This is the old one with Erroll Flynn, and is considered by many to be the best version of the story. I have to say that I was a bit apprehensive, because every time I’ve tried to watch this before, I’ve found it a snore. But now I realize that that was due mainly to the fact that I had only watched blurry VHS versions before, with horrid muffled sound.
The restored DVD is sooo gorgeous — it looks like the old N.C. Wyeth illustrations springing to full Technicolor life. The pacing didn’t drag a bit. Olivia de Hamilland wears a differently-colored lamé dress in each of her scenes. Erroll Flynn takes out about seven baddies with a deer carcass. A deer carcass. What’s not to love? And really, I consider a film like this to be essential for cultural literacy. This movie has all the original action film clichés, before they were clichés:
- The footmen with such bad aim they couldn’t hit the sidewalk with a can of paint!
- Cutting the rope of the portcullis and then riding the rope as it goes up!
- Ambushing the bad guys’ wagon train while swinging down on handy forest vines!
- Swordfighting insults! (“You’d best say your prayers, Robin Hood!” “I’ll say a prayer for YOU, Sir Guy!”)
- Bad guys who get hit with arrows under the arm, roll their eyes upwards, and clutch their chests while drooping slowly to the ground!
- Characters whose clever disguise consists entirely of a heavy cloak that doesn’t conceal their faces in the least!
- “Guards! Guards! After him!”
- A duel that features shadows on the wall, candles being cut in half, and the villain’s secret spare knife!
- DRAMATIC CAAAAAPES!
I was a little worried that Jeffrey might find all of this a bit boring, but whoa, was I wrong. He got into it even more than he got into Star Wars, and that’s really saying something. The excitement was up to the extent that we had to take occasional intermissions so he could use the bathroom more often.
The best part, though, was watching Jeffrey play “Robin Hood” with Eleanor for a good while just before bed. Armed with his foam pirate sword, he embarked on a lengthy duel with Daddy (who was able to conduct his swordfighting while lounging on a cushion). Later, he asked Daddy to hold a green blanket “vine” so he could “swing” off of it — and immediately after, he aimed a few more blows at him. (Said Brian, “What? I’m the scenery and the bad guy?”)
Jeffrey insisted on sheathing his sword inside of his pants. Eleanor, of course, tried to follow suit, despite the fact that her toy sword was twice her height. I’ll just let you imagine what that looked like.
Just before bed, Eleanor (who insisted that she was not Little John or Maid Marian but just Eleanor) was using building blocks to “play the violin” and was busy singing a song about Little Red Riding Hood.
Jeffrey, who was sitting on my lap, immediately began to whisper in my ear.
“Mommy, I think she’s singing a song about me.”
Oh, right — Little Red Robin Hood. Ha!