Thursday, March 1, 2018

A month at the movies #1: The Adventures of Robin Hood

As one of the last people on the planet who still loves pay television over streaming, and as somebody who is desperately searching for any kind of escapism in this awful year, I've spent a lot of time recently watching all sorts of movies. I've been watching shitty modern horrors, dopey old romantic comedies and harrowing factual documentaries. I've been catching up on films I saw once in 1996 in the cinema, and blockbuster films that came out a couple of months ago that I didn't bother going to see at all.

I've also been catching up on a lot of classic stuff - movies that books and magazines and essays have been telling me for years are dead-set classics, but I'd never got around to them, for some reason or another. There's just so many great movies out there from the past 120 years of cinema, it can take a while to even get to the greats.

In the case of The Adventures of Robin Hood, it was probably the tights that held me back. No matter how many times I was told it was an absolute foundation stone in the history of the action film, I just couldn't get past the cheesiness of the 1938 movie. All that laughing, all that derring-do, and all those bright green tights.

Fortunately, my taste for cheese has only grown over the years, and I'm far less bothered by camp than I ever was as a serious young movie watcher. I even think those tights look bloody spunky. So it was an easy sell to finally fill that gap.

And it turned out they were right. All those smartarses over all those years, telling me I was a fucking idiot for having missed the greatest Robin Hood film ever, they were totally right, because this movie was bloody amazing.

It's 80 years old and it still moves like blazes, powering through its plot and ricocheting from location to location. It doesn't mess around and there isn't a wasted second. It has some terrifically impressive sets, deeply weird use of shadow and light, and the costume work is far, far more than just green tights. Olivia de Havilland is gorgeous and brave, and Basil Rathbone is ruthless and unstoppable.

It is incredibly cheesy, especially in this far-flung world of 2018, but that just makes it timelessly charming, with Errol Flynn laughing away as he happily murders a bunch of poor henchmen with blade and arrow. This Robin Hood might not have the scowl of later versions, but he's far ballsier, striding into his enemy's lair without fear or real subterfuge, letting all these arseholes know that Robin Hood and his Merry Men ain't taking any more shit from them anymore.

And when the the action kicks in, it's next level stuff. Flynn is bounding and flying about all over the place, and when the sword-fights start, its all on. There are a flurry of blades, and super-fast thrusts and parries. There is no CGI augmentation or cheating - although the film stock is sped up very slightly during the most intense of action - it's just Hood and his crew, fucking going for it.

I've got a bunch of other classic films still lined up to watch, and I have little doubt that they also will turn out to be as good as everybody has been telling me. I have even less doubts that none of them will feature anybody as baller as the greatest Robin Hood of them all.

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