Is 1938’s ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ a perfect film? If not, it comes awfully close. (Photo credit: Stock image)

The Editor’s Desk: Welcome to Sherwood

Is 1938’s ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ the perfect movie?

Recently, while trolling through my Facebook feed, I stumbled upon an interesting comment, which was surprising, because “Facebook’ and “interesting comment” don’t always go together. It was about whether there was such a thing as the “perfect movie”, and consensus seemed to be that there wasn’t. However, one movie immediately leapt to mind as being as near as dammit perfect as it’s possible to get: 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn.

If you’ve seen the film, you know precisely what I mean. If you haven’t, then get thee to it as quickly as humanly possible (also, where have you been for the past 82 years?). Those last words are crucial in appreciating what a wondrous film this is: it’s more than eight decades old, but is as fresh and sparkling as if it had been made yesterday.

That’s in no small part due to the decision by Warner Bros. to film it in colour, a technology that was still in its infancy in 1938. The three-strip Technicolor process in use at the time was cumbersome and expensive, requiring vast amounts of equipment and lights which made indoor scenes especially difficult for the actors (in The Wizard of Oz, made in 1939, Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion had a difficult time because the heat generated by the lights, combined with his heavy costume, caused him to nearly pass out more than once).

But it pays off gloriously in Robin Hood, which still shines like a lustrous jewel, from the greens of Nottingham Forest (filmed in California) and the blue of the sky to the deep golds and reds of the costumes. It also sets this version of the legend apart from more modern screen interpretations, where everything seems coloured from a palette that this is limited to “mud”. That might be more historically accurate (the 13th century isn’t known for its cleanliness and vivid fashion colours), but as Maxwell Scott says in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

Then there is Flynn’s Robin Hood, who is very much the bold and sympathetic hero. This also sets the film apart from many modern iterations, where Robin is a conflicted and/or tortured and/or troubled soul battling all manner of personal demons. No; the Flynn version was made at a time when Hollywood producers would have thought a “gritty reboot” meant dirty footwear. His Robin is unambiguously the person audiences are supposed to root for, just as Basil Rathbone’s Sir Guy of Gisbourne is the hiss-worthy villain par excellence, and their climactic swordfight is one of the very best in movie history, filmed in fluid, balletic, energetic long takes that make it clear both actors were doing their own stuntwork.

Rathbone is admirably supported in the dastardly stakes by Claude Rains as the oily, scheming Prince John and Melville Cooper as a smarmy Sheriff of Nottingham who is a yes-man of epic proportions. However, they and their forces are no match for Robin and his merry men, played by a who’s who of character actors who knew more about stealing a scene than most actors have forgotten. Then there’s a radiantly beautiful Olivia de Havilland, only 21 when she made the film, as Lady Marian, who evolves from an entitled noblewoman to a true believer in, and supporter of, Robin’s cause.

There’s barely time to mention Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s glorious score, which has been likened to a medieval light opera, and the sparkling script (is Flynn’s Robin the first action movie protagonist to utter witty quips in the face of almost certain death?), and the amazing set-pieces (the archery contest, Robin’s almost-hanging, the ambush in Sherwood Forest), and — well, see for yourself. There might be no such thing as the perfect movie, but if there’s a better contender for the crown, I’d love to hear about it.



editorial@accjournal.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Columnist

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

No active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Interior Health: BCCDC

Numbers from the BCCDC’s dashboard show 193 of the 195 COVID-19 cases in the region have recovered

Historic Hat Creek finds novel way to keep part of site open

VIP shopping experience offers people private visit to site’s gift shop

Mobile harm reduction service making weekly trips to Cache Creek

Service provides free kits, instruction, information, and referrals to those who need it

Ashcroft food bank benefits from donation as demand increases

Community Futures Thompson Country provides much-needed cash donation

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

IHIT names homicide victim found in the Fraser Canyon this week

Police asking for tips into the suspicious death of 29-year-old Alicia Berg

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

‘Great Regional Air Hug’ being organized by the Vanderhoof International Airshow Society

A multi-aircraft flyover over the region is being planned for August 15.

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

Most Read