21 June 2010 | MartinHafer
Historically speaking, a mess...but sometimes you just have to say "who cares?!"!
I am a history teacher, so on one level, films like "Robin Hood" make me a bit crazy. However, it is so entertaining and fun that, for once, I need to just chill out and enjoy the film--and keep pesky reality from interfering with enjoying a darn fine film! Let's briefly talk about the film's MANY historical inaccuracies. Like all Robin Hood films as well as the various Ivanhoe films, King Richard I (a.k.a. "the Lion Hearted") is shown as a virtuous and good king, while his brother, John, is shown as a conniving dog. While history has not been kind to John (and it probably shouldn't be--especially as he unwisely took on the Church and lost as well as the Barons), it has somehow created a myth about Richard totally undeserved. In my opinion, he was the worst kind in English history and I assume most historians would agree that he at least was in the top 2 or 3 of the worst. He cared less about ruling England and spent almost his entire reign in his French territories or out massacring people in the Crusades. Now this does NOT mean that Richard was any sort of religious zealot. Instead, he was an opportunistic maniac who simply liked killing people!! His atrocities while on the Crusades are simply amazing for a supposedly Christian king--massacring entire towns and breaking pretty much every one of the 10 Commandments!! He was a horrible, horrible person in every respect--and NOT the hero he's portrayed to be in films.
As for Robin Hood, he didn't exactly exist. Now there was a crook who was similar in some ways--though he lived later than the hero of legends and had the pesky habit of stealing from the rich and giving to himself!! Instead, the Robin we know about is passed down from legends and songs and as a result, there are many differing (and often diametrically opposed) stories about this swell guy--all of which are pure hogwash.
Now you'd think after my complaints that I couldn't have possibly liked the film. Well, this isn't the case simply because apart from the historical license, this is a perfect film--and as good a silent film as you can find. While I have some doubts as to the truth of contemporary stories that Douglas Fairbanks did ALL his own stunts, the stunt-work in this film is as good as any silent film--and better than what you'll even find today. That's because whether it's always Fairbanks or not, the physicality of the stunts is amazing--and even better than Fairbanks' other great films. Plus, if it ISN'T always him doing the stunts, it's integrated so well that you could swear it was! Now if all the film consisted of were great stunts, it would not be a great film. I personally hate films that are all stunts and with lousy plots ("Mission: Impossible" is a great example of this). Howeverr, the film also features some of the loveliest film work I've ever seen--with cinematography that is breathtaking and highly artistic. For you artists out there, the camera work, sets, costumes and style is pure art nouveau come to life--like it was lifted right off a painting from this craze of the 1890s and early 1900s. The plot is pretty good as well--and I especially like how the lion's share (nice choice of words, huh?) is about how Robin came to be an outlaw--something even the wonderful Errol Flynn version failed to do (though it, too, is a classic). In addition, grand acting, a huge cast and a well-spent budget all worked together to make a perfect film...provided you can ignore the historical inaccuracies. Any person who considers themselves a connoisseur of silent films must see this film--it is that important and that ground-breaking. A delight from start to finish.
By the way, that IS Wallace Beery as King Richard!