The Adventures of Robin Hood
d. Michael Curtiz & William Keighley / 1938 / USA / 104 mins
Viewed at: Screen 3 @ Cinema City (Norwich, UK)
An interesting quirk of modern language, for me at least, is the ability for particular words to go in and out of fashion. Every now and then a certain word or phrase, previously uncommon, will reenter the contemporary vocabulary – often via overexposure in the media – to such an extent that it’s often easy to forget that the word existed before a particular epochal moment.
The phrase ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ for instance, existed long before Saddam Hussein had supposedly started stockpiling them, reputedly originating in 1937 but gaining rapid popularity during the Cold War. Similarly, anyone under the age of twenty could be forgiven for thinking that ‘terrorism’ is a fairly new concept, concocted to label the perpetrators of September 11, yet it has its origins in the Jacobin’s Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.
So what has any of this got to do with one of Warner Bros’ most successful Merrie England films, The Adventures of Robin Hood? Well, despite knowing full well that the word has existed for a few hundred years at least, I was somehow surprised to see ‘infidel’ in the introduction plates to the film, which told how King Richard had embarked on a quest to rid the holy land of infidels.
Quirks of modern language aside, like almost every film produced during the classical Hollywood era, The Adventures of Robin Hood has its fair share of tidbits, my favourite being the notion that Warner Bros had originally cast James Cagney in the titular role. A strange thought, but no stranger, I suppose, than the idea of Russell Crowe playing the perennial folk hero, as he will be in Ridley Scott’s forthcoming interpretation.
At its heart this is properly excellent swashbuckling stuff that delivers a near perfect blend of campy, cheesy humour and fine storytelling. Just check out these laughs:
Here’s the trailer for the uninitiated. (Note that it’s being sold as ‘the most glorious romance of all time’, not a film about a roguish thief with a foul contempt for authority.)