Sunday 20 May 2012

The Story Of Robin Hood And His Merrie Men (1952)

The first take on the Robin Hood tale by Disney is a live action effort that makes for an enjoyable enough viewing but suffers from one major failing, it's surpassed by almost every other Robin Hood movie ever made, including the animated Disney outing.

Everyone knows the tale of Robin Hood, the details may differ but the basics remain the same in most tellings - Robin (Richard Todd takes the role here) is an accomplished bowman who becomes an outlaw after the king he is loyal to embarks on the crusades and leaves a conniving prince in charge (Hubert Gregg), he has an ongoing nemesis in the shape of the Sheriff Of Nottingham (Peter Finch) but is always helped by his band of merry men, including Little John (James Robertson Justice), Friar Tuck (James Hayter) and Will Scarlet (Anthony Forwood). He also has a bit of chemistry with Maid Marian (Joan Rice).

Enjoyable enough for what it is, this movie simply disappoints for what it isn't. It's not a swashbuckler in the style of THE great Robin Hood movie, it's not a slice of far-fetched fun in the style of the animated version, it's got no grit (the light treatment is to be expected, of course, what with this being a Disney family movie) and although it has a few great cast members it lacks the star power that we've seen in certain notable blockbuster interpretations.

The script by Lawrence Edward Watkin and the direction by Ken Annakin are both perfectly reasonable for the style of the movie. There's nothing bad here, it's just that there's nothing special either. No sense of excitement during the moments of daring, no tension, no real thrills. It's all just decidedly average.

The cast are, overall, suited to their roles. Richard Todd is likeable enough in the lead role while Peter Finch is an enjoyable weasel of a villain. James Robertson Justice, Anthony Forwood and Hubert Gregg all do well while James Hayter ends up being a bit irritating, more due to the writing of his character than any major flaw in his performance. There are also good turns from Patrick Barr, Michael Hordern, Martita Hunt, Hal Osmond and Bill Owen. But I've saved the best praise for last, the lovely Joan Rice certainly ranks up there as one of the most beautiful Maid Marians ever and her presence lifts the movie out of the doldrums and makes the love story between Marian and Robin very easy to believe in.

I guess the movie holds up as something that would easily pass the time on a rainy afternoon but it's a Robin Hood film that languishes buried beneath a pile of superior Robin Hood films.


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