Release Date: May 12th, 1938 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
Written by: Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I. Miller, Rowland Leigh
Music by: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Cast: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Una O’Connor, Patrick Knowles, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale Sr., Melville Cooper
Warner Bros., 102 Minutes
“Why, you speak treason!” – Lady Marian Fitzswalter, “Fluently.” – Robin Hood
I’m actually kind of shocked that I haven’t reviewed this yet, which means it’s been far too long since I’ve seen it. This was one of my favorite “old” movies when I was a kid and I probably watched it dozens of times throughout the years, as my mum and granmum always had classic movie channels on.
This is also the movie that introduced me to Errol Flynn, one of my all-time favorite actors, and the swashbuckling subgenre of action and adventure films.
Beyond that, this also introduced me to Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains, two actors that were mostly known for being horror icons. However, in this picture, Rathbone proves that he’s much more skilled than that and especially while wielding a sword.
With that, this isn’t the first time that Rathbone and Flynn are both wielding swords against one another. They had an epic and memorable duel in Captain Blood, which was also directed by this film’s director, Michael Curtiz. Flynn and Rathbone just make perfect rivals and their sword work is pretty exceptional in a time where the actors had to get out there and do it on the screen without quick edits, special effects and the level of fight choreography and stunt people Hollywood has at its disposal now.
The final duel between the two legends may even be better in this movie, as they have their final showdown in a castle and use that environment pretty well, where in Captain Blood, their duel was on a beach.
I’ve also got to mention Olivia de Havilland, who is stunning and wonderful in this, as Marian. Still to this day, she’s my favorite Marian and a lot of that has to do with her style and grace, which is why she was also one of the most sought after actresses of her time.
Claude Rains is pretty much perfect too. He’s such a devious little shit and really delivers the best performance he could’ve given. Being that he’s immensely talented and owns every role he’s ever had, he made a great villain as King John (not Prince John, mind you).
The story is good, quick paced and just moves from great moment to great moment. The animated Disney film probably borrowed most from this version of the Robin Hood legend. So if you’re familiar with that movie, this will all feel very similar.
In the end, this is still one of the best swashbuckling adventure movies ever made.