AVAILABLE ON R2 DVD [Germany]
RUNNING TIME: 77 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In 12th Century England, King Richard is being held to ransom in Germany and Prince John is attempting to usurp the throne. When a man carrying vital information concerning the King’s return is robbed and killed by masked outlaws in Sherwood Forest, the Sheriff of Nottingham makes a declaration that there is to be an even higher price on the head of the villain Robin Hood. Neither Robin or any of his men were responsible for the crime, so Robin agrees to help recover the hidden message before Richard’s life could be in mortal danger….
Hammer’s first colour production was the first of three Robin Hood films made by the studio and despite being a bit of a fan of the character I hadn’t seen any of them up to now. This one was obviously inspired by the success of Disney’s 1953 The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, with a similar storyline about Prince John [though he remains unseen] and his allies attempting to stop the return of the King, though the Sheriff of Nottingham is hardly in it and Maid Marian doesn’t appear at all. The prominent female role instead is that of a noble-woman who decides to change sides. With so many Robin Hood films going through the origin story, it’s nice to see another that dispenses with all that. This one could definitely do with a bit more action to fill its scant 74 minute running time and the action we do get is very brief. However, Robin is portrayed in a manner close to the original stories as a man who uses his wits as much as his sword and bow and arrow prowess, the light hearted tone – owing somewhat to the classic Errol Flynn version – makes for quite an enjoyable watch as long as you don’t expect a gritty historical drama, and some of the humour is genuinely funny, most of it concerning Reginald Beckwith’s Friar Tuck [Little John doesn’t do much in this at all], who is able to escape perilous situations by luring his opponents into various gambling schemes [even strip poker!]
The low budget means that Robin only has a few merry men in his forest hideout and the castle where nearly all the rest of the film takes place is very sparsely populated, but the bright costumes and lush colour make for a visually pleasing piece, if hardly realistic looking. Don Taylor, who later became a solid director with films like Escape From The Planet Of The Apes and Damien: Omen 2 to his name, is an appropriately charismatic and heroic Robin, though only Douglas Wilmer makes much of an impression amongst the villains in his small part. Bernard Bresslaw has an amusing cameo as a guard. The Men Of Sherwood Forest is a little hampered by the lack of money that was available, but this cheap and cheerful Robin Hood picture just about gets by on sheer charm and certainly passes the time well enough. And it’s a darn sight more entertaining than Ridley Scott’s version.