"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

August 13, 2011

"The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938) by Michael Curtiz and with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland (Film review)

"Innocence" is the keyword for this classic swashbuckler with Errol Flynn as Robin Hood (played with a smile) and Olivia de Havilland as the Maid Marian (beauty incarnate). The film, directed by Micheal Curtiz, is as fresh as an early spring morning. In 1938 people still could take the fight of a band of righteous outlaws against corrupt powers serious in which the villains (Claude Rains as a very mean Prince John and Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy) are pitch-black and their opponents virginal white. Robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. "It's injustice I hate, not the Normans."

Of course the robbers from the Sherwood forest help the rightful king back on his throne and then put down their weapons. Nobody of the heroes dies, only the bad ones get pierced in their bellies by Robin's arrows. Everything is as straight and sincere as can be. There is also some humor thanks to the Sherwood comic duo of Little John (Alan Hale) and Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette).

Today we would need the irony of a Sam Peckinpah to be able to fully enjoy a film about a subject like this. The violence is muted, the love is chaste. At the same time the energetic and athletic Flynn performs some great stunts, the story is paced fast and keeps one's interest and the final fencing match is as tense as it should be, one of the truly great duels in film history.

There is a second thing that strikes the eye and that are the "stained-glass colors." A color film from 1938, made with the cumbersome but beautiful three-strip method of Technicolor. The green of the clothes of Robin Hood and of the forest, the reds of the flags and banners, the mauve of Marian's gown and, especially, the roses on her cheeks... Colors in film have never been so deep.

And then the third aspect: the music by Oscar-winner Erich Wolfgang Korngold, a classical composer born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire who fled to Hollywood to evade persecution as a Jew. Never has music been so much in tune with the happenings in the film it accompanies. It is also a rousing modern score, and it is fortuitous that in our day Korngold is again being rediscovered as a classical composer as well (he wrote a symphony, a violin concert, several suites for orchestra etc.).