure quite possibly saved him from persecution by the Nazis who closed the borders of Austria shortly thereafter) and his score was universally acclaimed, even winning an Oscar. Korngold brought his high art experience as a famed composer in Europe to the silver screen, helping to elevate film music as an art form and influencing the development of the medium. His influence is apparent in the works of composers like John Williams (listen to Korngold’s King’s Row theme and Williams’ main theme for Star Wars back to back and see). A triumph of the studio system in the Golden Age of Hollywood, The Adventures of Robin Hood is the ultimate feel-good, action/adventure extravaganza, and it holds up well even after almost eighty years.
The Adventures of Robin Hood is quite simply my favorite film of all time. I love many, many movies, but none of them provoke the unrestrained joy in me that this movie does. It’s a feast for the eyes and ears with its brilliant Technicolor palette, the beautiful costumes and sets, the extravagantly wonderful score, and a star-studded cast.
The talent on display is Golden Age Hollywood at its best: Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Errol Flynn, and Olivia de Havilland are some of the greatest talents to ever grace the screen, and to have them all appearing in one movie is better than Christmas. Flynn is at his peak here, and his effortless charm and charisma are perfect for the role of the heroic outlaw of legend. De Havilland is as luminous and genuine as ever as Maid Marian and their onscreen romance is among my favorite love stories in a movie… ever. Rathbone was commonly cast in villainous roles (except when he was playing Sherlock Holmes, a role in which he was amazing) and his talent for being simultaneously dastardly and debonair is on full display in this movie. Claude Rains brings his usual casual elegance and sophisticated villainy to the evil Prince John and Melville Cooper is a delight as the comic Sheriff who can’t find Robin Hood to save his life.
The music is one of the greatest film scores ever written. It’s colorful, jubilant, riotously beautiful, and an integral part of the story, particularly at the climax. Erich Korngold is one of the great names in film music, and The Adventures of Robin Hood has a stunning score. I was lucky enough to hear a suite from the movie performed live once, and it was an absolutely joyful experience.
This movie is as good an adventure movie as has ever been made. It became my favorite movie a very long time ago when I was a little girl at a slumber party. Someone put in a VHS tape in the middle of the night and The Adventures of Robin Hood filled the screen. I was instantly glued to the screen by the music, the colors, the actors – it was utterly captivating. I grew older, but the movie never lost that power. It is a movie that is equally accessible to children and adults, exquisitely crafted in every way, and an absolute delight no matter how many times I watch it. No other film has ever been able to dethrone it in my mind. Everyone should check it out at least once in their life. It’s a joyful movie, beautiful in every way, and a triumph of moviemaking even after all this time – and if that’s not the definition of a classic, then I don’t know what is.
The Adventures of Robin Hood is available on DVD and blu-ray and also through Amazon Instant Video.