Judge Adam Arseneau enjoys wearing tights.
A swashbuckling Robin Hood adventure.
Part of the newly released Robin Hood Collection from Sony, an offering of classic cinema adventures of the notorious hero, The Bandit of Sherwood Forest is a colorful and lively-paced adaptation that fails to leave a lasting impression.
The ambitious and ruthless William of Pembroke, Regent of England deposes the young king and assumes control of the land, revoking the Magna Carta. For an aged Robin Hood (Russell Hicks), now Robert of Huntington, this means revolution once again! His men fought to save the lands from tyranny, and they will not sit by idly and see it done again. With the help of his young son Robert (Cornel Wilde, The Greatest Show On Earth), it is up to the Merry Men to free England from tyranny once again!
All Robin Hood films from this era, and there were quite a few, are dwarfed in every measurable aspect by 1938's definitive The Adventures of Robin Hood, which wrote the book on the King of the Outlaws, literally. Keenly aware that their film could not match the scope and profitability of this blockbuster, later Robin Hood adaptations solved the dilemma by striking away from the proven narrative and mixing things up. Enter The Bandit of Sherwood Forest, a Robin Hood adventure not really starring Robin Hood at all. The hero of the film is Robin Hood's son, taking up the bow and arrow to once again liberate an oppressed people, while his father looks on proudly. The end result is a Robin Hood film influenced by and cashing in on the success of, but not directly competing with Errol Flynn's de facto adaptation. You could call it "Son of Robin Hood," but that sounds stupid. The end result is a film that is fun, but not particularly memorable.
While not exactly action-packed, the film moves along at a brisk pace. Robin Hood and his son mobilize the Band of Merry Men into action after the Magna Carta is repealed, and we dive right into the adventure. Little time is wasted on introductions; we know the characters well. Hint: the one in red is Will Scarlett. The strongest element of the film is the performance by Cornel Wilde, who nails the scoundrel-like behavior down perfectly. Oh, but for the early Hollywood leading actor charm that disregards all notions of sexual assault and just forces women to make out with him wherever he goes. It's a lost art. Also, it is illegal today. He makes a good Robin Hood, confident and cocky, but of course, he's not actually Robin Hood, is he? I refuse to accept that Robin Hood wore this many sequins.
By the third act, things are starting to get interesting, or at least less boring. As if lifted out of a formulaic Robin Hood Choose Your Own Adventure story, Robin leads a band of men to Generic English Castle to rescue the King, shoot people with arrows, listen to long villainous soliloquies, and get into extended swordfight duels. What little action there is to be had is actually quite good, with competent choreography and some skillful stunt work for the time. The script is the weakest element of the film. At the end of the day, it's just not a very adventurous or interesting tale to tell.
Presented in full frame, the Technicolor presentation is unexpectedly solid. Given the age of the film, the transfer is remarkably clean and well-kept; colors are dazzlingly vibrant and excessively saturated, and only a small amount of print damage is detectable. The mono soundtrack does the job with clear dialogue and an energetic and lively orchestral score. Extras are nonexistent, because nobody wants trailers.
While it is nice to see these films emerge onto DVD for preservation and posterity, there's not much about The Bandit of Sherwood Forest that makes it stand out. Hollywood cranked out a lot of Robin Hood films in the early half of the century, and unfortunately, this is one of the more forgettable ones.
Not guilty, but it's just a nice rental for those who are fond of old Technicolor films.
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