Robin Hood (1973)

Roin Hood

“Robin Hood” is one hell of a good romp (or a lark, as Robin himself would say). It’s one of my favorites from Disney’s ‘dark age’, and one of the funniest films I’ve found in the Disney Canon. For the bulk of the film, “Robin Hood” sports a folksy, friendly, laidback and almost ludicrous tone, from our heroes swindling Prince John in drag to Klucky turning into a football star in the middle of a brawl, which makes for a very effective tonal shift when the movie takes a dark and grim turn in the last act. Like many of the films from the xerox era (“The Jungle Book”, “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”), “Robin Hood” lives and dies on the charm, humor and overall likability of it’s colorful cast, rather than the depth and intricacy of the animation like the golden and silver eras of Disney animation. In fact, the movie’s greatest pro is probably the strong sense of community it gets across. The supporting characters have as much presence in the film as Robin Hood and Little John, perhaps even more. They’re all bonded in suffering, they all loathe their tyrant king, they support Robin Hood’s bravehearted rebellion, and by the end, there’s a sense that it’s not just Robin and Johnny fighting corruption anymore, so there’s a number of heartwarming moments in the film.

Robin Hood

If we’re gonna discuss our leading man, we gotta talk about dem fox eyes, because you never really know what to expect when it comes to Robin’s expressions in this movie, and some of them are priceless. Disney’s take on Robin Hood is a flawed, honorable character; a charming, swashbuckling, lovesick daredevil who pushes his luck til it finally runs out. He also has some nice chemistry with his girl, Maid Marian, due to them already having a preexisting relationship rather than the film having to build one from the ground up. Little John has a familiar voice actor, Phil Harris in his third consecutive role in a Disney film. Personality-wise, Robin Hood’s rowdy yet sensible right-hand man is quite a way away from Harris’ first gig as hipster layabout Baloo, but the jazz star is as personable as always here, providing our hero with a nice foil (and a good guy dynamic I like even more than I do the Baloo / Bagheera one). The rest of the do-gooders comprise of some nosy scamps, a musically inclined narrator, a feisty Scottish hen (love her), and a kindly, hot-tempered holy man. On the shady side of things, Pat Buttram lends the slick, detestable, wily Sheriff of Nottingham his best feature, dat southern accent (it adds a surprising amount to the brutish blackguard’s character. It’s also hot). The interesting thing about the main villain, Prince John, is that in hindsight, he’s a more pathetic predecessor to the baddie from “The Lion King”, Scar. An envious, cowardly, power-hungry lion who wants to dispose of his dear brother so he can seize the throne. Peter Ustinov chews so much scenery as P.J. that he’s a thoroughly enjoyable villain, and as the movie progresses and his humiliation increases, we see him slip further and further into insanity, to the point where he becomes a genuinely frightening foe.

Stronghold

Times were tough for Disney when this film was produced, so the animation isn’t nearly as polished as previous efforts from the silver era. The outlines are noticeably sharp, and like all films from this period, animation is reused in places (particularly, “The Phony Prince of England” which borrows from “Snow White And The Seven Dwarves”, “The Jungle Book” and “The Aristocats”). Other than that, it’s all good. The character movements are quite fluid – delightfully frenzied at times – and the backgrounds are perfectly atmospheric. Prince John’s stronghold is both regal and imposing, Nottingham is desolate and downtrodden, and Sherwood Forest is a safe haven straight out of a fairy tale. In fact, the rustic look of this film almost suits it, much like “Oliver and Company’s” rough, grungy aesthetic. Nowadays, I think this film is the reason why I’m rarely ever bothered by anachronisms in Disney movies. I’m pretty sure “Robin Hood” takes place in a universe where animals not only rule the earth, but medieval Nottingham is located in the deep south; partly because of all the southern accents and partly because of the twangy country music soundtrack. Blending two cultures the way “Robin Hood” does seems like it really shouldn’t work, but it turned out to be a shrewd decision, especially in regards to the soundtrack. “Whistle Stop” puts the movie’s walk cycles and run cycles to good use, giving the audience a taste of what’s to come; “Love” is spellbinding, “The Phony Prince of England” livens up the film while Frank Miller’s crooning in “Not In Nottingham” takes it to it’s a lowest point, and “Ooo-De-Lally” is something of an earworm. George Bruns’ underrated score also gives the film a playful liveliness befitting a movie that doesn’t take itself entirely seriously.

Robin Hood 3

“Robin Hood” isn’t as much of a show-stopper as the next two movies I’ll be reviewing, but the cult classic from the 70’s is an excellent pick when you’re in the mood for something fun.

Side-Notes:

Robin Hood 6

* I think we were all shocked the day we realized “Whistle Stop” spawned “The Hamster Dance”.

* “This crown gives me a feeling of power. POWER! Forgive me a cruel chuckle. Power“.

* “I’ve been robbed” “Of course you’ve been robbed!”.

* Poor Sir Hiss.

* “He snitched on us”.

* I love the way that scene progresses between Marian and the kids. One minute, they’re all scared stiff of the Lady Marian, the next they’re flapping their gums about how they’re friends with an outlaw, asking her questions about her love life and whether or not she and Robin are gonna have kids. Things escalated so quickly.

* “My trap is baited and set, and then revenge. REVENGE!”

* “Oh no, forgive me but I lose more jewels that way”.

* Why isn’t there a soundtrack to this movie? Get on that, Disney.

* “Oh, by the way, I hear you’ve been having some trouble catching old Robin Hood” (oooohhhh) “He’s scared of me, that’s what it is! You see he didn’t how show up here today! I can spot him through his phony disguises”.

* “Not so hard, you mean thing!” Hate sex.

* “Help, Robin, help!”.

* “KILL HIM!!! STOP THE GIRL!!!”.

* “Yep, I’m in here too”. That sucks, man.

* “Things can’t get any worse.” Why Friar, why?

* “GET OUT OF MY CHURCH!” Kick his ass, Friar!

* “Wait a minute, is the safety still on old Betsy?” “You bet it is, Sheriff” “That’s what I’m afraid of. You go first”.

Further Reading:

Fanart:

Robin Hood 4

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3 Responses to Robin Hood (1973)

  1. Pingback: Lady and the Tramp (1955) | The Cool Kat's Reviews

  2. A quite enjoyable film indeed!

    Yes, I remember I was so shocked and hated it when I realized that the Hamster Dance song was based from Whistle-Stop, lol!

    Lucky kid got a kiss from Maid Marian too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Pinocchio (1940) | The Cool Kat's Reviews

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