DVD: Bandit of Sherwood Forest, The (1946)

January 6, 2019 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer: Very Good

Extras: n/a

Label:  Sony

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  May 11, 2010

Genre:  Action / Romance

Synopsis: Robin Hood’s son Robert helps rescue the boy king of England from an evil regent whose appetite for power grows exponentially.

Special Features:  (none)




With a good 8 years having passed since Errol Flynn portrayed the definitive Robin Hood in Warner Bros.’ 1938 Technicolor blockbuster, Columbia probably sensed it was safe to do a kind of follow-up without making the famous outlaw the central hero. Enter Paul A. Castleton’s 1941 novel Son of Robin Hood, which the studio chose as the first of possible several new entries in what’s unofficially known as the Sherwood Forest quartet. (Technically it’s more of a trilogy, since the third entry was never distributed by the studio, but we’ll get to that film in a follow-up review.)

With a quartet of writers hammering out the script for The Bandit of Sherwood Forest, this slight B-movie goosed with Technicolor cinematography proved almost as fun as the Flynn hit, partly because everyone seemed determined to capture the verve of the original while setting up a potentially new franchise.

The dialogue by credited Wildred H. Petitt (A Thousand and One Nights) and Melvin Levy (Robin Hood of El Dorado, Pirates of Tortuga) and uncredited scribes Oscar Saul (A Streetcar Named Desire, Major Dundee) and George Sklar works rather smoothly, with son Robert of Nottingham (Cornel Wilde) doing all the fighting and romancing after his aging pop (Russell Hicks) is booted from William of Pembroke’s court for attempting to save the use of the Magna Carta, which preserves basic civic and human rights of subjects rich and poor.

Pembroke (Henry Daniell) is also the Regent to the boy king (teen actor Maurice Tauzin), who awaits his chance at governing whilst the Queen Mother (Jill Esmond) ensures his safety & education at the castle. With RH branded an outlaw again and his wealth seized, the spineless Earls rubber stamp Pembroke’s every maneuver. Meanwhile, after the Queen Mother and Lady Catherine Maitland (fetching Anita Louise) escape the castle under darkness, they seek the trusty support.of RH’s merry men for a rescue operation.

Future lovers Catherine and preposterously over-confident Robert ultimately clash directly with Pembroke, his evil aide Fitz-Herbert (George Macready, who would play a different role in Columbia’s follow-up, Rogues of Sherwood Forest), Lord Mortimer (prolific character thespian Ian Wolfe), and the very clumsy Sheriff of Nottingham (Lloyd Corrigan), unaware he’ll become garden food once his usefulness in Pembroke’s plot to kill the whiny boy king comes to a close.

After a fumbled attempt to rescue the royal snot, Robert and Catherine are separately incarcerated in the castle’s tower, and there’s a brilliant sequence in which witty repartee supports her clever tactic of sending food & water to Robert to ensure he’s well-nourished for a morning sword fight with Pembroke.

The final clashing of blades more than echoes some of the choreography and shadowplay of Flynn and Basil Rathbone’s epic duel, with action and camerawork gliding up & down staircases, and through open courtyards. Wilde’s obvious strength and dexterity is kept in full medium and wide shots, while Daniell’s slimmer and more energetic stunt double is shown full-body from the side; it’s a minor continuity quibble, given Daniell makes up for the deception by portraying one of many swines in his expansive C.V. of memorable villains.

Bandit has less elaborate sets than the ’38 classic – the drawbridge is seen open & closed, but any movement is conveyed by shadow – but the direction is first rate: like the Flynn classic, there’s shared direction, in this case between Henry Levin (later to helm Journey to the Center of the Earth, April Love, and the underrated Genghis Khan), and George Sherman, a prolific B-director of primarily westerns.

The cinematography by credited triumvirate Tony Gaudio (High Sierra, The Red Pony), George Meehan , and William E. Snyder (Wonder Man, The Conqueror) is superb – the Technicolors blaze and metallic highlights shimmer, the shadows are deep & dark, and the castle becomes the perfect source for bathing characters and surfaces in rich amber, red, green, blue, and violet hues. That Bavaesque colour palette also flatters the hybrid costumes by Jean Louis, and hairstyles which in the case of the women, bear the same tall architecture and sculpted swoops and curls of wartime films.

Perhaps the icing on the cake is the boisterous, intricate score by Hugo Friedhofer, who orchestrated several top pictures at Warner Bros. (including The Adventures of Robin Hood) and became one of Fox’s top composers, adding elegance and complexity to several of the studio’s best pictures (including CinemaScope classics Boy on a Dolphin and The Young Lions).

If son Robert is the action man, then father Robin is the elder statesman, peace broker, and enlightened Earl who outlines the right courses of action and keeps his son in line (if not steers him from outright reckless action), and offers some down-to-earth tips when dealing with ladies. Edgar Buchanan’s hard American accent doesn’t detract from his primary role of making the corpulent Friar Tuck savvy, and Will Scarlet (John Abbott), Little John (Ray Teal), and Allan-A-Dale (Leslie Denison) complete the classic outlaw bunch whose roles are more for colour & filler than function.

Whereas Cornel Wilde’s career was heading towards an extended peak in noirs (Leave Her to Heaven, Road House), period melodramas (Forever Amber), and as a director (The Naked Prey, Beach Red), Anita Louise’s star power was dimming towards B pictures and TV, having previously appeared in the classics The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936), Anthony Adverse (1936), and Marie Antionette (1938).

The four entries in the Sherwood Forest quartet are Columbia’s The Bandit of Sherwood Forest (1946) and Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950), and the Hammer-produced The Men of Sherwood Forest (1954) and Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960), the latter released by Columbia.

Paul A. Castleton also wrote a 1942 sequel, Son of Robin Hood in Nottingham, but it was the first novel that inadvertently launched the unofficial film series. The first tale was reportedly pitched to indie studio Republic by producer Clifford Sanforth in 1944, and later successfully shopped to Columbia, where it was rebranded as Bandit of Sherwood Forest after MGM didn’t want any confusion with their ownership of an operetta. The title Son of Robin Hood was later used by Fox for their 1958 film that bore no connection to Castleton’s work.



© 2019 Mark R. Hasan




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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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