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With: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, Una O'Connor, Basil Rathbone, Eugene Palette, Alan Hale, Patric Knowles
Written by: Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I. Miller
Directed by: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 102
Date: 05/13/1938

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Welcome to Sherwood

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Most folks consider this 1938 Technicolor classic the definitive Robin Hood film, though Errol Flynn doesn't quite have the sheer physical abandon that Douglas Fairbanks exhibited in the 1922 version. When Flynn tries to let forth a hearty laugh, it sounds phony and forced. Still, when he slings a deer over his shoulders and swaggers over to Prince John's dinner table, he's certainly commanding.

And it helps that he's surrounded by a stellar cast of supporting players: Claude Rains as the evil Prince John, ethereal Olivia de Havilland as the beautiful Maid Marion, plucky Una O'Connor as her handmaiden, Basil Rathbone as swordfighting Sir Guy, frog-voiced Eugene Pallette as Friar Tuck and Alan Hale as Little John. Only Patric Knowles as Will Scarlett comes across as a vapid pretty boy.

Fast-paced and loose, this 120-minute production concentrates mostly on fun, energy and high spirits; it's the Pirates of the Caribbean of its day. Credited screenwriters Norman Reilly Raine and Seton I. Miller cobbled together various bits of the Robin Hood legend into something of a plot, but it's really just a collection of nifty set-pieces.

Director William Keighley (The Man Who Came to Dinner) began the production, but when it became clear that he wasn't delivering the goods, Warner Brothers replaced him with the more reliable Michael Curtiz, who by then had made Mystery of the Wax Museum, The Kennel Murder Case and the great Captain Blood (he would go on to make, of course, Casablanca).

The Castro Theater presents this new print with digitally upgraded mono sound. I'd seen it on video a couple of times and it never tickled my fancy, but seeing it on the big screen changes everything. Warner Home Video subsequently released a double-disc DVD set. It's a spectacular package, with a beautifully restored print of the film, two great Chuck Jones "Robin Hood"-themed cartoons, shorts, featurettes, a commentary track, a music-only track and more.

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