DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS IN ROBIN HOOD (1922)
Yes, that's the real title. Oy. Anyway, let's say first off that I'm not a huge fan of silent movies. Specifically the actors in them. And I'd like to say that Fairbanks, one of the biggest and most bankable silent stars, does a bit to combat that. He doesn't. He, in point of fact, sucks. He is worse than Costner. He is worse, probably, than the porn Robin Hood you'll learn about in a few weeks. But I'll have plenty of time to talk about that in the appropriate section. This here's for the movie in general. And it's a horrifyingly deranged never-ending cavalcade of stupidity. Let's go, shall we?
(And his copious ego.)
PLOT: Hoo boy. Let me pop in my DVD here to refresh my memory. Ah, yes, we open with ruins. Then an onscreen title card talks about how great medieval England was. Then an incredibly fey man rides a horse around and goes to the Crusades with his horrible, hairy king. Then everything turns to crap under the evil Prince John, naturally, and Marian, "The Queen of Love and Beauty", whatever the fuck that means, sends to her prancey knight for help. He comes back and saves the kingdom by gadding about like an idiot.
(You got a war face! AHHHHHHH! That's a war face! Now show me yours! BULLSHIT! You didn't convince me! Let me see your REAL war face!)
GENERAL THOUGHTS: I'll say some nice things about it here, because there are some nice things to say. The sets are fantastic, including a huge-ass drawbridge and portcullis that Prancibald climbs up. (I refuse to accept the guy in this movie as Robin Hood, lest my childhood hero be forever tainted. So I call him Prancibald. It fits better.) They also handle crowd scenes well. It's all vey epic and well done. If only they had paid more attention to the script...
(I didn't even have to try to get this. It's just what came up when I paused the DVD.)
PRANCIBALD: Wow. I mean… WOW. I know I made a few gay jokes about Errol Flynn, but this guy legitimately SKIPS everywhere. And his first line is "I am afeared of women." Then a bunch of hot girls try to talk to him, and he injures himself running away. I guess the intent of the skipping was to make him look carefree, and the afeariness to make him suitably chaste, but when you add the tights and the skipping… And he's an idiot. His first attack on the castle involves taunting the guards by doing a song-and-dance in plain view, and he leaves all of his arrows slung around some guy's neck. And when he actually manages to steal some coins? His method of distribution is to toss them in the air. There's a crying baby in that scene. I'm pretty sure it took a coin to the eye.
(In his lusty infancy)
LITTLE JOHN: Begins the movie as Prancibald's squire, hangs with him in Normandy, and then spends most of the movie delivering his mail. He's played by everyone's favorite lusty infant, Alan Hale, who you may recall as the Little John of 1939. Seriously, either he shrank like ten inches in 17 years or actors were a lot shorter in 1922. Performance-wise, he's decent by silent standards. That's a damn goofy wig, though.
(This is a photograph of Will Scarlet as he appeared in the 1922 film "Robin Hood".)
WILL SCARLET: Or so they say. He dresses a bit fancy, and the title card that accompanies his first appearance says "Will Scarlett" so I guess that's him. But he's got no personality of speak of and if it wasn't for the fact that he's got a silly beard and Alan A Dale's got a silly hat and looks like John Glover, you might lose track of which is which. You know, none of the men get an origin story besides Little John. They all just show up after Prancibald's first daring escape to waylay the one guard that's chasing him. See, Prancibald sneaks out in a hay wagon and then makes a break for it, and one guard sees him and chases him and then BAM WILL SCARLETT COMES OUTA FUCKING NOWHERE and smacks him around a little, pausing only for his name to appear onscreen.
(Friar Tuck is sure, sure, sure...)
TUCK: So after Will roughs up the guard a little, he tosses him over to Tuck, who - in the gayest moment of this prancing-filled film - spanks him. Just hefts him up over the shoulder and gives 'im a good spankin'. On the butt. Ah…ha. Anyway, Tuck's head is a bit weird, with the googly eyes and bushy beard and long curly hair, but to give due credit, the rest of his costume is really neat. And lucky you, you'll get plenty of chances to see it, because Willard Louis' style of acting is to gesture like a birthday party magician, and I'm pretty sure his hands never go below his waist throughout the movie. Story-wise, this is a pretty fine movie for Tuck. He gets some good fighting in, has some big dramatic scenes, and gets the most ridiculous line in the movie (see below).
(This baby is sad that Much isn't here. Prancibald laughs at his pain.)
MUCH: Utterly absent. Which is probably for the best.
(Marian and... A GHOST! No, just kidding. That would have been cool, though.)
MARIAN: DEAD, BABY. Seriously, she dies right before Prancibald comes back from the crusades. Crazy. But I'm getting ahead of myself. She is introduced at the jousting match, and referred to as "The queen of love and beauty". I don't think that's an actual title, but you never know. Anyway, Prancey is afeared of her, as has been mentioned, but she writes to tell him of how crappy England's gotten in his absence, so he comes back to see her. Then she takes a header off a cliff because the soldiers are trying to kill her. Oh… Okay, she's not really dead, but Prancibald thinks she is, and that gives him some neat motivation to forsake civilization and live in the woods. If only their relationship was a bit less based on his fear of vaginas, it would have been a nice moment. Later .. he knows she's alive, he gives her a knife and tells her to kill herself if the soldiers find her. Prancibald's justice is a harsh justice.
