Hammer Film Productions, 1960, 80 minutes
Cast: Richard Greene, Peter Cushing, Niall MacGinnis, Sarah Branch, Richard Pasco, Jack Gwillim, Nigel Green, Vanda Godsell, Dennis Lotis, Oliver Reed and Derren Nesbitt
Screenplay: Alan Hackney
Director: Terence Fisher
When Henry II refused to name his eldest son Richard as heir to England and Normandy, Richard allied with Philip II of France, and soon defeated Henry, who died two days later on July 6, 1189. Richard had finally inherited the crown, but he was eager to join the Third Crusade, and reclaim the Holy Land from Saladin. A crusade would be insanely expensive but squeezing revenue from his territories of England, Normandy, Anjou and Aquitaine proved easier than arranging a treaty that would allow both Richard and Philip to go on crusade without fearing that the other would take advantage of the situation to attack. More troublesome was his younger brother John, who clearly lacked either the martial ability or the plotting skills required to seize the throne directly but might try his luck if Richard would be absent for months or even years. After a tremendous amount of organization, the English and French kings left in the summer of 1190. On the way to Palestine, Richard announced that he would marry Berengaria, daughter of the king of Navarre, ending his very, very, very, very long engagement to Philip’s sister, transforming Philip from a grudging ally into a rival. When Richard was captured by the Duke of Austria on the way home from the crusade, Philip seized the opportunity to invade Richard’s lands in France. Once a massive ransom had been paid, Richard spent several years struggling to reclaim his territory.
Robin Hood (Richard Greene) rescues a wounded man fleeing the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men into Sherwood Forest but an encounter with Lady Marion (Sarah Branch) while she is swimming in a lake does not go well. When Marion offers a meeting at an inn, Robin naturally expects a romantic rendezvous but she explains that as a free woman she can not have a relationship with an outlaw. Fortunately, her friend the sheriff (Peter Cushing) offers a pardon in exchange for the wounded man. After Robin refuses the offer, the sheriff leads an army into the forest, but the outlaws simply move their encampment. Unfortunately, new recruit Martin (Derrin Nesbit) is captured, and reveals the location in exchange for a pardon since he has not seen his family for a year, but the sheriff has him killed and then pardons him. Realizing that the sheriff can not be trusted, Marion throws herself into ensuring justice for Martin’s widow. Robin is meeting with Friar Tuck (Niall MacGinnis) when a chance encounter with the earl of Newark (Richard Pasco) results in a job for Robin. Given the earl’s tough tests of archery, it is clear that he is planning an assassination, but Robin is forced to flee when the sheriff unexpectedly appears. Robin figures out that he has stumbled onto a plot against chancellor Hubert Walter (Jack Gwillum) by the earl and his followers, including the sheriff and Lord Melton (Oliver Reed). Marion is with Walter when they are ambushed by Newark’s agents, so they seek safety in a priory, but the prioress (Vanda Godsell) is part of the plot. Walter seems doomed, but Robin has managed to enter the priory.
Hm, there is not a lot of historical content other than Hubert Walter was chancellor when Richard was off fighting in France. The screen Walter is a good swordsman, but the real man was not a soldier, merely an extremely effective administrator.
Honestly, it is a fun movie. The evil nobles all have such bad hairstyles that they are cool, while Tuck’s neverending feud with his donkey is a joy to watch.
The earl’s plot is foiled because every member of the conspiracy has a large, ornate seal, which seems completely unnecessary, except as a means for Robin to figure out the plot. Seriously, what is the point of the seal, they all know each other, and no one ever actually flashes the seal to identify themselves to another conspirator.
Alan A Dale is a good singer with a funky lute. I have no idea if it existed in that period but it is cool.
As an in-house director for Hammer Films, Terrence Fisher had more experience with movies that had Dracula, Frankenstein or the devil in their title, not swashbucklers. Surprisingly for a Hammer film, there is almost no horror, aside from a creepy scene where the nuns recite the Lord’s Prayer.