Richard Lutz takes to the forest to find a seven hour marathon of Robin Hood films on the magic box.
Now, they are not definitely in the class of The Revenant or the new Star Wars film or a good old Ealing comedy. But hey, back to back to back to back Robin Hood films?
They are all on Tuesday on Film4. Someone at this dozy station, which has been clobbered by Netflix and the Sky movie juggernaut, must have been awoken by a digital cattle prod to say something akin to: “Hey, what if we ran four straight movies about, like, that dude in green tights who, like, runs around trees and stuff? Wouldn’t that be cute?”
I don’t know if ‘cute’ is the right word. But fun…well, on a rainy day if you have a drippy nose and nothing much else to galvanise your hours and you have no friends and you can’t read non-joined up writing and still point at the moon…yes, a definite maybe.
But what is it about Robin Hood? This mythical character emerges in medieval times as a man of good who stands up to the man of bad. He is the underdog who uses Ulyssesian cunning to outwit the proto-fasicst in the big house on the hill. He and his matey outlaw band cling to the Simple Life under an oak tree eschewing the Big Life in the castle. And he judges a person by their resolve and righteousness rather than by their brute force.
He is what everyone really wants to be..despite that worrying leisure wear. He is British pluck, English cunning, Anglo-cheekiness. He is rock ’n roll, he’s the biz, he is what makes this swampy island great and, whatever the ropey plot, he gives it his best.
So, to begin and let’s start by always keeping in mind that the story usually is flaccid, second rate, highly derivative But, yes, fun to watch:
At 11.00 AM, there is Son of Of Robin Hood from 1958. At first it sounds as if by the production date, the studio had run out of plot lines, turning their back on Rob and the boys in the woods for a tired tale of his child. But the Son is a fake ne’er do well and the real son comes along. But the real son is a woman in the shape of Brit actress June Laverick. She takes on the baddies in this early feminist tract that clearly influenced Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer and Guardian readers worldwide.
This dire film has one interesting point. It was penned by a someone who actually had the name of George J. George. Well, of course, that isn’t his real name. It was actually George Goldberg and his father was the veteran leftie cartoonist Rube Goldberg. Rube was the victim of hate mail from the US heartlands and made his son promise that if he ever made it big, he would change his name to something more white bread and palatable. Voila: George J. George.
So arise George J. George who wrote the script which stars David Hedison, later known as CIA agent Felix Leiter in two (count ‘em…two) 007 movies.
Next up at 12.40pm is Sword of Sherwood (1960). And it has got the REAL Robin Hood from tv- Richard Greene. I mean, if he was a tv star he must be real, right?
Still, the film is dog breathe. But look out for Peter Cushing and young (ish) Oliver Reed (see below right) who, by the way, was overdubbed totally because the director didn’t like his voice. Beat that. Kind of like when Sir Larry Olivier was dubbed over by Anthony Hopkins in Spartacus. ..though I have to say the two movies are not so much in different leagues as different intergalactic gravitational wave forcefields.
Anyway, director Terence Fisher had previously done 11 episodes of the classic TV epic with Greeney so he knew the lie of the land. The bad guys are nasty, nasty, nasty and Rob is a 13th c rendition of a middle class provincial lawyer from an English market town. I won’t even begin to waste vital e-space on the plot.
This oeuvre gives way at 14.15 to A Challenge for Robin Hood. There is even less to say for this 1967 clunker. Your boy is accused falsely of…well, does it matter?
He gets to fight the Sheriff. Barry Ingham is the star. He was an RSC leading actor in his heyday before being reduced to living under a tree in 1202. He starred opposite Judi Dench many a time while while plodding the boards for The Bard.
In a little known weirdo site called My Favourite Robin Hood Actors (seriously), Ingham comes second after Errol Flynn. There you go…see what acting school can do for you despite flashing those legs in tights.
He beats Sean Connery who stars in Robin and Marian at 16.10. This is actually an intelligent witty bittersweet film. An old cranky Robin returns form the Crusades to find his love Marian (Audrey Hepburn, no less) a nun and still livid that her old flame bolted.
Slowly 007 is sucked into the eternal battle with a ultra-evil Sheriff in the form of Robert Shaw..who Connery last duked it out with in the great James Bond movie From Russia with Love.
There is an eye-opening supporting cast- Richard Harris, Nicol Williamson, Ian Holm, Denholm Elliot and, yes, genius English comic Ronnie Barker as Friar Tuck.
It is ably directed by Richard Lester, a dab hand behind the cameras who did both Beatles movies and a couple of Superman efforts before moving on.
Connery and La Hep are a great duo. He’s testy, achey with age and bolshie. She, beautiful and wise and …just Audrey Hepburn.