Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very hit and miss, but worth a look at the right price, 7 Dec 2012
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This review is from: The Robin Hood Collection [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
Columbia's three disc set brings three of their very sub-Errol Flynn outing's to Sherwood together (though a fourth, Prince of Thieves, was only released Stateside) in a boxed set where quantity outweighs quality.

"What's a pretty girl like you doing all alone in Sherwood Forest?"

Although 1950's lacklustre Rogues of Sherwood Forest saw John Derek take on his fictional father's mantle to dispiritingly little effect, Columbia had done the whole son of Robin Hood thing four years earlier and much better in 1946's The Bandit of Sherwood Forest, with a slightly sleazy and wildly over-confident Cornel Wilde as Robert Hood (well, Robert of Huntingdon). He's called into the fray when his father (Russell Hicks) and the Merry Men, who are beginning to feel their age, renew the fight against tyranny after King John's death when Henry Daniell's evil Regent overthrows the Magna Carta and plans to kill the child king and steal his throne.

There's not much that's unexpected and despite the truly glorious Technicolor (courtesy of Tony Gaudio, who shot Errol Flynn's Adventures of Robin Hood with Sol Polito a decade earlier) and two directors (Henry Levin and George Sherman) it's hardly an A-list production, but it does it enjoyably enough en route to its final duel between Wilde and Daniell, who, caddish to the last, tries to starve the outlaw for three days before their Trial by Combat to give himself an edge. Neither Wilde nor his very 40s leading lady Anita Louise exactly dominate the screen (dialogue like "What's a pretty girl like you doing all alone in Sherwood Forest?" "I'm the scullery maid" doesn't help) while George Macready is wasted in a bit part as Daniell's sidekick, but it's good looking undemanding Saturday matinee stuff that's rather better produced than the material probably deserves.

"Everything has been said, everything has been done."

1950's Rogues of Sherwood Forest sees John Derek stepping into Errol Flynn's costume but never managing to fill it: a dull and wooden presence, he sets the tone for a lacklustre and perfunctorily executed hour-and-a-third that only has Alan Hale in his final film playing the role of Little John for the third time going for it. Unfortunately it only reminds you how much better Errol Flynn and even Douglas Fairbanks, for all his prancing and over-emoting, were in Lincoln Green. Not that Derek is actually playing Robin but his son, who finds himself up against King John, who's overtaxing the people once again to pay for an army of Flemish mercenaries to crush them even further before the barons can force him to sign the Magna Carta ("I'll build a gallows. It will be high and it will be strong," spits George Macready's treacherous monarch). While Diane Lynne's bland Maid Marianne sends him information from the castle via carrier pigeon, the newly outlawed Robin of Huntingdon and Little John decide to bring all the original Merry Men back together, which is an idea that has promise that the film never does anything with at all. With the exception of the final swordfight (initially on horseback), the action scenes are especially lazily thrown together with actors and stuntmen just going unenthusiastically through the motions because they know this is the kind of programmer it's not worth getting any bruises over. Even the Technicolor isn't anything to get excited about in a film that has contractual obligation written all over it and which even recycles some footage from the earlier and much more enjoyable The Bandit of Sherwood Forest. As Alan Hale says at the end, "Everything has been said, everything has been done."

Hammer Films pretty much began and ended their glory days with quickie movie adaptations of TV and radio series, so it wasn't that surprising that Richard Greene's Robin Hood should make the leap to the big screen in 1960's Sword of Sherwood Forest, but despite some capable talent in front of and behind the camera and adding colour and CinemaScope to the mix the low budget and drawn out script render it a flat night out in Sherwood. Greene, who co-produced, is the only member of the TV show's cast to make the leap to the big screen (the famous theme song is gone too), with Little John played by Nigel Green, Friar Tuck by Niall MacGinnis, Marian by an underwhelming Sarah Branch and Peter Cushing giving the film's best turn as the Sheriff of Nottingham, while Richard Pasco and the unbilled Oliver Reed (quite badly dubbed), Desmond Llewellyn and Derren Nesbitt lend support. Sadly there's little color or personality to the story - with Robin trying to stop the assassination of the Archbishop of Canterbury - for any of them to work with. Under Terence Fisher's competent but rather unenthusiastic direction it just ambles along, feeling much longer than it actually is without ever hitting any highs. There are certainly plenty of worse Robin Hood films out there, but that's not much of a recommendation for watching this run of the mill effort.

The DVD offers an acceptable but unexceptional 2.35:1 widescreen transfer with the original trailer as the only extra (the same trailer is the only extra on the other two films as well).
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Trevor Willsmer
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