Monday, November 26, 2007

Robin Hoods I’ve Known and Loved

I’ve been watching a BBC series called Robin Hood online. It is a lot of fun. It has very little to do with anything related to the historical period in which King Richard fought in the Crusades and Prince John ruled England. The costumes involve leather and plastic derivatives. Robin’s “merry men” include a Saracen woman. Maid Marian is anything but maidenly. But I love it. Every episode is a fun-filled romp. A hoody-wearing Robin and his crew run about doing their steal from the Sheriff deeds, and Guy of Gisbourne smolders in full biker leather. There’s a Robin-Marian-Guy love triangle, and all sorts of other hijinks. Total trash TV. But definitely fun.

Really, I don’t think the show is much good. But it is one of those pieces of camp that you can’t help but enjoy. On top of that, I’m a lifelong Robin Hood fan.

So, some of the other film and television Robin’s I’ve known and loved over the years:

There have been so very many filmed Robin Hoods. Beginning very early in 1912, filmmakers haven’t been able to leave this story alone. Check the IMDB record for the character name “Robin Hood”.

I guess when you discuss filmic Robins, you really need to start with Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood. The great. The historic. The dapper and dashing. The only Robin Hood movie in which you might actually choose to eat off the castle floor. But what a sword fight between the dashing Errol Flynn and the equally intriguing Basil Rathbone. With Olivia de Haviland as Maid Marian, Basil Rathbone as Guy of Gisbourne, and the inimitable Claude Rains as Prince John. What a cast!

And then there's the more senior Robin and Marian, with Sean Connery as Robin, and Audrey Hepburn as Marian. It must be said that I love Audrey. So almost anything she’s in is ok in my book. But I do really like this movie. It looks at a different Robin. An older Robin. A romantic Robin. Returning from the Crusades, an older and more broken Robin seeks to win the love of his Marian one last time. It is lovely and sometimes amusing and sad. So bring your Kleenex.

Embarassingly, I have a guilty guilty love for the Kevin Costner epic Robin Hood Prince of Thieves from 1991. Christian Slater at the height of his bad boy appeal. A love song by Bryan Adams which features a music video shot in an autumn woods. Firy arrows. Morgan Freeman. Morgan Freeman's voice. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's hair. And Alan Rickman as a baddy. Any movie with Alan Rickman as a baddy has to be good. He does bad oh so very well. I love, love, love it. Even with poor old Kevin and his terrible coming and going accent.

Honourable filmic mention must be given to Rocket Robin Hood . That amazing Saturday morning cartoon. Recognizable for its terrible dialogue and stilted animation. But who wouldn’t love a space age Robin Hood?

"Come gather around me. Space travelers surround me.
Hark now to the ballad of Rocket Robin Hood.
I may well confound you, astound you, spellbound you,
with heroes and villains, the bad and the good.
Watch now as our rockets race here from afar.
For now, with our Robin, we live on a star."
"Three. Two. One. Blast off!
Band of brothers, marching together.
Heads held high in all kinds of weather.
With fiery blasts, our roaring rockets rise,
beyond the Earth, beyond the skies!
At the side of Robin, take your stand,
with the gallant leader of our band.
Send a joyous shout throughout the land!
For Rocket Robin Hood!"

But perhaps my favourite of all. The best Robin Hood movie in the canon. The one I can quote with the greatest aplomb? That's right - the Walt Disney animals as characters from a legend extravanganza!
With Robin and Marian played by foxes. Prince John as a maneless lion, and King Richard as a lion with a giant mane. Little John as a Bear, Alan-a-Dale as a mandolin playing rooster. And, my two personal favourites - Sir Hiss (the Guy of Gisbourne character) as a snake. And. Wait for it. Maid Marian's lady in waiting - Lady Kluck - a giant chicken who rivals the bear in size, and is able to knock Rhinos off their hooves while burning it down a field football style. Oh the glory!

This particular version also features one of Disney's all-time best titled songs "The Phony King of England". Genius! And to go with that stellar title. Lyrics that will blow your mind!

Oh the world will sing of an English King
A thousand years from now
And not because he passed some laws
Or had that lofty brow
While bonny good King Richard leads
The great crusade he's on
We'll all have to slave away
For that good-for-nothin' John

Incredible as he is inept
Whenever the history books are kept
They'll call him the phony king of England
A pox on the phony king of England!

He sits alone on a giant throne
Pretendin' he's the king
A little tyke who's rather like
A puppet on a string
And he throws an angry tantrum
if he cannot have his way
And then he calls for Mum while he's suckin' his thumb
You see, he doesn't want to play

Too late to be known as John the First
He's sure to be known as John the worst
A pox on that phony king of England!

While he taxes us to pieces
And he robs us of our bread
King Richard's crown keeps slippin' down
Around that pointed head
Ah! But while there is a merry man
in Robin's wily pack
We'll find a way to make him pay
And steal our money back

The minute before he knows we're there
Ol' Rob'll snatch his underwear
The breezy and uneasy king of England
The snivellin' grovellin'
Measly weasely
Blabberin' jabberin'
Gibberin' jabberin'
Blunderin' plunderin'
Wheelin' dealin'
Prince John, that phony king of England

The last verse is my favourite....


False Prophet said...

I picked up the made-for-TV movie starring Patrick Bergen that was made to rival Prince of Thieves way back when. Haven't watched it yet--I don't remember much about it, but some reviewers felt it was superior to Costner's version.

I also want to track down the British TV series from the 80s with the theme song by Clannad (AKA, Enya's relatives). I think it was "Robin of Sherwood". It was most notable because the original Robin was killed off and a new one took his place halfway through the series.

Ah, Rocket Robin Hood. That really takes me back. The most horrible animation and use of stock footage since the original Spiderman cartoon. But that theme song kicked ass!

Matthew said...

It was called Robin of Sherwood and it aired 3 series between 1984-1986 and aired on PBS for years. I have vague memories of the episode where the dark haired Robin of Loxely is replaced with the blonde Robin of Huntington as Herne the Hunter's(a stag headed god) defender of Sherwood.

But let's not forget the 50's black and white tv "The Adventures of Robin Hood" that used to air after school on YTV.

MadJenny said...

Hmm. I do have vague memories of the PBS Robin Hood. I didn't mention it, as I couldn't remember which it was. But I do remember watching a tv Robin Hood in the 80s.

Don't remember a black and white one.

FP - I don't think it would be difficult for a film to be better than a Kevin Costner film.
But then, that's not the point of that particular film. The point of watching that one is to delight in the overdoneness of the thing. I'd be interested to see its competitor though.

Maggie said...

OH MY GOD! Rocket Robin Hood! *squeals* My brother and I totally used to watch that cartoon every Sunday morning! And would you believe I just bought that Kevin Costner 'Robin Hood' movie last week. I, too, have a secret passion for Robin Hood and loved all those movies you mentioned. I haven't seen that Internet one yet, though, but all my LiveJournal friends are blogging about it (and they love it too). :D

Azura said...

What about Cary Elwes in "Men In Tights"? One of Mel Brooks' greatest parodies :)

MadJenny said...

Oooh. Robin Hood Men in Tights. Yes. Forgot about that. I should watch it again. I think I only saw it the once when it first came out.

Maggie - you might get it on really TV if you have satelite or better cable than me. I think they show it on BBCAmerica.