Adventures of Robin Hood, The (1938)

A light-hearted adventure-comedy from the Golden Age of Hollywood with a predictable storyline but outstanding period production design.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Michael Curtiz & William Keighley
1938 | USA | Action/Adventure/Romance | 102 mins | 1.37:1 | English
PG (passed clean) for adventure violence

Cast: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone
Plot: 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.
Awards: Won 3 Oscars – Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Original Score.  Nom. for 1 Oscar – Best Picture.
Distributor: Warner Bros

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Slightly Light (suitable for families)
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: DVD
First Published: 29 Nov 2008
Spoilers: No

One might do a double-take when one realizes that the co-director of The Adventures of Robin Hood was also responsible for Casablanca (1942), one of the best films ever made in the history of American cinema.

Hungarian-born Michael Curtiz has made more than a hundred films in his lifetime, a direct result of his dedication to filmmaking efficiency – economical, fluent, and fast.

While he is a prolific filmmaker, Curtiz is a jack of all trades; he makes films of nearly every genre but he has no personal signature stamp on any of them. While we can easily recognize, say, a Tarantino or a Kubrick film, Curtiz’s movies are less than identifiable.

The Adventures of Robin Hood stars Errol Flynn as the title character. He injects liveliness and energy from the start and is consistent till the end. He paints Robin Hood as a character that is level-headed, smart, and one who dares to challenge authority. And of course, he robs the rich to help the poor.

“Why, you speak treason!”

In this film, he is faced with a prospect of a death sentence if caught, and he has to foil a murder attempt on the King of England by his power-hungry brother. Olivier DeHavilland plays the daughter of the King, and incidentally Robin Hood’s love interest.

The robust chemistry between Flynn and DeHavilland helps to elevate the rather predictable storyline into something that is more than just cheesy swordfights and silly knights on horses.

One aspect that overwhelms Curtiz’s passable film direction is the extraordinary art direction and set decoration by Carl Jules Weyl. Weyl manages to bring a centuries-old England monarchic authenticity to the set despite filming in a modern Hollywood backlot.

The Adventures of Robin Hood is a light-hearted adventure-comedy with, I dare say, more side jokes than pure action; in fact, even the action sequences are somewhat quirkily shot.

However, it remains rather overrated. It is not one of the greatest films of all-time that some critics tout it to be, but it is perfect fodder for a Saturday afternoon. A lazy one, if I might add.

Grade: B



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