Friday, May 26, 2017

"The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men" (1952)

I've realized something recently, while reading Hood by Stephen Lawhead as well as lots of stuff about Robin Hood thanks to Olivia's Robin Hood Week.

I need my Robin Hood to be merry.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm not giving up my love for broody, tragic, dangerous, dark heroes any time soon.  But that is not what I want from Robin Hood.  I want Robin Hood to be a merry and cheerful fellow, I want my Robin Hood stories to be frolicsome, and I just can't seem to make myself enjoy broody Robins and dark stories about him.  People keep trying to make Deep stories about Robin Hood with Serious themes and lots of Tragedy... and it just doesn't work for me.  Even when you've got Russell Crowe in there, whom I really love -- nope, I'm not 100% digging it.

Happily, The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952) is all of the things I want from a Robin Hood story, and none of the ones I don't.  I first saw this when I was in my teens, whereupon I quickly fell in love with it.  I showed it to my children for their first time this week, and while they didn't universally embrace it (Eggnog says she doesn't like it because "Maid Marian has a weird voice," but she's five, so whatever), they did get a big kick out of it.  I have a feeling they're never going to love it like they love the Errol Flynn/Olivia de Havilland version, but that's okay.  I like that one better too, but this one is the sort of thing I like to watch when I have a head cold and need cheering up.

So, on to the story, eh?  One note:  I'm not marking spoilers.  It's Robin Hood.  You know how this goes.


Like so many classic Disney movies, this begins with the image of a book which opens, revealing the title and then the opening credits.  Why don't people open films this way anymore?  I love it!


This was only the second live-action Disney feature film!  Treasure Island (1950) was first.  Also, according to IMDB, some of this was actually filmed in the real Sherwood Forest, which is just cool.


At the beginning of the story, our hero (Richard Todd) is hanging out doing some target practice while his father helps a bunch of knights get ready to join King Richard on a crusade to the Holy Land.


One of those knights has a daughter named Marian (Joan Rice) who grew up with Robin since his father works for her father.  She's been teasing him by moving his target all the time so he misses.


I don't think he minds, do you?

I really like Robin Hood stories where he starts out kind of a hooligan, or at least a rascal, and then has to turn into a steady, dependable, wily man in a hurry.  This is one of those.  He's not a bad kid, just kind of devil-may-care.


Marian and her father and a bunch of other knights journey to Nottingham to join Richard.  I mostly included this shot for the pretty bridge.  Also, this is clearly a mix of sets and paintings, and I can't tell where one ends and the other begins, which I think is amazing.


Here's something else I love about this movie:  the Queen Mother is in it!!!  Queen Eleanor (Martita Hunt) even has a more than passing role in the plot, and I completely dig her. She's regal and strong-willed, a force to be reckoned with.  All the things King Richard (Patrick Barr) has become and Prince John (Hubert Gregg) hasn't.


As soon as Richard and his troops have left in one direction, and the Queen Mother and her retinue (including Maid Marian, her newest lady-in-waiting) have departed in another, Prince John starts to plot.  He begins by appointing a new Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Finch).

Quick note:  yes, this is the same Peter Finch who went on to play the absolutely splendid and wonderful Alan Breck Stuart in Kidnapped (1960).  And I had ZERO idea they were played by the same guy until I happened to be looking him up on imdb one day a few years ago.  I think that says something about Finch's acting, don't you?  Two completely different characters, and he convinced me so much as both of them that I didn't realize they were played by the same guy!


This Prince John isn't very charming or very smart, but he's cunning and pesky and wily and greedy, so that'll do.


From there, we launch right into the archery tournament.  It's my opinion that a Robin Hood story with no archery tournament is a fairly poor Robin Hood story, but that's just me.


At the tournament, we hear lots of songs from Allan-a-Dale (Elton Hayes), a traveling minstrel who serves as a sort of narrator to weave some of the story bits together.


Robin Hood does not win the archery tournament!  Try not to faint.


But he does get the golden arrow, which he promptly gives to Maid Marian to show his continuing esteem for her.


The Sheriff of Nottingham wants Robin and his father (Reginald Tate) to join his gang of thugs and enforcers, but they won't do it.  Robin's father talks back to the sheriff, and then on the way home from the tournament, this happens:


Well, first he gets shot in the back with an arrow, but then that happens -- you know what I mean.

