Friday, August 3, 2012

Classic Film Reviews: The Adventures of Robin Hood

The English tale of Robin Hood and his Merry Men has become one of popular culture's favorite legends, depicted many times on screen and stage over the last century. We'll be showing one of the richer versions this Monday at the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival Now with Pepsi and presented with Ralph Lauren. The Adventures of Robin Hood is one of the earliest representations of the beloved story in large format, and still considered one of the finest. Noteworthy for its use of lush technicolor, and some of the most famous actors of the decade - Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and Claude Rains, the 1938 version of the film stands the test of time.

In honor of the people's knight of Sherwood Forest, here is a look back at some of the more famous depictions of our swashbuckling hero from Mike Scott at the New Orleans Times-Picayune in 2010, on the occasion of Ridley Scott's decidedly darker adaption of the story, starring Russell Crowe.

A history of 'Robin Hood' in Hollywood
By Mike Scott, The Times-Picayune
Published: Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ridley Scott's version of the "Robin Hood" legend lands in theaters on Friday (May 14) -- with Russell Crowe in the title role and Cate Blanchett playing his Maid Marion -- adding to a long string of movies about the lengendary hero-outlaw.

In fact, Hollywood has been revisiting Nottingham since the silent-picture days. Here are some of the more notable big-screen appearances Robin Hood and his merry men have made over the years. Which is your favorite? Or is it even on the list? Leave your comments below.

1922 "Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood."
The biggest star of the day undertakes a silent retelling, which stands as the definitive version -- for 16 years.

1938 "The Adventures of Robin Hood." Errol Flynn re-defines the role, as a Technicolor Sherwood Forest and oodles of charisma combine for what by most accounts is still the best version of the story.

1958 "Robin Hood Daffy." Seven words: "Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!" (Oh, and here are four more: See embedded video below.)

1964 "Robin and the 7 Hoods." The Rat Pack -- Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. -- are joined by Bing Crosby and Edward G. Robinson in a musical version, reset in 1930s Chicago. Cool, man, cool.

1973 The Disney treatment. In the House of Mouse's animated version, King Richard was a lion, Robin was a cunning fox, Little John looked suspiciously like Baloo the bear from "The Jungle Book, " and Roger Miller wrote and sang the theme song -- which I'll now be humming all day.

1976 "Robin and Marian." Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn play the star-crossed title roles, with Richard Harris as Richard the Lionhart. Connery would return to Nottingham 15 years later, playing Richard in ...

1991 "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." Kevin Costner, sans English accent, tackles the role, in a big-screen version that was a hit with audiences but less so with critics. It co-starred Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater (as Will Scarlett), and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (as Marion). Perhaps most memorable is Alan Rickman, who vamps it up as a particularly evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

1993 "Robin Hood: Men In Tights." Inspired by Costner's version, funnyman Mel Brooks takes a run at the lengend, with this big-screen spoof just two years later, with Cary Elwes ("The Princess Bride") in the title role. It's all just good, goofy fun, though not quite as on-target as Brooks can be.

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