Wednesday, February 03, 2016


Roger de Courtney (Peter Blythe) is known for his cruelty—we see him shoot and kill a Norman man, right in front of his young son, for hunting royal deer. John, Roger's father, leaves his estate to be split between the wicked Roger and his somewhat less wicked brother Henry, but with his dying breath, John adds their goodhearted cousin Robin (Barrie Ingram) as an heir. This infuriates Roger who, in short order, murders Henry and frames Robin for the crime. Robin goes on the run, along with the sympathetic Friar Tuck, hiding in Sherwood Forest, and is accepted into a group of rebel Saxons who, get this, rob from the rich (the decadent landowners) and give to the (overtaxed) poor. Soon Robin is leading the band and eventually sets off on a mission to rescue Lady Marian, being held prisoner by Roger and the Sherriff of Nottingham.

I must admit I sometimes wonder why filmmakers keep doing Robin Hood stories when the 1939 Errol Flynn ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD is so darned good. Hammer Films, usually known for horror movies, made the occasional adventure film and this was not their first time around with Robin and his Merry Men; Hammer made two previous versions in 1954 and 1960, the latter (SWORD OF SHERWOOD FOREST) featuring Richard Greene who played Robin Hood on TV for several seasons. This version would seem custom made for kids, though it lacks, until the end, the rousing swashbuckling that younger viewers might like. Ingram is hopelessly miscast as Robin—he's not particularly handsome or charming or charismatic. In fact, two other actors in the cast—Leon Greene who plays the hulking Little John, and Eric Flynn who is Alan-a-Dale, might have been more effective in the lead role. Peter Blythe is good as the evil Roger who, as he seems to lose his grasp on reality, recalls Vincent Price as Prospero in MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. At one point, Alan starts strumming a lute and a production number almost breaks out, putting me in mind of the "Brave Sir Robin" song in MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. Once this movie gets going, it's OK, but it never really overcomes the weakness of its leading man. Pictured above are Will Scarlet (Douglas Mitchell), Alan-a-Dale, Little John and Robin Hood. [TCM]

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