AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 80 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
A soldier is shot with an arrow but still manages to escape from the evil Sheriff of Nottingham and his men. He’s found by Robin Hood and his Merry Men, though Robin also finds a lady skinny dipping in the river – Maid Marion. The next day, Robin finds a note from her stuck to a tree instructing him to meet her in a house outside of the woods. There, the Sheriff offers him some money and a pardon in exchange for the wounded soldier, but Robin refuses. Then Robin is asked by Edward, the Earl of Newark, to slay a supposedly deadly enemy, not knowing that Edward is in cahoots with the Sheriff to buy up land cheaply and sell it….
The second of the three Robin Hood films that Hammer made seems to be the best known and most seen, probably due to Peter Cushing’s appearance [oozing evil and changing flamboyant outfit every ten minutes] as the Sheriff of Nottingham and horror master Terence Fisher being the director, though I think it’s safe to say that Fisher wasn’t too interested in the subject matter, as the result, while certainly not at all bad, is a little disappointing. It’s about equal in quality to 1954’s The Men Of Sherwood Forest, being not quite as fun but benefitting from a slightly larger budget and being shot on mainly natural sets and woods in Ireland, the film having been made at Ardmore Studios, Herbert Road, Bray, County Wicklow. Its star Richard Greene had played Robin on TV from 1955 to 1959, though he seems a bit tired here, while the whole film indeed seems a bit of like a TV episode stretched out, if certainly not bad and still fairly entertaining. As with Hammer’s previous Hood picture, it’s a totally new storyline with little basis in the legends, and doesn’t really explain how – for example – the Archbishop of Canterbury is running England while the King is fighting in France, but the plot is quite involved and even surprising in places, while at least Marian shows up in this one, nicely introduced swimming in a lake, if woodenly acted by Sarah Branch.
As with The Men Of Sherwood Forest, the action quota is fairly low and, aside from the almost obligatory archery contest half way through which is quite a memorable one, is mostly relegated to the final third of the picture, and even the climactic duel is rather short, but it’s reasonably done in TV fashion. Apparently the film originally had an opening sequence of a Lord being murdered while on crusade before we see his squire [Desmond Llewellyn!]. The tone is generally more serious than the Val Guest movie aside from some comic footage of a not-very-rotund Friar Tuck trying to move a donkey, plus the unintentional laughter raised by Oliver Reed being dubbed, for some bizarre reason, by another actor who doesn’t sound much like him at all but is obviously doing his best to imitate him. Sword Of Sherwood Forest doesn’t quite hit the target, but is still enjoyable to fans of the character like myself and definitely better than some versions like that god-awful TV series from 2006 to 2009, plus it may also have finally got me to check out that highly regarded 1950’s series.