JT Film Review

91 – The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

The Adventures of Robin Hood REVIEW

5/5 stars

Director – Michael Curtiz, William Keighley

Cast – Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Patrick Knowles, Allan Hale, Melville Cooper, Eugene Pallette, Ian Hunter, Herbert Mundin, Una O’Connor


There have been many interpretations of the traditional Robin Hood legend, from Douglas Fairbanks’ stunt-athon in 1922, to Disney’s anthropomorphic tale, to Kevin Costner’s attempt at a more realistic version with Prince of Thieves. Frankly there hasn’t been a genre not attempted with the Robin Hood tale. Even Mel Brooks had a stab at it with Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and we have a gritty, blockbuster version coming up soon directed by Ridley Scott and featuring Russel Crowe, Robin Hood.

Regardless of who tries or in what genre the movie is set, all versions of the Robin Hood legend since the 40’s have been compared to this version, and rightly so. The Adventures of Robin Hood is fast and fun, without a single scene wasted. Using the fairly new Technicolor system, this movie has a brilliant palette and bright, simple, yet energetic costumes. Errol Flynn brings out every image we could possibly have of a capable, slightly cocky, yet down to earth hero. The rest of the actors are perfectly cast, from Claude Rains as the scheming Prince John, Basil Rathbone (later to gain fame, and eventual type-casting, as Sherlock Holmes) as the villainous Sir Guy, to Patrick Knowles as Will Scarlett, and Alan Hale as Little John.

The greatest virtue of the movie is its lightning quick pace. In a risky move we are given no background on virtually any of the characters, and are just shoved into the plot. No line or scene is wasted, with the speed of the movie gathering as it continues. We all know who Robin Hood is, and what the basic story will be like, so we as an audience want something that will feel fresh even though it uses the stock characters from the legends. Speed and wit are important to achieve that, and this movie has that in spades. This would not have worked, however, without such excellent characterization.

A word on the musical score as well.  It was composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, a noted German composer who had worked on a few other Warner Bros. films, most notably A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Errol Flynn’s Captain Blood. He was in Austria when offered the job of composing the score for The Adventures of Robin Hood, and moved to America to compose it. Shortly afterwards Hitler cracked down on Jews in any Nazi-occupied territory, and Korngold then said that this score saved his life. It is a wonderful score, and rightly one of Korngold’s most famous. It is light and sprightly where it needs to be, and dark and imposing when that is called for. Most of all, it is full of energy and life, much like the hero himself.


The Adventures of Robin Hood is one of the benchmarks in action movie history. The cast is all excellent, and Errol Flynn is still the definitive Robin Hood (in the light action mode). Heck, he is one of the definitive action stars of all time, and this is probably his best role (even though he claims to have been bored with it). Well this is one film no audience will be bored with. Recommended to anyone who likes the classics or movies in general.



“The Adventures of Robin Hood” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



May 21, 2010 Posted by | 5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 1930-1939 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment