THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN
Undoubtedly, 1938’s THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD ($27) is one of the greatest action movies of all time. Produced in glorious Technicolor, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD has been the yardstick by which swashbuckling action movies have been measured for well over sixty years. With its mixture of action, spectacle, romance and humor, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD is about as close to perfect entertainment, as any film produced during Hollywood’s golden age. Additionally, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD has had its cinematic reputation cemented by some of the most rousing cinematic swordplay of its era. This renowned cinematic classic also features legendary stars in its leading roles, as well as the support of some of the best character actors the day.
Adapted from the English legends, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD tells of the 12th Century Saxon noble Sir Robin of Locksley (Errol Flynn), who is forced to turn outlaw when King Richard the Lion Heart (Ian Hunter) is kidnapped while returning from The Crusades, thus allowing his brother Prince John (Claude Rains) to usurp his throne. Backed by the Norman nobles, including Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone), Prince John begins a reign of terror against the Saxon people that begins with extolling hues taxes, then maiming and killing anyone who can’t pay or dare complain.
Driven off into Sherwood Forrest, Sir Robin becomes known as Robin Hood, leader of those poor Saxons who still loyal to King Richard, but are forced into a life of thievery by Prince John and his followers. With his "Merry Men" behind him, Robin Hood begins robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. Of course, in the midst of his rebellion against Prince John and the Normans, Robin still manages to find time to romance King Richard’s ward- the lovely Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland). The fine cast of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD also features Patric Knowles, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale, Melville Cooper, Una O'Connor and Montagu Love.
Warner Home Video has done a truly wonderful job with their two-disc special edition release of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, which offers the film in marvelous looking 1.37:1 transfer. Having seen countless video and broadcast incarnations of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, I can honestly say that this is the absolute finest home presentation of this classic film. In fact, it is quite possible that this presentation produces a clarity and depth of detail not even seen the original IB Technicolor prints. Speaking of Technicolor, the DVD shows the kind of dazzling hues that made the process famous, and the colors are certainly stronger and far more stable than I’ve ever seen in any video incarnation of the film. The DVD offers up a luscious visual palette that will satiate any Technicolor junkie.
The film elements utilized to create the new transfer have been digitally fine tuned and massaged to the point that only the most minor of print flaws remains. A grain structure is noticeable at various points throughout the presentation, but it helps to maintain a very film-like look for THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. There are a couple of sequences where the grain is a bit more prevalent, but considering the vintage photographic film stocks and the amount of light required to shoot in three-strip Technicolor, it is easily overlooked. Additionally, there are a few shots that appear mildly soft, but even these are fairly inconsequential. Blacks are perfectly rendered, whites appear crisp and contrast is excellent. Shadow detail is very good, with the film’s day-for-night sequences looking exemplary. Digital compression artifacts always maintain a low profile.
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD features a surprisingly capable Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Recordings of this vintage are notoriously lacking in fidelity, but for its age THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD is remarkably solid, despite the inherent technological limitations. Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Academy Award winning score sounds quite pleasant when amplified and the music remains free from serious distortions. Dialogue is very cleanly rendered and always maintains full intelligibility. Additionally, most traces of background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process. French and Spanish language tracks have also been provided on the DVD, in addition to English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the nice complement of supplemental materials that have been spread across this two-disc Special Edition. On disc one, there is a running audio commentary featuring film historian Rudy Behlmer. This is a highly informative audio track that explores the nitty-gritty of the production, as well as the legend of Robin Hood. On a separate music only track, one will find a fine presentation of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score. Also on disc one is Warner Night At The Movies 1938, which recreates the full motion picture experience. Hosted by Leonard Maltin, this cool little feature offers a trailer, newsreels, a musical short subject and a cartoon from the year 1938, along with the feature presentation. A cast & crew listing, plus an Errol Flynn trailer gallery close out disc one.
On disc two, one will find some substantial supplemental programs. Up first we have Glorious Technicolor, a sixty-minute program narrated by Angela Lansbury that looks at the history of the Technicolor process, as well as offering interviews with various cinematographers, plus a few stars of the Technicolor era. Welcome to Sherwood: The Story of The Adventures of Robin Hood runs several minutes shy of an hour, but the program, featuring historian Rudy Behlmer, offers a detailed account of the making of this classic film. Next up are two terrific Looney Tunes cartoons with a Robin Hood theme- Rabbit Hood and Robin Hood Daffy. Robin Hood Through the Ages is a seven-minute program with Rudy Behlmer discussing various film productions of Robin Hood, with a comparison of the 1938 Errol Flynn and 1922 Douglas Fairbanks versions. A Journey to Sherwood Forest offers a thirteen-minute look behind-the-scenes, via various home movies shot during the production of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. From The Cutting Room offers various outtakes and alternate takes from the movie, in addition to Breakdowns of 1938- twelve minutes of Warner players flubbing their lines. The Audio Vault features the National Radio Broadcast of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score with Basil Rathbone narrating the story, plus a Korngold piano session of his various compositions. Finally, Splitting the Arrow Galleries is an amalgam of stills and artwork from the film.
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD is indeed one of the greatest swashbuckling action movies of all time, in addition to being a tried and true silver screen classic. Warner has done a fabulous job with the DVD, producing a home presentation that outshines everything that has preceded it by a very wide margin. The quality of the presentation alone makes this a must own DVD, with the added benefit of the supplements, its acquisition is a no-brainer. Absolutely recommended.
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