Which Robin Hood do you like?

robin2The adventures of Errol Flynn were as infamous in the media as Marilyn Munroe or Lindsay Lohan, but his film career was one-hundred times better, making 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood an instant classic.  “In Like Flynn” is a phrase that caught on after Errol Flynn deftly avoided some statutory rape charges and the trial led to a surprising rise in his overall popularity.  Because of this, the phrase became associated with Flynn’s womanizing and unwavering success.  By 1938, Flynn was a massive star, and The Adventures of Robin Hood only solidified his legendary status early in his career.  However, many other actors have portrayed Robin Hood.

robin3Many people dislike The Adventures of Robin Hood for its adventure clichés and its childish tone, as if it were a kid’s film disguised as a big budget blockbuster.  Not only does this film have as much sappy romance as any Kevin Costner film, but it was made into a swashbuckling adventure romp.  It was also made to contrast the rules and regulations put on the film industry at that time by the Production Code Authority, which had come down hard on gangster movies and other violent or racy films.  Because of this, the tone of movies became more general and perhaps more colorful. This film typifies this change.  The color, the set, and the costumes matched the tone.  No other film is so rich and saturated with primary colors, except maybe The Wizard of Oz, which is a triumph of color.

robin5Errol Flynn doesn’t carry this picture alone though, but is joined by stars Claude Rains, Olivia de Havilland  and Basil Rathbone, who also give great performances. I have reviewed The Invisible Man (1933) starring Rains on this site, but his stoic nature comes out better in this movie as the villainous Prince John.  Although he does a good job playing Sir Guy, Basil Rathbone doesn’t solidify his status in film until becoming Sherlock Holmes in 1939, when he crafted his performances as the Great Detective into the definitive take on the character that was accepted for many, many years.  I believe Olivia de Havilland gives an underrated performance as Lady Marian.  She would team up with Errol Flynn in other movies, thanks to her success in The Adventures of Robin Hood.

You know Robin Hood, don’t you?

robin9robin8Does anyone need to remind themselves who Robin Hood is?  Robin Hood has been reduced to a summary on a Wiki or a clip on YouTube, so I can say The Adventures of Robin Hood is fairly accurate to the story, but that doesn’t mean much.  How do kids today learn about Robin Hood? Most people know him from the movies or cartoons.  He’s the guy that steals from the rich and gives to the poor.  That’s what Robin Hood has been reduced to, for better or worse.

Before I ever saw this film, or any movie about Robin Hood, I knew who he was.  Maybe it was discussed in school, because I can’t really remember, but I felt excited when Kevin Costner first starred in a modern version of Robin Hood that wasn’t a cartoon.  It was exciting.  It was an adventure.  Sure, it had flaws, but I didn’t care.  I wasn’t a hardened critic or anything.  Then Russell Crowe’s version came out and I could barely watch it.  I think the movie was trying to cater to a more mature audience, but it stunk to high heaven.  Everything was overdone, melodramatic, and long.  Just lengthy and drawn-out for no good reason.

robin12The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn is an old-school take on the legend of Robin Hood, but I think it is a good movie.  I think Basil Rathbone and Olivia de Havilland stand out more than Kevin Costner’s supporting cast, who went way over the top with the hammy dialogue and acting.  Flynn’s pals are way more understated.  Errol Flynn plays to the popular notion of Robin Hood and molds him into a hero, which is pretty predictable, but that doesn’t make it bad, in my opinion.

Which Robin Hood do you like?

prince2I think Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with Costner still may be stuck in the mind of a lot of people as the definitive take on the character.   Today, I’m not sure which Robin Hood movie version I prefer better, because all have strengths and weaknesses.  Alan Hickman as the Sheriff in Prince of Thieves is just so annoying, that’d I’d probably have to give it to The Adventures of Robin Hood, but I like the modern setting.  So I dunno.  

I can remember when Prince of Thieves originally came out back in 1991.  It was a massive hit.  I mean, massive.  It had girl fans cause it had a sappy love story, and the stupid love song was played everywhere.  It had guy fans cause it had action up the wazoo.  Kevin Costner was also a star and still drew pretty well back then.  He had his own action figure and Happy Meal toys.  You couldn’t escape it.  

robincRobin Hood does have a cartoon version.  To be honest, I’m not sure if the cartoon Robin Hood made by Disney still has fans.  Maybe it does, but there are other things kids today enjoy way more than 70s Disney cartoons.   Still, this is probably the most classic version of Robin Hood, because Disney boils him down to his essentials.  I haven’t seen this cartoon in forever.

robinsucksI can’t even count how many times I’ve heard a criticism of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood.  Maybe he got a raw deal because it was Robin Hood, one of the most famous fictional adventure heroes ever created.  If it was just a regular adventure story, maybe Ridley Scott wouldn’t get criticized every time I look on YouTube.  Oh well.

 Which Robin Hood do you prefer?