Stricken with sorrow, and also filled with anger over having his father shot in the back, Robin kills off a bunch of the sheriff's men and then flees into the forest.


I know what this looks like, but I promise you he's not about to kiss his arrow.  This is a special signal arrow that whistles as it flies!  He's just going to blow into it to make sure it's working properly before he uses it to signal his men about something.  Because the next thing we know, Robin Hood has gone outlaw and gathered himself a band of merrie men.


This is their jolly encampment, deep in Sherwood Forest.  Some excitement ensues, with Robin and his men rescuing some peasants from the Sheriff's mean and low-down, scurrilous ways.


And it's about time that Little John (James Robertson Justice) shows up, huh?  He's delightful, all big and burly and deep-voiced and cheery.


Of course, Robin and Little John have to have their fight over who gets to cross the bridge first.


Now I must tell you a very strange thing.  Every time I watch this movie, both when I was a teen and now when I'm an adult, I start out thinking that really, Richard Todd isn't quite suited to the role of Robin Hood.  Don't get me wrong -- I have a genuine fondness for him as an actor.  And he well deserved that Oscar nod he got for The Hasty Heart (1950).  But I'm not sure if it's the writing or what... for the first half hour of the film, I just can't quite dig him as Robin Hood.  He's almost too serious, even though he's supposed to be a devil-may-care lad most of that time.  But I gradually begin to like him in the role, and when we get to this scene, I'm sold.


Yes, I agree with Robin's expression here:  that makes no sense.  I mean, having seen this a dozen times, you'd think I'd be used to him as Robin Hood!  But nope, have to adjust all over again every time.  I mention this so that, should you ever start watching this movie and think, "Man, this Richard Todd guy just doesn't feel like Robin Hood to me," you will be encouraged to keep watching, because he'll probably grow on you like he does on me.

(Shush, DKoren!  This has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that he gets dumped into a river and comes out sopping wet.)


Anyway, once we've got our Little John, we need our Friar Tuck (James Hayter), so we go off and collect him too.


Meanwhile, at Windsor Castle, word has arrived that King Richard has been captured while on his way home from a failed crusade, and he's being held for ransom.


The Archbishop of Canterbury (Anthony Eustrel) and Queen Eleanor confer about how to raise his ransom money.  Another thing I really like about this version is that the Archbishop of Canterbury is NOT a bad guy!  He's morally upright, he's helpful, he's kind, and he's very distinguished-looking to boot.  The entire film treats God, religion, and the church with reverence, something that is sadly lacking from so many adaptations.  (Which is not to say that Friar Tuck isn't a source of comic relief, because he is, but that's because he's just a silly, jolly sort of person, not because they're making fun of Christians.)


Anyway!!!  Prince John claims he can't contribute to his brother's ransom because Robin Hood has stolen all his money.  Maid Marian is terribly upset to learn that her childhood-friend-turned-flirting-companion has turned outlaw, and she sneaks off to find out if he's really thwarting John's efforts to raise ransom money.  She is not pleased with Robin when she finds him, and gives him a scolding.

And then lots of exciting things happen, but this review is already almost as long as the movie (which is a breezy 84 minutes), so I'm going to skip that and cut to where Robin Hood meets up with the Queen Mother!


She accuses him of stealing things, and he insists he's an honest outlaw who only steals to give money to the poor, and so on.  Also, he learns from her that Maid Marian is missing, and he zips off to rescue her (she's been locked in a dungeon by Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham because of reasons).


Marian is suitably happy to be rescued.  But during her rescue, Robin is wounded.  And the Sheriff of Nottingham comes to a very icky end, off-camera.


Doesn't she make a pretty outlaw?


Marian and Friar Tuck nurse Robin back to health in his woodland stronghold.  Robin makes silly faces about having to eat gruel.  This is the least-silly of the faces he makes.  For real.  You should go watch this just to see his silly faces over being fed gruel.


Then the Black Knight shows up.  Now, anyone familiar with Robin Hood stories knows who this is.


But Robin and his merrie men don't, and they bandy some harsh words about how they only serve King Richard and they wish he'd never left, and anybody who rides around with his face concealed can only be up to skulduggery, etc.


