ROBIN HOOD (1973)
(Men-agerie? What the hell?... Ohhhh... OH! Oh, that's clever.)Well, somebody saw The Jungle Book. And copied a lot of it wholesale. To be fair, this movie was made at a rough time for Disney. Walt had just died, the Nine Old Men were starting to act their nickname, and they had about no money. As such, this movie is jam-packed with recycled animation and cut corners. There's a reason Little John and Baloo are identical. My favorite was when a random cat character shows up in a musical scene just because they were reusing "Aristocats" footage, then disappears forever. The movie is charming, though, in its simple way. There's one aspect I love, and I'll discuss it more in the Little John section. STAY TUNED, DEAR READERS!
(In the land of Lincolne... Where the shadows lie...)PLOT: There is none. Okay, that's a little mean. But really, there isn't. The movie is structured more as a series of episodes. Some focus on Robin, some on the others. I kinda like that.
(I hope you like the look of that marching. You're going to see it every time these guys show up.)
GENERAL THOUGHTS: The recycled animation really hurts this one. The same shots will get used three or four times in a single scene. The best thing they did here was not bother with origin stories, so they could jump right into the action. This is a weird movie for accents. Robin Marian, and the upper-class types are English, but basically everyone else is played by some famous Western actor. Friar Tuck is perpetual Roy Rogers deputy Andy Devine, Roger Miller is our musical narrator, Pat Buttram of all people is the Sheriff, with Goober Pyle and Festus Hagen as his flunkies. Real quality character actors, and not even a little English. And I'm fine with that. A medieval English accent wouldn't sound much like a modern one, anyway, so I'd rather straight up Americans with personality out the wazoo than another crappy annoying half-accent that sounds bland as all git-out. You know who I'm talking about. Also, all the characters, heroes and villains alike, say 'Ooh-de-lally' a lot, which seems to be a catch-all exclamation. You know, like 'shpadoinkle'.
(He's gonna put someone's eye out. I wish.)ROBIN: Played by British stage actor Brian Bedford, sounding much more youthful than his actual 49 years. The movies aforementioned lack of origin bits means he's not atoning for past crimes or unjustly outlawed or anything other than helping poor people because it's what he does. He's a carefree jokester, and has a ball fighting injustice. He's a master of disguise, as Robin always was in the old ballads, doing a lot of reconnaissance as a blind beggar. He's also a much fancier archer than most, aided by the cartoon physics that allow arrows to ricochet like bullets. He's a fox, of course, clever and quick. Makes sense. Also, Disney had a lot of fox character sheets lying around from a previously abandoned project.
(Even for a cartoon, the physics of arrows in this movie make me crabby.)LITTLE JOHN: Identical to Disney's Baloo in appearance, mannerisms, and played-by-Phil-Harrisness. I love this Little John. For one thing, he's the only Merry Man. Yeah, the only one. He and Robin live out alone in the forest, and carry out their plans with help from the locals only when needed and on a strictly volunteer basis. This allows for the only movie version I've seen where Robin and Little John can have the kind of friendship and camaraderie they share in the old stories. Also, John is as smart and clever as Robin, but a good deal more sensible and careful, which is also the way it was in ye olde stories, and you never see that in modern movies. In fact, I'd lay even money this is the last time we see this kind of Little John. And Riker doesn't count. He's a bear, the perfect animal for a large growly forest-dweller. Phil Harris's broad Midwestern burl is the perfect voice to go with it. He was 70 when this movie was made, but you'd never guess.
(Sorry!)WILL SCARLET: Not around, as I mentioned. Go away.
(Seriously?)TUCK: Is around. "What?", you say? "Brian, you lying sack of shit, you aid there were no other Merry Men!" you say? Well hold your fucking horses. Tuck isn't in the band per se, but rather helps them out from inside the town. He is responsible for redistributing the money they steal, and hiding their presence from the Sheriff. This is a departure for Tucks so for, as he doesn't drink, swear, or fight. A Tuck that actually acts like a friggin priest? And it works? Who'da thunk it? Oh, and he's apparently a badger, for no reason I can see. Seriously? A badger? What is so priestly about a badger? He looks more like a mole, anyway.
(I'd be worried, too. Don't foxes eat rabbits?)MUCH: There is… Kind of a Much. He is a 7-year-old rabbit named Skippy. He hero-worships Robin who shows up at his birthday party and gives him an old hat and a bow an arrow. (Giving weapons to children? What are you, Errol Flynn?) He almost has sex with Maid Marian. (He's running around the castle courtyard pretending to be Robin Hood, Marian joins the game, he 'rescues' her, and she demands that Robin Hood 'Kiss the Girl'. It's really a sort of upsetting scene, for reasons I can't quite explain. I guess you have to see it. Also, skippy don't wear no pants. Neither do most of the men in this movie, but Skippy's long shirt covers his crotch, which makes it seem really indecent. This parenthetical statement is longer than the main entry. Huh.)
(Aww, that's preshy. By the way, an 'ingot' is a lump of metal cast into any old shape for easy storage so that it can be processed at a later time. Not, you know, anything you would want 10,000 of necessarily.)MARIAN: Marian here is also a fox. A harsh condemnation of interracial relationships? Nah. (Although the bad guys are also very racially segregated, but that's a budget thing. They could just make one Rhino soldier, one Alligator guard, and one Wolf archer, and replicate them as needed. Anyway…) Marian is sort of a non-presence in this one. Her relationship with Robin is handled well, explaining that they knew each other as kids, and each has harbored affection for the other after they grew apart. But other than that, her function is just exposition and attempted statutory rape, and she's completely absent in the last half hour, up until the very last scene.
