Rogues of Sherwood Forest
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John Derek (The Ten Commandments) plays the role of Robin Hood’s son in this action-packed adventure. With England suffering under the rule of the villainous King John (George Macready, Gilda), Robin and his father’s loyal band fight countless battles with the king’s tax collectors and henchmen, who have corrupted the kingdom, oppressed the common folk, and brought false charges of treason and murder against the disenfranchised. When the tyrant has been deposed, Robin finally returns to the lovely Lady Marianne (Diana Lynn, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek) and just rule is restored. Briskly directed by Gordon Douglas (Harlow, Them!), this is grand fun for the entire family, and film buffs will especially appreciate the final screen appearance by Alan Hale, again playing Little John—as he did opposite both Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn!
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The DVD itself is a gem. I can't imagine this film has looked this good since it first hit movie screens back in 1950. The image is incredibly sharp, with deep blacks and vibrant colours. The audio is all that one could wish from a sixty-year-old source.
Congratulations to Columbia on a first-class restoration - a great buy for Robin Hood lovers (Hoodies?) everywhere.
As for John Derek...it's easy to see why he was cast as the son of Robin Hood; facially, he does resemble the youthful Errol Flynn, particularly when he smiles. However, Derek lacks Flynn's athletic grace (he is obviously doubled in every fight sequence), and he lacks Flynn's charismatic screen presence...and, honestly, he's a lousy actor, at least in costume epics (even ignoring his incongruous American accent).
The plot is pretty straightforward; it's 1215 AD, Richard is dead, John is King, and, bitterly aware of the grumbling of the unhappy British nobility (wanting to continue the basic freedoms Richard had given), plans to import an army from Flanders to 'pacify' the population. Unfortunately, the Count of Flanders (a rather ineffectual Lowell Gilmore) wants a hefty fee (and later, Marianne, thus continuing the 'Guy of Gisbourne' tradition of lusting after Robin's woman). Surprisingly reluctant (for a moment), King John proclaims huge taxes (so the people will pay to bring in the army who will crush them...guess that's why they call these 'Dark Ages'...) Meanwhile, young Sir Robin of Huntington (Derek), son of the late 'Robin Hood' (no explanation given of how he passed away), recently returned with Little John from the Crusades, and having survived one murder attempt by King John (still holding a grudge against his father), declares himself against the injustices of the King. He and Little John are imprisoned, escape (with Marianne's aid), and recruit survivors of his father's old gang (Tuck, Alan-a-Dale...who, by the way, never appeared in the Flynn film...and Will Scarlet), and a band of new 'Merry Men', fighting King John's tyranny, and aiding the Barons in forcing him to accept the Magna Carta.
There is a definite effort made in capturing the 'look' of the 1938 film (some shots are framed exactly the same), and there are fewer glitches than in some 'Robin Hood' productions (although some pretty obvious telephone poles appear in the background, during one riding sequence!) The major problems here are a rather uninvolving plot (Robin isn't really even a major player, in the central 'Magna Carta' plotline), a lack of romantic chemistry between Robin and Marianne (oh, how I miss Errol and Olivia!), the lack of a really impressive opponent (Gilmore's 'Count' simply isn't 'dangerous' enough, and a better villain, King John's crony, Sir Giles, played by Paul Cavanagh, is woefully underused, and never even faces Robin), and, most obviously, the nearly magical sparkle that a truly wonderful adventure film has. That thrill of bigger-than-life heroes, derring-do on a grand scale, romance that makes your heart sing..."Rogues of Sherwood Forest" simply never achieves that kind of magic.
As Alan Hale says, in his very last words on a movie screen, "Everything Has Been Said, Everything Has Been Done..." He might well have been summing up the Flynn film against the Derek one!
How petty and vindictive is King John? The year is 1215, and no sooner does the son of King John's old nemesis, the Earl of Huntington (who was more famously known as. Robin Hood), return from the Crusades than he is summoned by royal decree to compete in an exhibition of friendly combat. If by "friendly combat" it's intended that his opponent's lance is capped in brittle metal. Robin Hood's son, also named Robin, survives this treachery, leaving the King to fester even deeper in jealous rage.
Even more troubling to the king, the barons refuse to be properly cowed by his royal commands. King John longs to hire Flemish troops to enforce his rule, but the price is high. Ergo, he re-institutes his old policy of imposing crippling taxes on the people. With England teetering under a corrupt reign, young Robin takes up his legendary father's outlaw habits. He enlists his father's old band of merry men. Luckily for him, Little John, Friar Tuck, Alan-a-Dale, and Will Scarlett still make for spry bandits even if they're now "greyer in the thatch." Away they go, vanquishing evil tax collectors and other scoundrels deployed by the King. It's like old times for these aged reprobates.
ROGUES OF SHERWOOD FOREST, released in 1950, doesn't have the timeless pedigree of Errol Flynn's THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, but it's a fairly spirited reimagining and it's briskly paced and shot in crisp Technicolor. It also offers up my preferred (if fictional) account of how the Magna Carta came to be signed. Swashbuckling conventions are observed nicely - one standout is the terrifically staged jousting scene at the start.
John Derek cuts a very handsome and dashing figure and handles himself well in the action sequences, even if the charisma isn't quite there. Guy's pretty athletic, and too bad he didn't do more of this kind of film. George Macready elevates the story with his deliciously malicious turn as King John, with the urbane Lowell Gilmore matching him as the villainous Count of Flanders. Acting wise, a weak link is Diana Lynn, lovely but tame as the King's royal ward, the Lady Marianne de Beaudray. Lynn and Derek aren't really in sync, but what does that matter in the larger scope? ROGUES OF SHERWOOD FOREST, in its humble sensibilities, demonstrates winning doses of skullduggery and derring-do, enough to satisfy a soul craving entertainment on a weekend matinee afternoon. I like that Alan Hale gets to have the last words. It's apropos to the film and maybe even to his career that he closes with: "Everything has been said, and everything has been done." Exit Alan Hale.
This DVD also comes with trailers for ROGUES OF SHERWOOD FOREST and A KNIGHT'S TALE.
The only extra is a trailer for Hammer's Sword of Sherwood Forest.