Then, of course, the Black Knight turns out to be King Richard, and he pardons Robin Hood and all his merrie men, and then he orders Marion and Robin to get married.


Happiness ensues.


So does kissing.


And the whole thing ends with Allan-a-Dale walking off into the sunset singing a little song about Robin Hood.  Isn't that charming and jolly and all-around happiness-inducing?  I think so.  (And so does Cassian.)(I say that way too much in real life, so I might as well start saying it in print too.)

Is this movie family friendly?  Absolutely!  No bad language, no innuendo (okay, Prince John does refer to Robin Hood as Maid Marian's "lover," but he's a jerk and it just serves to convince us of his jerkyness), and all violence is mild and non-bloody.  (Though if you stop to imagine how the sheriff died, you're going to be grossed out.  But you don't see it.)


This has been another contribution to Robin Hood Week hosted by Olivia at Meanwhile, in Rivendell...  Thanks so much for hosting this party, Olivia!  It has been great fun :-)  And it's helped me figure out what I do and don't like about a lot of different Robin Hood retellings!

35 comments:

  1. I agree, I think. I have only the vaguest familiarity with the Robin Hood legend; but Richard Todd doesn't look at all like Robin Hood as I imagine him. He's too much on the "dark and handsome and brooding" side, ya know what I mean? He seriously looks like Poe Dameron. That's not how I think of Robin Hood; I always think of Robin Hood as red-haired or brown-haired and super loose and grinning and chill.

    "And so does Cassian." Love it. <3

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    1. P.S. Just watched "E.T. the Extraterrestrial" for the first time. And E.T. kinda creeped me out (more than he was meant to, I think); but despite all that, I really, truly enjoyed the movie. It was beautifully done. I'm beginning to sense a pattern here with me and 80s films :-)

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    2. Jessica, I'm not sure it's Richard Todd's looks, for me, so much as his behavior. But eventually, he wins me over. Every time.

      I'm not a fan of E.T. Just... not.

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    3. This is intriguing. What is it that makes you and I have such opposite tastes in film? I don't know, but I wish I could find out . . . *puts on thinking cap*

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    4. And then sometimes, we both totally adore a movie, like Rogue One and Chariots of Fire. Hmmm!

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    5. Yes!!!! That's what makes it so confusing. *thinks harder*

      I have noticed a certain pattern so far--a large majority of the movies which I enjoy, and you not so much, have a strong tone of melancholy about them: Breakfast at Tiffany's, Breakfast Club, Fiddler on the Roof, E.T. Whereas you enjoy some movies which are very gritty, and even sad (ex: film noir), but not exactly MELANCHOLY. Am I making sense here? (I'm not sure.) Is this an emotional-nuance thing, where certain tones appeal to you and not to me, and vice versa? I wonder . . .

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    6. I think I have it!!! Or, part of it, anyway. Because I don't mind melancholy stories, though if they drift along in the same melancholy vein the whole time I'll get irked by the static-ness.

      But you know what Breakfast Club, Fiddler, and ET all have in common? They end with goodbyes. I was thinking this over last night and this morning, and I don't at all like stories where the characters have to say goodbye at the end. I can deal with good-byes in the middle. And if it's someone dying, I'm fine with that, oddly. But if characters who got to be friends over the course of the film are split up or go their separate ways, and it's clear they're not going to be friends anymore for whatever reason (and it's way worse if they're family, not friends), I am NOT pleased.

      It doesn't always hold true. I mean, I just spent how many hours lauding The Searchers, where Ethan Edwards walks off alone at the end. But that's somehow fitting. Gregory Peck saying goodbye to Audrey Hepburn at the end of Roman Holiday -- I'm fine with that. But I guess if I feel that the goodbyes did not HAVE to be said, that there was some way for them to all stay together and be happy except for exterior forces pushing them apart -- then I'm completely uncool with that.

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    7. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

      Okay, that makes sense now!! And maybe that's why I loved "Rain Man" way more than you did (I think?)--since THAT story ends with a good-bye too, doesn't it?

      I'm so fascinated by your pointing out that theme, because it never even OCCURRED to me that those stories were about saying goodbye. (They are, of course; I just never thought about it in that way.) And I never really thought about the possibility that all those different sets of characters COULD stay together instead of having to say goodbye, either--I just took it for granted that "this is the way it has to be."