(Congratulations, you mincing Mary.)PRINCE JOHN: Has his own category now! He's been in every film but one at this point, so I figure if he's ever not around again, I'll just talk about the sociopolitical dynamics of the movie, or write a haiku or something. Anyway, John is an odd one here. As the Big Bad, he must be a credible threat, but they portray him as a whiny mama's boy. So to compensate, they give him a truly deranged temper, which causes him to sentence 40 townsfolk to death or whatever right before he crashes and starts sucking his thumb and mumbling. And that's not a joke, he seriously sucks his thumb and cries out for 'mummy'. Also, his crown doesn't fit, and despite being a lion, he lacks a mane. But he appears to be a grown man. Damn. I almost feely sorry for the guy. He's got an Oedipus complex, an oral fixation, he's 28 and still hasn't hit puberty, and now there's an annoying fox stealing all his shit and getting him thrown in jail.
Speaking of that, since this is ol' PJ's first entry, I'd like to mention something that's been on my mind a lot. The incredibly shaky grasp of history most of these movies have. John is kicked out of the country in some, imprisoned in some, including this one… He did get to be king, you know. This movie has a whole musical number called "The Phony King of England", wherein they say he'll be remembered "Not because he passed some laws"… The Magna Carta, perhaps? I will complement the characters on their prescience in saying "Too late to be known as John the First/ He's sure to be known as John the Worst". If only they had said "Shakespeare's most boring play will be about him." Anyway, my point was that by treating him as a scheming mastermind the way these movies tend to, they either have to punish him at the end, or make the heroes look weak. And punishment means historical whatthefucks. I mean, obviously there's going to be anachronisms in any Robin Hood tale, but that's like making a movie where Lincoln kills Booth, or where Nixon doesn't get pardoned.
EDIT - Wait, he WAS John the First! Well, John the only.
(You know, I found all these pics on a site called "Animated Lust". Yeah, I wish I was joking.)SHERIFF: Ooh, I like this one. The Big Bad is the Prince, as I mentioned, and the Sheriff a mere henchman. But unlike the last movie, this Sheriff is actually capable. He gleefully locks up priests, steals from the blind while pretending to give, and just generally has a ball of a time being a thug for the rich and powerful. And it works. With a fun-loving Robin, an equally fun-loving Sheriff makes a great contrast. See '39 Sheriff? This is what you could be if you just applied yourself a little. They do take the western thing a bit far with him, though, what with his star-shaped badge, and references to his 'posse'.
(Sir Hiss. Not pictured: back hair.)SIR GUY: Ehm… I guess he's here? There's a snake called Sir Hiss that's aide-de-campe to Prince John. So he's called 'Sir', he's a second banana… Yeah, close enough. Okay, so first of all, he's hairy, which is just not right in a snake. And it's not just '70s feature animation with visible pencil lines, like I thought at first. Snake's got hair. You can't see it in that pic. But check out his page on Animated Lust. Man, I hope you've been reading the picture captions. You won't be surprised to learn that he's pretty much Kaa from the Jungle Book, animation-wise. He's got the hypnosis powers, too. You know why King Richard went on a crusade? Sir Hiss hypnotized him to do so. Yeah. And despite the capabilities this would give him, he never uses said power in the movie. It's just stupid. Other than that, he's a pretty fun character. He's the smartest of the villains, and frequently sees what's really going on in a given scene, but nobody pay attention to him and he gets hurt a lot. Standard smarter-than-the-boss henchman stuff. He's animated in a really cool way that plays some fun tricks with his body, he wears a cape despite having no shoulders, and he's played by Terry-Thomas, who's sort of an English version of Sterling Holloway, so we're back to the Kaa thing.
(They calls me... The Rooster With No Name... Okay, it's Alan.)OTHER MERRY MEN: Alan-a-Dale makes his first appearance here. He's a Rooster, because… they sing? I mean, 'Rock-a-Doodle' thought so, too. Actually, his name is technically "The Rooster". See, in the opening credits, they're credited like: "Phil Harris as Little John - A Bear" or "Andy Devine as Friar Tuck - A Badger" (That's how I knew he wasn't a mole, by the way.). But Alan's is just "Roger Miller as The Rooster". But he calls himself Alan, and it works for me. He's a sort of narrator for the story, throwing out ballads here and exposition there, and lending a hand as required. His song over the opening credits, called "Whistle Stop", is familiar to anyone who was on the internet in 1998 as the Hampster Dance song. So that's a little weird. There's also a dog called Otto with a broken leg, and Skippy's two siblings, a bossy older sister and an oppressively cute androgyny. There's a turtle with glasses, some churchmice, an elderly owl couple, Skippy's other twelve siblings and suspiciously single mother… Look, I know none of them are exactly helping fight evil, but this is basically the only movie that put any thought into the townsfolk of Nottingham, and I feel like I should mention them. Oh, and Lady Sassmouth is here too, of course. Can Marian just once have someone to exposit with who isn't sassy? King Richard makes his usual cameo at the end, and everyone laughs at his bad, bad jokes, because he's king, and he'll send them to Palestine to kill some folks if they don't.
(Ah, the angry and stupid bad guy duo, not to be captured so well until the advent of the Wet Bandits some 20 years later.)OTHER VILLAINS: Sheriff gets two main henchmen of his own, a couple of vultures called Trigger and Nutsy. One is crabby and one is crazy. Guess which is which. Robin disguises himself as Nutsy in one scene by wearing a cape and putting a sock on his nose. If this was done for any reason other than to establish everyone he fools as blind and stupid, then I don't know what. There's also one Wolf Archer, one Alligator Guard, and one Rhino Soldier, and the Prince's Unseen Cloning Scientist.
COMING UP NEXT: It's "Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood", starring the pranciest action star of 1922 and his huge ego.