Monday Movie: The Adventures of Robin Hood, by David Bax

You can’t write the history of action movies without Michael Curtiz’s The Adventures of Robin Hood. To be honest, you can’t even really talk about Robin Hood at all without mentioning it. Despite appearances in folklore dating back to the 1200s, Errol Flynn’s depiction of the bandit hero has been the dominant one for four score decades at this point, supplanting Douglas Fairbanks’ sixteen year reign (Fairbanks remains the definitive d’Artagnan, though).

But back to action movies. As genre, its various parts didn’t quite solidify until the 1970s but Robin Hood belongs to the proto-action genre of “swashbucklers.” And, man, you’ve never seen swashes buckled quite like this before (except, again, maybe in the case of Fairbanks’ d’Artagnan in 1921’s The Three Musketeers; guys, that movie is amazing too). Flynn isn’t just good with a sword. He veritably bounds and swings through the entire 102 minute affair, climbing walls and trees, leaping onto moving horses, cascading from ropes and curtains… If action means movement, this movie is one of the most literal action movies ever made.

When it comes to character work, Flynn may not be matching his physical performance. In fact, despite the stacked cast, only Olivia de Havilland presents a multi-dimensional human being with her Lady Marian. That’s not the point, though. In yet another way The Adventures of Robin Hood presages modern action movies, it’s okay for its characters to be well-played archetypes as long as the thing just keeps moving.

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