      (HEY!!! Is that maybe why you didn't like The Phantom Tollbooth, either? Because that book ends with Milo having to leave his friends behind, too, and he technically didn't HAVE to . . .)

      I've always had an affinity for stories about goodbyes. I'm not sure why? But I love the idea of somebody being changed by a person or a place or an event, so that he/she carries it along with them even after leaving it behind. Sort of a ships-that-pass-in-the-night mentality, if you know what I mean.

      Also, I think stories about goodbyes sort of tap into my homesickness for New England, as cheesy as that may sound. I had to say goodbye to all my friends and my relatives and my neighbors and my house and my bedroom and everything else, basically--and when it was time to leave for good, I CRIED. I was 8 years old and I remember it like it was yesterday, this feeling of hopelessness, almost . . . "I'm never going to see this place again."

      Over the years I've sort of learned to draw on those memories, though, for strength--like, no, I may never get to go back for good; but that doesn't mean the place and the people didn't change me and shape me. Because they did.

      And so I guess you could say that good-bye stories help me deal with those emotions, maybe? Maybe that's why the movies that have made me cry the most--Toy Story 3, Rain Man--are about saying goodbye.

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    8. Jessica, hmm. I think it depends on the good-byes, now that I think this through more. If one character leaves because they decide to for the good of the other characters, I'm okay with it -- like Shane and The Searchers. If they have to part because other people, like society or their parents, say they have to, then I don't like it.

      So it's forced separations I don't like, I guess? The families in Fiddler are forced to leave. Societal and peer pressures will keep the Breakfast Clubbers apart (mostly -- I have hopes for some of them). ET has to go home because everyone else on earth is not going to let him just stay hanging out with Elliot anyway. This fits right in with how deeply and virulently I hate The Fox and the Hound, and have since I was a little kid.

      (I don't like The Phantom Tollbooth because it's a long string of puns.)

      I had to leave Michigan when I was 12, and I was very angry about that. For several years. But I've disliked stories like Fox and the Hound since I was a small child -- my parents had to hide the read-along record and its book for that from me because I couldn't bear the sight of it. I watched the movie once in college and bawled through the whole thing. I'm tearing up now just remembering the line, "We'll always be the best of friends." GAH, nope, can't handle that!

      So it probably goes back to my dislike of stories where everything would be fine if stupid adults didn't come along and ruin everything.

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    9. I get you. It must just be something that goes against who YOU ARE as a person--since you hated those stories even before you experienced forced separation (I'm counting your move from Michigan) yourself. Whereas, for me, because I experienced it at such a young age, I end up really digging those stories because they show me I'm not alone in what I feel. Sort of like, "oh, look--life is unfair to everybody, not just to me."

      I know I, too, have story elements that I just hate because I'm hard-wired to hate them, deep inside, not because of anything I've experienced . . . I can't think of any good examples right now, though. Darn it.

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    10. Okay, ten minutes later and I've thought of something *grins sheepishly*

      I really, really loathe stories about manipulation/coercion; especially on a personal level. If the villain is doing it and gets punished at the end, it's fine; but if somebody who's supposed to be a "good guy" is manipulating or coercing others (especially the main character), and never gets called out on it, then HELLO GOODBYE FOR ME. I will not read it. I can't. I have never been able to take stories like that--ever since I was very, very young, I've hated them.

      (I think that's probably one reason why I'm so wary of "Jane Eyre"? Because I know it involves manipulation?)

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    11. Yes, I really think so. It's some deep part of who I am that just rises up and objects strongly to this sort of thing.

      And yes, there's a good bit of attempted manipulation going on in Jane Eyre -- but it mostly serves to highlight how strong Jane is. She's somehow unmanipulatable. Mr. Rochester tried to make her love him by making her jealous... but she already loved him, he just didn't know it. St. John tried to manipulate her by trying to guilt-trip her into marrying him, but she resisted that too. Jane Eyre could end up being your hero!

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    12. That's so awesome that she resists!! I'm still afraid my mind would just fixate on Rochester, though, if I tried to read it, and I'd end up generating 5672 separate plans to murder him. Which would be . . . counterproductive.

