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We all know that Disney made an animated version of the Robin Hood story in 1973. But, many of us don’t know that Disney had already tackled that story many years earlier! Released in 1952, The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men was not only a live-action retelling of the story, but also Disney’s second fully live action film ever made! Does it hold up as a Robin Hood film? Let’s find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The movie begins in the year 1190 when King Richard the Lionheart has set out on a crusade to the Holy Land and has summoned many of his loyal subjects to go with him. We soon meet the two young leads of the film: Robin Fitzooth, played by Richard Todd, and Maid Marian, played by Joan Rice. They’re typical youngsters in love with each other, teasing each other, etc. But, this Holy Land expedition has provided them with some distance apart.
Robin isn’t fighting in the Crusades and is staying back home with his father. Meanwhile, Maid Marian’s father is heading off with King Richard, so Maid Marian is sent to stay with Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine until her father returns.
Whilst King Richard is away, he puts his younger brother, Prince John, played by Hubert Gregg, in charge of the Kingdom. Prince John almost immediately tries to rule with a more stern and harsh rule than his lenient, merciful brother. Prince John hires the Sheriff of Nottingham, played by Peter Finch, to follow his orders and collect unfair taxes from the people. In order to amass an army, the Sheriff of Nottingham enlists the most skilled bowmen at the Nottingham Fair.
Most of these bowmen agree to join his forces, but Robin Fitzooth and his father recognize the Sheriff and the Prince’s evil ways and refuse to join. As a result, Robin’s father is shot dead. When Robin sees this, he kills the assassin sent to kill his father and then flees into Sherwood Forest to prevent himself from being caught by the Sheriff’s men.
It is here where Robin Fitzooth becomes Robin Hood. He becomes a savior for the people and an outlaw in the eyes of Prince John. While the Sheriff is busy levying unfair taxes and torturing/jailing the ones who can’t or refuse to pay, Robin Hood is doing his best to help those people. He robs from the rich to give to the poor, he frees people from punishment when he can, etc. He even has gotten a few men to join his cause. Together, they’re known as Robin Hood and his Merrie Men. Some of these Merrie Men include Little John, played by James Robertson Justice,
Friar Tuck, played by James Hayter,
and minstrel Alan-a-Dale, played by Elton Hayes.
Soon enough, Maid Marian learns of Robin Hood. Well, she learns of the “Robin Hood” that Prince John is promoting: a common thief and outlaw. She can’t believe what she hears and one day, she surreptitiously leaves the Queen’s castle and heads for Sherwood Forest to confront Robin. There, she realizes what a lie Prince John has been telling and she and Robin rekindle their love for one another.
By this time, King Richard has been taken prisoner by his enemies and will only be freed if his ransom is paid. But of course, Prince John isn’t willing to part with his money soon to save his brother. Luckily, Maid Marian has an idea. She collects money from Robin Hood and his Merrie Men and declares to the townspeople that Robin Hood and his men are actually good and have donated this much money. This puts the pressure on Prince John and the Sheriff who are then forced to give pretty much all the money that they have to save King Richard.
Afterwards, Prince John locks up Maid Marian to prevent her from escaping again to see Robin Hood. Luckily, Robin Hood and his Merrie Men soon find out and break into the castle. This climax results in the rescue of Maid Marian and the death of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin Hood and his men take Maid Marian back to Sherwood Forest with them where they’re soon visited by the newly freed King Richard.
He recognizes Robin Hood and his men’s work and makes Robin an Earl. He then promises Maid Marian’s hand in marriage to Robin. And what does he do about Prince John? Umm…I’m honestly not sure what happened to Prince John. He’s either died, escaped, or soon to be punished by King Richard.
But, it doesn’t matter because that was the end of The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men! As you can tell, this review is quite short as it really is just your basic Robin Hood story. It tells you all you need to know and nothing more: what Robin Hood and Maid Marian were like before Robin became an outlaw, how Robin became an outlaw, how Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham got into power, who joined Robin Hood’s cause, etc. If you’ve never heard of Robin Hood before, this movie is a good one to get the gist of the story down pat!
The acting is pretty good overall and the set and costume design feel really authentic for the medieval time period. Alan-a-Dale even sings a few old English-style tunes of Robin Hood that are pleasing to the ear. There are also a few scenes in the film that seem to clearly inspire scenes in the later animated adaptation of Robin Hood.
All in all, there is nothing that I can really fault the film for other than it just might not be particularly interesting or exciting. It’s definitely not a favorite of mine, but it does what it set out to do: tell the story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men! So while this film has pretty much been forgotten nowadays,
I can’t say that it’s a bad film. If you wanna check it out, go ahead!
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 28/35 = 80% (B-) !
The next review will be posted on July 18th.