THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938)
Stand in front of a mirror. Put your hands on your hips. Laugh. You have just watched this movie. Well, I'm exaggerating a little. This one does the Norman/Saxon thing, too, but in a very 1930s Hollywood way, where everything is simple and simple. The bad guys twirl their mustaches and go NORMAN POWER! BWA HA HA sort of thing. This is the one I'll show my kids first, in the hypothetical future where I breed.
TONE: Sassily '30s. Screenwriting hadn't progressed to the point where they had cohesion in movies yet, so thank god for title cards. Also freakin' colorful. True Trivia: There were only 11 Technicolor cameras in existence at the time, and this movie used all of them. Fake Trivia: Errol Flynn was only three feet tall, and the movie was a pioneering user of forced perspective and resizing of props, paving the way for 'Lord of the Rings'.
PLOT: A sassy lil' nobleman saves a poacher, then gets outlawed and naturally proceeds to strut around like he owns the place. All the standard stuff, archery contest, et al but it's the first sound version, so it's all new here. Lucky '30s. The one big change is in villain ranking. Guy of Gisbourne is the Big Bad, Prince John his lurking boss, and the Sheriff the doughy comic relief.
GENERAL THOUGHTS: A lot of the fun idiosyncrasies of 1930s epics show up here, like giant sets that would look fine in black and white, but come off as goofy in Technicolor, rear-projection in horse-riding sequences, and matte paintings galore. And a style of fighting that actually is known on tvtropes as Flynning.
(He actually wore more green before he was outlawed)
ROBIN: Kind of a dickhead. He barges into a dinner party and walks on the table and throws a deer corpse around. And that's BEFORE he's outlawed. Once he has henchmen, he lets them do all the work, and stands around making speeches to the people "he" is attacking. I guess the idea was to make him look carefree and sassy and inspiring absolute loyalty, but it doesn't work at all, and he looks snarky and annoying, inspiring idiots to hero-worship him. He's like the dumb jock in a high school movie.
(What ho, fine lads! Would'st thou shave my back?)
LITTLE JOHN: Introduced with the bizarre line "There's a lusty infant!" He's not too tall, but he's muscley, and for once, the bridge fight is done with more playfulness than enmity, thus making their partnership believable. He's played by Alan Hale, who played a young Little John in 1922 and an old Little John in 1951. Also his son was the Skipper on Gilligan's Island. Character-wise, he's not too defined, just a fightin' type who delivers a lot of the "Look! The castle! That's where we have to attack!" lines. So, you know, Legolas. Also, he is apparently a lusty infant.
(Rock over Sherwood. Rock on, Chicago.)
WILL SCARLET: Introduced as Robin's follower-for-no-good-reason, which was, you recall, done in the 1991 version, only more stupidly. Or at least, it looked more stupid because the rest of the movie was less stupid. His name also goes unmentioned for a while, but he wears a RIDICULOUSLY red outfit, so it was easy to figure out. He is played by Flynn's buddy Patric Knowles, the worst fake lute player ever. He is not a lusty infant.
(No funny captions here. Stop looking.)
TUCK: Introduced in one of my favorite scenes. Robin sees him sleeping under a tree, and, typical of this movie, steals his food, throws a live fish in his lap, calls him fat, spanks him on the ass, and makes him give piggyback rides. Robin is such a douche. So anyway, Tuck throws him in the water and kicks his ass. More people should do that to this jackass. Towards the end, King Richard calls him a lardass, and his response is basically "Fuck you, kingboy." He wears a helmet all the time, which strikes me as an odd friaring acessory, but what do I know. I said 'ass' a lot in this bit. Anyway, I like this Tuck. I declare him, too to be a lusty infant.
(Much, looking like he should be under a bridge, rather than atop a tree.)
MUCH: He's a sassy little sassmouth in this one. He's caught poaching at the beginning, only instead of begging for his life, he flips his shit at Sir Guy. He then identifies himself as "the miller's son" despite being about 50. Well, I guess Ed Begley Jr. will always be Jr. He actually gets away with a love interest in this one. More on her later. He also gets a one-on-one action scene, though he takes a beating. He is played by Herbert Mundin, who I would bet any amount of money smells like old cheese. He's a poopy infant.
(I love you, Olivia. Run away from this movie and come live with me in 2008.)
MARIAN: Seems to mostly roll her eyes, and say "Oh, you men!" Marian, along with Tuck, was added to the stories in the early 1500s to solve some problems people had with a bunch of men alone in the woods. Tuck to prove they weren't pagans, and Marian to prove they weren't… well, let's just say she has her work cut out for her in this version. Gay jokes aside, I honestly feel bad for Olivia deHaviland every time Errol Flynn touches her. I feel like telling her to go take a shower. Okay, one more gay thing: The movie's original tagline was "Only the rainbow can duplicate its brilliance!" She's a lady infant.
(Poised to beat Much. We should be so lucky.)
SIR GUY: Basil Rathbone as Sir Sinister von Evilsatan. His first bit in an action scene is when he throws a candle at Robin, which is frankly stupid looking. Then Robin runs outside and starts shooting at the doors, so the open the doors, see him, close the doors, and repeat about eight hundred times. But I digress. B-Rath turns in a fine performance, which is expected, as he could act circles around everyone else in this movie in his sleep. By the way, Rathbone was a champion-level fencer, and it's really kind of sad to see him lose to Errol "The Flynner" Flynn. He actually only won one onscreen duel in his career, as Tybalt. And we all know how that turns out for him. Lost to a putz like Leslie Howard. I'm not going to make an infant joke about him.
(I'll bet he grew up to look like The King of Town. Also: Why is the mace the standard villain weapon in this movie?)
SHERIFF: A fat, droopy-eyed, goofball coward. Basil Rathbone was not about to let anyone out-villain him. By the way, every beard in this movie is retarded. Seriously, it's like a shitty beard contest is to follow the archery contest, and the richer you are, the more effort you put into winning. Anyhow, being a comedy coward, he gets a lot of lines like "I would have attacked, but I was guarding the back wall, lest he try to steal it! That scoundrel! I'll get him next time! Drat him! And drat him again!" He's a colicky infant.
(Yes, your Majesty. A white robe with gold trim is a perfect disguse. No one will suspect a thing.)
OTHER MERRY MEN: Lady Sassmouth shows up here as Marian's retainer. She flirts with the freaky homunculus Much in one of the skeeviest scenes I've ever borne witness to. King Richard shows up around the middle posing as an average knight, and stays incognito for a while to gather info about the state of his kingdom. Ooh, looks like someone read Ivanhoe.
(Oh, Prince John? I thought you said Prince Valiant.)
OTHER VILAINS: Claude Rains plays the basic Prince John with the silliest haircut you'll ever see on a human being, and beard to match. He's going to win the contest. The Bishop of Hereford, or at least some kind of Bishop, shows up and exposits loudly about secret things. His role could have been played by one of those title cards, but he seems evilish, so I put him here. Also, there is An assassin whose name I swear is "Dickon" who looks just like The French Taunter from Monty Python. Just saying.
(Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time.)
COMING UP NEXT: Robin Hood and Little John go walkin' through the forest, laughin' back 'n' forth at how damn much recycled animation is in their movie.