      Okay, so I had a random thought: I'm totally with you on being angry at stupid adults in fiction. Because there are a lot of stupid adults in fiction and they often spoil things for everybody. But . . . it sort of scares me, now, knowing that I'm an adult TOO and that I have, in a sense, that same kind of power to ruin things for the kids around me that those fictional grown-ups did. I really, really don't want to end up being the stupid adult in some poor child's life. Does that make sense?

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    13. Jessica, I happen to love Rochester dearly, and he still drives me up a wall sometimes. SO yes, that's a danger.

      Adulting is hard and dangerous! I have three human beings whose physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being are very dependent on me right now. Terrifying. Happily, I am not stupid, nor am I mean, nor am I nonsensical. There's hope.

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    14. *nods vigorously* There's definitely hope for you. I know you're a great parent . . . and I HOPE I would be a good parent, as well, if I ever took on that commitment. It's just a little frightening at times.

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    15. No parent is perfect. We just do our best and trust God to take care of them despite our mistakes.

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    16. Thank you <3 That encourages me.

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  2. Have you seen the Robin Hood episode of Doctor Who? If not, you should. It's hilarious. The Doctor gets annoyed with how "merry" the Merry Men are and tells them off -- and they just burst into riotous laughter, which only annoys him more. He does not believe Robin Hood is real for 90% of the episode, and tries to prove him only a myth -- with him standing in front of the Doctor. They get into a ... uh... how can I nicely say this? COMPETITION of who is smarter / more manly while locked up in the Sheriff's dungeon. It's a bit cheeky, but highly amusing.

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    1. Charity, nope, I haven't seen that, but it sounds great! I vaguely remember seeing an ep of Star Trek: TNG involving Robin Hood too, and Worf insisting he's not a merry man, or something similar?

      There's a supremely fun ep of The Time Tunnel that involves Robin Hood too, and Prince John and the Magna Carta. It's fun in a more serious way, though.

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  3. Hahahah. I'm not sure you've convinced me, there. Rivers and water in connection to characters do have a mysterious hold over you.

    This is the version I grew up with in print form. I read it over and over and over and it has pictures from the movie, including one of Robin and Marian at the end when she's in that amazing outfit. I wanted that outfit of hers and that hat in particular, sooooooo badly. I always thought Richard Todd looked like the perfect Robin Hood, and I loved his outfits too. This version also set my expectations for the events within a Robin Hood story. And I get disappointed when they don't happen.

    But amazingly, even though I read it to death, I've never seen it live! One of these days.

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    1. DKoren, yeah, it's true. They really do. And honestly, it's the bit right before he goes to meet Littlejohn where I start to feel like, "Oh, he really is Robin Hood!" And what's he doing there? Taking a shower under a waterfall. Hmmmmmmm.

      How cool you had the book version of this! Was it sort of like a comic book? I've seen pics of that online, and it looks awesome.

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    2. Nope, not a comic book. Just the written story in my Disney book accompanied by pictures from the movie. This Disney series had lots of those in it. Davy Crockett, etc. But Robin Hood was my favorite.

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    3. Ahhhh. You had some marvelous books as a kid.

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  4. Man! Now I want to watch this again. :) It's been years anyway...

    Richard Todd is one of those actors that isn't on my favorites radar but I greatly enjoy them anyway whenever I see them in a movie.

    (And I SO want to watch The Hasty Heart.)

    ~Eva

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    1. Eva, you've seen this??? ::Does happy dance:: Yay!!!

      Yes, you need to see The Hasty Heart. You also need to see D-Day: The Sixth of June because he is amaaaaaaaaaazing in that. (And I love him in The Longest Day too. Really, I've never seen him in a role or movie I didn't dig!!!)

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    2. Yep! I remember very little about it, though, because I watched it so long ago. Your review certainly made me want to watch it again, though.

      We own D-Day: Sixth of June...I'll get around to it one of these days. :) And in The Longest Day, he's what my siblings and I used to call the 'hold-until-relieved-guy', right? =)

      ~Eva

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    3. Yup, he's the "hold until relieved" guy.

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  5. Hamlette, seriously! You are going to have to teach me how to write reviews because I'm SO bad at it, and this one was AWESOME! And where in the world did you get so many good pictures? I was having a lot of trouble with that in writing my review.

