Judge Adam Arseneau adores archery.
A swashbuckling Robin Hood adventure.
Part of the newly released Robin Hood Collection from Sony, Rogues of Sherwood Forest is the most energetic and adventurous of the bunch. Unlike its stodgy and stale shelf-mates, this actually feels like a quintessential Robin Hood film: green tights, sword fights, and a story about freeing a taxed and oppressed people from the hands of a corrupt and greedy monarch. From a pure adrenal standpoint, this is the one you'd want to pick for sheer entertainment value.
Freshly returned from the Crusades, the Earl of Huntington (John Derek, The Ten Commandments) finds himself under assault from an old enemy. King John (George MacReady, Gilda) has returned to his villainous, taxing ways, and the people of England suffer under his rule. Robin had believed the days of his father and the Merry Men had long passed, but soon takes up his father's mantle, reuniting the bandits to save England once again from tyranny!
Similar to The Bandit of Sherwood Forest, the writers for Rogues of Sherwood Forest opted for the "son of Robin Hood" route, rather than competing directly against the better-known and eponymous The Adventures of Robin Hood. Rogues of Sherwood Forest goes a step further, silently asserting itself as an unofficial sequel to the beloved film through suggestion, like the re-casting of Alan Hale as Friar Tuck. It may be unofficial, but Rogues makes the most compelling argument of any adaptation to be considered in the same pantheon, mixing romance, comedy, and action with ease.
Robin takes a righteous stance against tyranny and oppression and takes the fight right to the King, rounding up his father's old posse of miscreants and thieves. This is the Robin Hood we know and love; arrogant and disruptive, almost childlike in his torment of authority. The Merry Men are looking a bit long in the tooth, but don't let the geriatrics fool you. There's something very satisfying about seeing the re-recruitment of Friar Tuck, Alan-a-Dale, Little John, and Will Scarlett as they ride through Sherwood forest, singing ballads, drinking ale, and slapping each other on the back.
The fight sequences on the whole are not quite as strong as the other Robin Hood films released during this era. Sword play is stiff and gangly, as if the actors are desperately trying not to hurt one another. My only genuine complaint with the film is John Derek, both in action and acting. He is lacking in comedic, romantic, and action charisma equally, which makes him an odd choice for Robin Hood, a role requiring all three in spades. His fighting is the worst by far; he holds a sword without staring at it like a strange serpent come alive in his hands. Still, one can forgive the weak performance Derek in light of the other superior elements at work in this film. The directing, script, art direction, and costume design make this a far superior product than both The Bandit of Sherwood Forest and Prince of Thieves combined.
From a technical standpoint, this film looks and sounds marvelous. Released in 1950, the transfer is colorful and vibrant, with reasonable black levels and a relatively clean transfer; some spotting here and there, but nothing that cannot be forgiven in a film six decades old. Detail is good overall, but some sequences are a little too soft by modern standards. The mono soundtrack is surprisingly robust, with clear dialogue and an energetic and lively score. Extras only consist of a trailer.
If one had to pick a single film out of Sony's Robin Hood Collection to have in their collection, this would be my pick. Rogues of Sherwood Forest actually has Robin Hood doing all the things we love seeing him do: riding on horseback snatching gold purses from soldiers, cutting down nooses, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, and basically being a giant pain in the butt to King John. The adventurous spirit of the mythology lives on in this film more than the others.
A solid vintage rental and the strongest Robin Hood film in the collection.
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