Judge Ben Saylor is feared by both the bad and the good.
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen,
English folk hero Robin Hood has certainly had a long shelf life in the popular culture. Immortalized in songs, films, and television shows, there's just something about a dispossessed aristocrat leading a good-natured guerilla army that appeals to the masses. Although arguably best known today for his portrayals by Errol Flynn in Michael Curtiz's The Adventures of Robin Hood and Kevin Costner's mullet and an annoying Bryan Adams song in Kevin Reynolds' Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, between these films, the outlaw entertained TV audiences on the imaginatively titled The Adventures of Robin Hood.
Running four seasons, the series starred Richard Greene (The Blood of Fu Manchu) as Robin Hood. Shot in black and white, with episodes generally running about 24 minutes, The Adventures of Robin Hood is family-friendly classic television. There are fight scenes, but conflicts are just as likely to be resolved by nonviolent means such as a well-timed protest song (as in "The Minstrel"), a poorly prepared meal ("Food for Thought") or a forced house-cleaning ("The Path of True Love"). Many of the plots I saw entail the Sheriff and/or an aristocrat of Nottingham putting the squeeze on the townsfolk to pay for some indulgence or another. Other plots hinge on visitors to Nottingham, such as "The Challenge of the Black Knight," where the story is driven by a soldier returned from the Crusades, or the afore-mentioned "Minstrel," where the titular musician drives the story.
Like other television shows from this era, The Adventures of Robin Hood can be pretty corny by modern standards. Many of the episodes I watched for this review find Robin in a disguise at some point (spirit gum must have been plentiful in Sherwood Forest), and lots of other silliness abounds, as in "The Bagpiper," where Robin has to learn how to play the bagpipes to go undercover as a Scottish servant. In another episode, "The Christmas Goose," the yuletide fowl of the title is put on trial for assaulting a nobleman.
Still, The Adventures of Robin Hood is fun television. Richard Greene makes for an agreeably charismatic Robin Hood; he's generally not as happy-go-lucky as Flynn, but he's more light-hearted than the Costner version in Prince of Thieves. Alexander Gauge's Friar Tuck handles a lot of the comic heavy lifting, and Archie Duncan, Victor Woolf and Paul Eddington provide support as Little John, Derwent and Will Scarlett, respectively. (Rufus Cruikshank also played Little John for a few episodes.) Alan Wheatley, as the Sheriff, is the perfect villain you love to hate. Bernadette O'Farrell plays Marian for the first two seasons; her replacement, Patricia Driscoll, is not as believable as O'Farrell in playing the woman leading the dual life of outlaw and lady. Several notable actors pop up on episodes of the show, including Donald Pleasence, Peter Asher, Peter's sister Jane, future Time Lord Patrick Troughton, and Leo McKern. In addition, on the direction side, famed British director Lindsay Anderson (If…) turns up in the credits for several episodes, as does Terence Fisher, a name that is doubtless familiar to fans of Hammer horror. (Fisher also directed a feature film, Sword of Sherwood Forest, starring Greene, for the studio.)
Mill Creek Entertainment's DVD set of The Adventures of Robin Hood collects the show's entire four-year, 143-episode run onto 11 discs. Each disc is in a paper and plastic sleeve, stacked one on top of the other in a plastic box. Image and sound quality are not the best; as many as 13 episodes are crammed onto a single disc, so that should give you an idea of what to expect. The image and sound do improve somewhat as you move deeper into the show's run. There are no subtitles, and dialogue is sometimes difficult to make out. There are no bonus features.
Despite an unexciting DVD presentation, The Adventures of Robin Hood: The Complete Series is fun, family-friendly entertainment at a pretty low MSRP. And the show's theme song is a heck of a lot better than "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You."
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
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