    I love this version of Robin Hood! And I've always liked Richard Todd as Robin. But then (other than the Disney cartoon) this was probably my first introduction to Robin Hood so that may be why I'm so partial to it. :)

    I think starting a movie out with the opening of a book is such a cool thing, too! <3

    Love that beginning scene with Robin and Maid Marian. Their bantering back and forth is so much fun! :D

    SO TRUE! I never knew Alan Breck Stuart and the Sherriff of Nottingham were the same person either!! Even after watching both movies multiple times. Crazy how different an actor can seem from one role to another, isn't it?

    "Anyway, once we've got our Little John, we need our Friar Tuck (James Hayter), so we go off and collect him too." This line totally made me laugh. "So we go off and collect him too." Haha. I just love the way you wrote that. :D

    Really, Hamlette. This was such a happy review! And it fits so perfectly with the movie. Love it!! :D

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    1. Awww, Miss March, you're too kind! Honestly, writing movie reviews takes practice and time. You look back at the ones I wrote years ago, and you'll be appalled at how lame they are.

      Some movies merit a detailed, loving review like this. Some movies, I don't have time or love to lavish, and I'm much more cursory. But a review like this takes me hours to write. Sometimes days.

      As for pictures, I screencapped these myself. I put the DVD in my computer's disc drive, paused the movie at appropriate places (the hardest part, sometimes), and used the Windows "snipping tool" to capture the pictures. Anymore, if I'm going to do an in-depth review, I'm going to do the screencapping myself. Especially since I write about a lot of older or obscure movies, and there aren't a lot of images floating around the internet. Sometimes I spend more time screencapping than I do writing.

      Glad you liked my review! I'm hoping to read yours soon too :-)

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  6. Yes, our Robin Hoods must be merry! However, I don't recall Richard Todd being particularly jocular...but then it's been years since I've seen this version. John Derek did a great job playing the son of Robin Hood in "Rogues of Sherwood Forest" and gave him plenty of zest.

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    1. Metzingers, yes, he doesn't start out merry enough. Eventually, he gets more jolly, and that's when I start to like him :-)

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  7. I already want to see this because Miss March loves it, but your review is grand. :D

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  8. Okay, so what you said in the very opening paragraph of this post? About how you need this story to be more "frolicsome", and you don't really like dark Robin Hood retellings? THAT IS ME WITH STAR WARS. I can do deeply tragical stories occasionally (though I prefer at least a particle of hope and/or character survival), but SW? Nope. I don't like that in my SW movies. (*cough cough* LOOKING AT YOU, ROGUE ONE *aHERM*)

    'Kay, just had to get that off of my chest. Rant over. :-P

    What a fun review! I skimmed it, but I really want to watch this version. I've heard such tales of its magnificence. ;)

    Haha, that picture of Robin and then "I don't think he minds, do you?" << THAT'S ADORABLE OKAY GOSH.

    Robin doesn't win the archery tournament? *swoons*

    *revives because that's actually kind of neat that they flouted tradition like that -- applauds*

    "(Shush, DKoren! This has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that he gets dumped into a river and comes out sopping wet.)" << HAH. That was funny. :)

    They make the Archbishop good? Well, that's a welcome change, to be sure! Amen to what you said about religion being treated with respect in many of the versions. At least Friar Tuck is often portrayed as good despite his drunkenness and silliness. :-P

    ROBIN'S FACE WITH THE GRUEL. WHAT. xD

    "Happiness ensues.

    So does kissing." << I like this review. ;D

    Thanks for all your posts (and the giveaway!) for this week, Hamlette!! I really appreciate it. *hugs*

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    1. Olivia, that's intriguing! I've relished the stark seriousness of Rogue One, but I can see how, if you need frolicking from your Star Wars, you're not going to dig.

      I would not call this Robin Hood magnificent. But I would call in cheerily enjoyable :-)

      And so yeah, um, if you don't mind spoilage, I'll tell you that Robin TIED for winning the tournament. With his dad. But his dad made the more difficult shot, so they declared him the winner.

      (DKoren knows me very well, you see, and she is fully and thoroughly aware of my predilection for wet men.)

      And that wasn't even Robin's *silliest* face about the gruel!

      Thanks for hosting the Robin Hood week!

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Agree or disagree? That is the question...

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