The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Director: Michael Curtiz & William Keighley
Cast:  Errol FlynnOlivia de HavillandBasil 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.

  Action / Adventure / Romance
Awards:  Won 3 Oscars - Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Original Score.  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Picture.

Runtime:  102min
Rating:  PG
for adventure violence. 


One might do a double-take when he/she realizes that the 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 a Scorsese film or a Kubrick picture, 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. 

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 p
assable 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 much too overrated.  It is not the masterpiece that some critics tout it to be, but it is perfect fodder for a Saturday afternoon.  A lazy one, if I might add.


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