DVD: Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950)

January 6, 2019 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras: Standard

Label:  Sony

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  May 11, 2010

Genre:  Action / Romance

Synopsis: Robin Hood Jr. follows in the footsteps of his father, reuniting the aging merry men and battling a corrupt King John and a scheming Belgian swine.

Special Features:  Theatrical Trailer.




Columbia’s second entry in their Sherwood Forest quartet follows an oft-repeated premise in which the son of an icon proves his own worth with the aide of dad’s old pals, all of whom are a lot older but savvy, and still agile in combat. It’s an excuse to attract fans of the 1938 Errol Flynn classic by reassembling Robin Hood’s old team, including Alan Hale, reprising the role of Little John, a rare continuity when most spinoffs would prefer to stick to a new batch of characters and avoid stark comparisons.

The original Adventures of Robin Hood had a huge budget, superb sets & costumes, an all-star cast, extras galore, top-notch swordfights, and music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, but being a straight B-production using the same sets as predecessor Bandit of Sherwood (1946), the castle set is repurposed, which isn’t a bad thing, given Rogues picks up several years after Richard III has returned, crafted a Magna Carta, and following his death, evil King John uses brutal taxes to fund the use of the Belgium army to conquer as many wayward sections of England and its Earls as possible.

The Technicolor by Charles Lawton Jr. (My Sister Eileen, Cowboy, Rome Adventure) is still first-rate, and casting John Derek as RH Jr. was rather smart. Derek’s dramatic range wasn’t especially broad, but his screen persona was wholly likable, and the addition of a pencil moustache and a tan made him more than a slight echo of Flynn. Derek’s natural athleticism ensured many of the stunts and horseback chases featured a decent degree of the starlet in action.

By the 1940s, director Gordon Douglas had graduated from Our Gang shorts to more diverse B-movies, but he had yet to show some firm panache with choreographed combat. His next film, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950) had a tough edge, but the fighting in Rogues happens a little too slowly. There’s a sense Douglas forgot / chose not to speed up the footage a smidge, which may explain the dullness of Jr.’s swordfight up an outer stairwell, and his swooping onto the roof / quick trot / jump to the ground and escape. The lameness is most evident when there’s a superior horseback montage (presumably by second unit director Wilbur McGaugh) in which the camera car tracks along the riders, and excited horses whip past a low-locked camera.

Scenarists George Bruce (Kansas City Confidential, Solomon and Sheba) and Ralph Gilbert Bettison (1984) also borrowed bits of Bandit’s prison cell & food swap sequence. In the far less exciting riff, separately jailed Lady Marianne (former child actress Diana Lynn) almost spontaneously decides to help RH Jr. and Little John by wrapping a hacksaw in the same scarf that was returned to her by Jr. in the unusually grisly jousting sequence at the film’s beginning. Being a less creative sequel, though, sawing through the bars is abandoned when Jr. and Marianne manage to knock out the guards and hurry into the sanctuary of Sherwood Forest.

The reassembly of RH Sr.’s old team is rather cute: Jr.’s  firing a flaming arrow across the sky has Friar Tuck (Billy House, in a terrible skullcap) leave the seminary post-haste; Alan-A-Dale (Lester Matthews) abandoning a young hottie after crooning a tune in the voice of a man clearly 20 years his junior; and Will Scarlet being extricated by Jr. from the town’s punishment stocks for poaching.

George Macready’s knack for playing conniving scoundrels (Gilda) had him recast as King John in spite of playing colourful Fitz-Herbert, the co-scoundrel of rotten royal apple William of Pembroke (Henry Daniel) in Bandit, but lacking the peppery dialogue of the prior film, Macready’s proclamations of cruelty are tepid, leaving the actor’s raspy yet resonant voice to boost his character’s truncated malevolence.

Rogues is nevertheless fine – it hits all the predictable marks and has a bit of everything audiences expect in a Medieval action-romance – but it never transcends its B-grade roots; even the score features far too many theme iterations by Arthur Morton, Heinz Roemheld, and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (And Then There Were None).

Sony’s DVD features a nice transfer that glows with rich colours, but the only extra is the original trailer that hypes Derek, fresh from All the King’s Men (1949) as the studio’s “new romantic idol.” The actor had also co-starred with Macready and Humphrey Bogart in Douglas’ A-picture Knock on Any Door (1949), whereas Macready also appeared in the director’s The Nevadan (1950).

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.



© 2019 Mark R. Hasan




External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Composer Filmographies: Arthur Morton / Heinz Roemheld / Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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