Errol Flynn's 'Robin Hood' towers above the rest

June 14, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

In a clever bit of counter-marketing, the bright lad who runs Ye Olde Senator Theater has located a newly struck Technicolor print of Ye Olde "Adventures of Robin Hood," from 1938, with the Prince of Knaves himself, the original swashbuckler, Errol FIn a clever bit of counter-marketing, the bright lad who runs Ye Olde Senator Theater has located a newly struck Technicolor print of Ye Olde "Adventures of Robin Hood," from 1938, with the Prince of Knaves himself, the original swashbuckler, Errol Flynn, and is offering it as an alternative (or antidote) to the Kevin Kevin Costner Reynolds version now appearing on four million American movie screens.

An irony here is that the original film hailed from Warner Bros. adoes the new one. But Warner's sold its film library to Ted Turner some years back, thus making it possible for one Warner Bros. Robin to compete against another one (the film is being resurrected in several other cities as well.)

It hails from an age when the studios, pumping out 200 or so films a year, all had house styles, and if ever a film bore one, this is it. The only thing that's missing is young Ronald Reagan as Will Scarlett and he was probably busy making "Knute Rockne, All-American" at the time. And come to think of it, isn't casting Kevin Costner as Robin Hood the approximate same as casting Ronald Regan? That's a mistake Warner didn't make 50 years back but . . .

Set in a somewhat ditzy version of the Middle Ages as devised on the studio back lot, it's full of proletarian energy, as the Merry Men were the first version of the noble masses who would, in a few short years, pilot the bombers and crew the tankers and fill up the infantry platoons under the leadership of Flynn ("Desperate Journey") and Humphrey Bogart ("Action in the North Atlantic") in the great Warner war pictures.

The merriest of the merry boys is Alan Hale, stumpy and radiating bon hommie as Little John. But all the way through you can see The Formula: romantic leading characters backed up by savvy professional character actors, each of whom is given a little moment of ingratiating business as the piece hurtles along.

As for Flynn, pardon me, but he's wonderful. An amoral scalawag off screen, he was the ideal vessel on screen for the kind of romantic mythmaking that the studios of the '30s specialized in. He was handsome enough to woo the women, tough enough to woo the men and slick enough to invest the most preposterous mock-Shakespeare dialogue with energy and brio. And he looked great in green tights.

'The Adventures of Robin Hood' (1938)

Starring Errol Flynn and Claude Raines.

Directed by Michael Curtiz.

Released by MGM-UA.

****

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