SUPER 8 FILM REVIEW
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD 5x400ft Colour Sound Available from Derann
My whole interest in films, and the cinema stems from this film. Released the year I was born, it was the very first film I was to see about four years later. It had the most profound effect on me, from that moment on I was a movie fan, and from that day, to this, I regard this as the greatest period adventure film ever made.
For sheer screen entertainment, few films have matched the 1938 Warner Bros production of "Robin Hood". Even today, after more than four decades this is still one of the most popular films ever made, and is one of the most requested, and shown, films on American TV.
This full length 8mm version, follows its release complete on video disc in the USA, and on video over here,
The idea for this version of "Robin Hood" was first raised in 1935 when working on "Captain Blood", Dwight Franlin (costume and set consultant), sent a memo to studio head Jack L. Warner suggesting James Cagney for the lead. Fortunately, due to a variety of reasons, nothing came of this suggestion, and eventually Errol Flynn was to play the part perfectly suited to him.
I find it impossible to imagine how the film would have turned out with Cagney in the leading role, perhaps it would have been made into a Busby Berkley musical. Flynn was of course teamed up with the very lovely Olivia de Havilland (for the third time). They are the perfect screen lovers, and were to star together in a total of five films, not counting "Elizabeth And Essex", which although they appeared in the same film, they were not actually cast opposite one another.
All the big guns of Warner's were rolled out for "Robin Hood", William Keighley as director, and Tony Gaudio as cameraman. When Keighley fell behind schedule (Warners also thought his direction lacked 'punch') he was replaced by Curtiz, with Sol Polito as his director of photography.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold was asked to write the musical score, but after viewing the edited work print, he declined, stating that it was a 90% action film, and that he was not a musical illustrator. Thankfully, he changed his mind, and in seven weeks, composed, and recorded a superb score, one of the finest ever written for a film of this nature, and when the film won three Oscars, Korngold received one for best music/original score (the other Oscars were for best editing Ralph Dawson, and best art direction Carl Weyl).
The music remains as fresh and exciting today as when it was written, and I believe it to be the single most important element in the success of the film.
On completion, "Robin Hood" was sneak previewed with Korngolds music in Pomona (near Los Angeles). Jack Warner cabled the New York office "In the history of our company never have we had a picture that scored in front of an audience like this did".
Later in April after another preview at Warner's Hollywood theater, Wallis cabled that the screening was "absolutely sensational with spontaneous applause throughout". Few or no changes according to evidence available) were made to the film before release. Changes were made during production, Wallis concerned that Robins escape from the castle was ridiculas told editor Ralph Dawson "lose the cut where Robin knocks the man down, climbs on the table and makes the toast ... When Flynn runs across the banquet room, let him run right up the stairs and climb over the balcony. Take out the business of grabbing the shield and catching the arrows on it and throwing the torch at the men" This, and many other similar cuts helped to keep Curtiz's 'over-the-top' approach in check, which by the sound of it, presented Robin Hood as a superman in Lincoln green.
That's not to say that the uncut version would not have been action packed, but would it have become a screen classic? In the original script, the film was to open with a stupendous jousting sequence, intended to outdo the one featured in the Fairbanks silent version.
Good sense eventually prevailed and the idea was dropped. As Norman Reilly Raine (who wrote the first screen draft) exclaimed when he heard of the jousting scene it can never be anything but a prologue, which if done with the magnificence Mr. Keighley sees, will have the disastrous effect of putting the climax of the picture at the beginning, and I'll be goddamned if that is good construction dramatically in fiction, stage or screen".
Well I think most of us "Robin Hood" fans would agree with that, as it was released it is perfectly constructed, and I think it is in only the odd line of dialogue that the film can be faulted (or dated).... "I've kicked Longchamp out and the line with the unfortunate double meaning as Robin comes out of the woods with Marion ... "I'm sorry I had to show you that"!
The edited versions of Robin Hood that Derann released ( and I was lucky to become involved with) were the best seller of the UA deal and just about the most popular film they have ever issued.
How does the full length version compare for print and sound quality? Well right away the colour is excellent, although warmer than the Derann version, and I think collectors will be delighted with it.
The sound is recorded at a very high level, and I would have prefered it to be a little lower in level, but the quality of the sound is good. The sound quality of my Derann extracts is better, but they did have a very good quality master to work from.
The defintion is generally good, and like the versions I edited, variable, according to the original master used, which is identical to the one supplied to Derann, I recognised all the little marks and faults that have accumulated over 40 odd years, and all of which were on the Derann master, and on every other existing Eastman colour negative.
These are only very minor faults, and Probably invisible to the average collector, What will be visible will be the several shots in the forest that are very flat looking and lacking contrast.
The Derann extracts, by their very nature, tended to being 'action-packed, and well as they work in that form, nothing can compare to the full length, very carefully constructed and paced to highlight the action, rather than to feature it.
There was many a subtle bit of atmosphere that I had to 'hack' from the extracts, which are a delight to come across in the feature, I even had to cut one of my favourite moments at the archery contest when Robin raps on a guards helmet to let him pass, so its nice to have that and everything else complete.
More important than the little bits of business that are missing in the extracts, is having Olivia de Havilland restored as co-star, rather than a supporting role to the action. She really does look gorgeous, and I would swop her any day for the so-called present day sex stars, who although they reveal all, rarely reveal any talent or sensitivity.
No doubt, one day, Robin Hood will be remade, but it will be difficult to improve on this version.
If you can afford it, revel in what is one of, if not the best adventure film ever produced, and few will deny that it is Errol Flynn's finest film.
It is the perfect combination of music, action, and one of the best casts ever assembled - every role perfectly cast, every role perfectly played.
Go on, wipe that video that you recorded when "Robin Hood" was shown over the Bank holiday weekend, and treat yourself to 102 minutes of great entertainment made for the 'big screen' Minor blemishes do not prevent a 'highly recommended' rating
Print A Sound A Keith Wilton