MOVIE REVIEW | The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Poster - Adventures of Robin Hood, The_02
“I’ll organize revolt, exact a death for a death, and I’ll never rest until every Saxon in this shire can stand up free men and strike a blow for Richard and England.”

Errol Flynn is one of those actors who I recognise immediately, even though I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single one of his movies. He is the epitome of swashbuckling, daring do. And while I hadn’t seen any of his movies before now, and probably could only name one, that one is so iconic, I can’t believe I’d never seen it until now. That iconic one is The Adventures of Robin Hood.


While King Richard is captured during the Crusades, his ruthless brother, Prince John (Claud Rains) takes over. Taxing the shit out of his subjects and letting his men indulge in a bit of the ol’ rape and pillage, it’s clear that the people need a hero. Cue Robin Hood (Errol Flynn), a nobleman who leaves his life of riches and privilege behind to lead a revolution. Along with his mate Will Scarlett (Patric Knowles), and recruits Little John (Alan Hale) and Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette), Robin Hood and his merry men build a forest utopia, while killing Prince John’s men and fighting for the little guy.

The more successful Robin becomes, the more attention he attracts from Prince John. He also attracts more than a little attention from saucy minx, Lady Marian (Oivia de Havilland). Which makes her the perfect bait when Prince John decides to lure Robin to town.

Movies don’t come any lighter than The Adventures of Robin Hood. This is pure fluff, all bright colours, brighter acting, cheesy costumes, cheesier props and over the top everything. There’s no attempt at anything even approaching realism and all of that is pretty great. This is exactly the kind of film making I think of when I think about this time. Before the darkness of noir hit a couple of years later, this kind of optimistic, rose coloured fairy floss is what I want from a 30s movie.

This is a story I’m sure everyone knows. From the animated Disney version, to the Kevin Costner joint from the 90s (that I’ve seen way too many times for some reason), to the recent Rusty Crowe interpretation, there’s nothing new plot wise to be found. But the fact that I still really enjoyed it, shows how well made The Adventures of Robin Hood is.

For a movie that’s closing in on 80 years old, The Adventures of Robin Hood still looks pretty great too. Maybe I watched a restored version, but the look is so crisp and clean that I would never have picked it for being nearly as old as it is.

Amateurish fight scenes, clumsy sword fights, cornball sentimentality and hammy acting you can see from a mile away. How do all of these seemingly negative ingredients add up to make something so enjoyable?

The Adventures of Robin Hood
Directed By – Michael CurtizWilliam Keighley
Written By – Norman Reilly Raine

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