(I really wanted to get a good nose shot, but the 'taking photos of my TV method is imprecise, and the guy hardly gets any good close-ups. Don't judge me.)
SHERIFF: What a nose on this guy. Seriously. He's like freakin' Cyrano. The filmmakers decided that neither that honker nor his silly cowboy hat would be enough to make him stick in the audience's mind, so every time he shows up, the title cards go all: "THE LORD HIGH SHERIFF OF NOTTINGHAM". After a while, I decided that he was actually yelling this every time he went into a room. This was nice, as this charming bit of monomania gave him a personality the writers and director didn't think he needed. Oh, actually, there is one other thing. He doesn't seem to care what people pay their taxes with. His men accept a dog as payment in one scene, and they also go into a debtor's house and take his table. Then said debtor and hs wife start making out, because when you haven't got a table, what else can you do? Sheriff's the low man on the bad guy totem pole here, and a step up we find…
(I imagine him sounding like a cross between Joel Cairo and Crazy Harry.)
SIR GUY: More like Sir Fatty du Creepula. Oooooh snap. Seriously, this is the sleaziest Guy yet. He's all doughy and squinty, and he's wearing silent movie makeup which does not help him at all. He's the lackey-in-chief to the Prince, and he works hard for the money so hard for it honey. He tries to assassinate the king, he lusts for Marian, he even cheats at jousting by tying himself to the saddle. I only knew that because of the title cards, naturally. His death is so ludicrous, I'll just show you. Be sure to watch to the end for the aforementioned suicide recommendation.
Who composed that music? It was downright glib. I must say, what with the strangling and the smooching, Prancibald looks almost macho there, nearly enough to recover from throwing his hat in the beginning. Too bad he ruins it by tossing his hair in the last second.
(Prince John is sad he has no section of his own anymore. If only there was a crying baby to cheer him up.)
THE MAN: So sorry, P.J. but I've decided to make you share your section with your big brother and anyone else who represents the government in these movies. But I'll start with you, how's that? Um… Prince John is boring. Seriously. Of all the thinly they drawn villains in this movie, he's the thinnest. We know he's evil because he lurks about with his pet falcon and leans oddly on his throne. It's a weird throne, by the way. It's got a leopard skin on it, and it seems to have no set location, going wherever he goes. Maybe it's magic. The nicest thing I can say about him is that he's played by Sam de Grasse, one of the first Canadians in Hollywood.
(Wallace Beery and his hittin' stick.)
Good King Richard is played by Wallace Beery, a silent film star well known both for playing evil bastards, and totally being an evil bastard. Jackie Cooper called him "the most sadistic person I have ever known," and when working with eight-year-old Margaret O'Brien, pinched her so much that crew members had to constantly hang around to protect her. This is Ms. O'Brien's worst memory of being a child actor in 1940s Hollywood, which could not have been a picnic on a normal day. Oh, and this one time, Beery beat a man to death in a bar and fled to Europe while the studio covered it up.
(Above: Wallace Beery feasts on an extra.)
This all might seem unrelated to Robin Hood, but I mention it because I want you to know that this guy is completely loathsome, and it totally shines through even when he's playing a hero. There's not a single scene where I don't feel he's about to tear off his tights and rape the hell out of everyone. And he's… weird, anyway. He silent-film-overacts to a ridiculous extent, even for this movie. And in one scene he crushes a coconut with his bear hands for no reason. That was a typo, but I'm leaving it in because Wallace Beery looks more like a shaved bear than a human.
(It's either Alan A Dale or Lionel Luthor...)
OTHER MERRY MEN: Allan A Dale is in this one, though you wouldn't notice it if those handy title cards weren't around. He doesn't carry an instrument or anything. He does wear a silly hat and look like John Glover, but I already told you that. He doesn't even get to be in the original lineup shot, because he was sleeping at the camp while everyone else was out saving England. Loser. In an Errol Flynn-like display of antipathy toward his followers, Prancibald wakes him up by shooting his hat off. Other than him, it's just A Couple Hundred Interchangeable Nancies. I have nothing to say about the Nancies, save that if there's going to be a few hundred good guys hanging around, maybe they should actually do something other than a musical number? I'm not joking. They all bound onto the screen, skip about like Rod Flanders on sugar, and then a poem appears on the screen which appears to be the Merry Men Club Marching Song. Also, they are described as "lusty rebels", leading me to wonder when that word started to be hilarious. One of the Nancies blows a horn whenever they show up, which gives him more personality than most people in this movie.
(I'm too lazy to find a picture of the rich man. Please enjoy this man's beard instead.)
OTHER VILLAINS: The only notable one was "The Rich Man of Wakefield", who shows up on screen, hits a poor person, and then disappears forever, with (Of course) only his introductory title card to give us any clue who he was.
Oh thank god.
Knop: A small decorative knob. Scop: A bard or poet. Tuck: Really crappy with the threats.
(Spider-Prance, Spider-Prance. Does whatever a Spider-Prance does.)
COMING UP NEXT: There was a Robin Hood themed Episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Perhaps you would like to hear someone make humorous comments about it? I'll see what I can do.