on April 30, 2002
This film wonderfully directed by Richard Lester offers an entirely different take on the legendary characters of Robin Hood and Maid Marian. It is 1199, Robin and Little John, return to England, after King Richard the Lionheart's death during the siege of Châlus. Marian, who is an abbess now, is taken from Kirklees Abbey. Robin and his followers once more prepare to fight against the Sheriff of Nottingham, their old foe. As for the story I will refrain from saying anything else.
"Robin and Marian" is about ageing, accepting life as it is. Which is a far cry from the non-stop swashbuckling of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" with Errol Flynn. This film shows how everyone deals with the progress of time, but offers no judgement.
Sean Connery is splendid as the middle-aged Robin. With insight and passion he portrays a man who does not take well to the passage of time. Which is sometimes painful to behold. Audrey Hepburn shines, in what I think is certainly one of her most interesting performances. Her excellent Marian has wisdom, intelligence, spunk and a wistful touch. Her chemistry with Connery's Robin is brilliant. Their rekindled love is shown with a bittersweet, poignant tenderness. Which one does not see often on the screen, and Audrey Hepburn and Sean Connery certainly rise to the challenge. Of the other cast members Robert Shaw and Nicol Williamson stood out for me. Shaw's Sheriff is cunning but also fatherly (he has moved on but is still a match for Robin). And Williamson's Little John although staunchly loyal to Robin knows very well that things are over.
This film has a gritty, authentic medieval look, with the lovely locations of the forest to enjoy. A great soundtrack by John Barry also adds to its wistful mood. But the viewer gets a rather stereotypical portrayal of King John. The usual evil John of the legends. As well as that the film incorporates some interesting symbolism.
"Robin and Marian" does not destroy the legend of Robin Hood and Maid Marian. To me they became very realistic and infinitely more human. Not in the least because of the fantastic performances by Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. No matter what, the two lovers will always be together, in the hearts and minds of people. However this film does not compromise, ultimately leading to its downbeat and heartwrenching finale.
Growing up as a young reader in WASP America, it was inevitable that I should be exposed to the Robin Hood legend. Indeed, it was that tale, along with my young (and imperfect) knowledge of Becket, Henry VIII and his wives, and King Arthur and the Round Table, which first got me to dreaming about visiting England. After my first journey across The Pond in '75 to that green and pleasant land, I was hooked. Thus, it was with great relish that I viewed ROBIN AND MARIAN.
How could one possibly find fault with the casting of this film: Man's Man Sean Connery as the aging, creaky Robin Hood, and the always beautiful Audrey Hepburn as the love of his life, Maid Marian. As a bonus for the viewer, Robert Shaw and Nicol Williamson play the Sheriff of Nottingham and Little John respectively. It doesn't get better than this.
As the movie opens, Robin and faithful pal Little John are off in France attendant to the death of King Richard the Lionhearted (Richard Harris), after having rummaged around with the monarch on the Third Crusade. Richard's funeral over, our two heroes return to Sherwood Forest. Robin soon learns that the new sovereign, wicked King John, has ordered the Sheriff of Nottingham to evict a group of nuns from a local abbey. As circumstance would have it, Maid Marian took the veil in Robin's long absence, and is now the abbey's prioress. Despite his aching bones and stiff joints, Robin sets off to rescue his damsel-in-distress from his old archenemy.
There are so many joys to this movie. One is watching Sean's Robin deal with advancing age. He's still young at heart, but sleeping in the damp, cold forest isn't what it used to be. Both he and Little John are too much "over the hill" for such nonsense, but only the latter, with increasing skepticism, seems to realize it. Then there's Audrey's Marian, who isn't at first sure that she needs the renewed attentions of her old beau. (Audrey is so exquisite! They don't make actresses like that anymore.) The intervening years have even had an effect on Shaw's Sheriff of Nottingham, making him much wiser in his dealings with his rascally nemesis.
Finally, the scriptwriters give their own interpretation to the traditional ending of the Robin Hood story. In their hands, it becomes at least a two-hankie event. Just remembering it now, I'm looking for the Kleenex box. Call me a sucker, but I just ate it up!
on July 18, 2002
Okay, first a bit of DVD speak. The special features advertised on the box include sound in English (and only English). I didn't know that sound in movies had been a special feature at any point since the 1930s. Oh well.. as with most scaled down DVDs, it advertises the standard menus, scene access and trailers as being special features. No matter. The film is a very nice transfer, and the movie itself is pretty special.
The script is by James Goldman, who also wrote the medieval character piece The Lion in Winter. And if anything, the writing here is even sharper than his early film.
Many people have noticed the 1970s Vietnam era feel. And it's true that Robin as a returning crusader certainly taped into the mood of the decade the film was made. But it's more than that. Most Robin Hood films end with Robin being pardoned by the king. And this happens in one of the earliest ballads too.
But the part of the ballad that is cut out of most movies is that Robin Hood eventually left the king's service and returned to his outlaw ways. And then he died at Kirklees Priory. And these final years of Robin also appear in many of the children's novels. This movie -- like very few other filmed versions of the legend -- shows the end of Robin's life.
After the death of King Richard, Robin returns to Sherwood. He has a lot of regrets -- leaving England, leaving Marian, participating in senseless slaughters like Acre. So, a much older Robin seeks a second chance. In his twilight years, Robin tries to recapture the best days of his life. There's something very sad and tragic about it -- but it's also wonderfully human.
The acting in the film is first rate -- Sean Connery makes a very believable Robin. Nicol Williamson is an interesting older Little John. Screen legend Audrey Hepburn plays a very changed Marian. And finally Robert Shaw is the best sheriff of Nottingham in all the Robin Hood movies. An older, more patient, likeable man. The sheriff hasn't been promoted because "I can read and write. It makes you suspect. Not a duke in twenty can read a word. Correct, my lord?" "Books are for clerks."
As he waits for Robin to invade Nottingham, he explains "He's a little in love with death. He flirts. He teases. I can wait."
I think those quotations should give you some idea of how good the writing is and also something of the film's mood.
It is a rich and interesting character piece of people who are very human, but who also formed the basis of legend. ("They've turned us into heroes, Johnny.") It's not an action film, not swashbuckling adventure. There is some romance, but it both a mature and immature romance of older people trying to recapture lost glories.
A smart, sombre -- but also witty -- film. As others have said, it is very much underrated. When I bought this DVD, the store owner was impressed. "Now that's a cool choice," he said.
And so it was.
Long considered one of the classic stories of British folklore, Robin Hood has inspired artists not only in his homeland, but in France, Germany, the Americas, and as far afield as Japan. One of the first counterculture figures, he rose against a repressive hierarchy and won equality for the common masses of Britain. However, the story often ends when King Richard Lionheart returns and reprimands his wayward brother, who has been sitting as regent. What happened to Robin and his companions after that?
This question is explored in Richard Lester's "Robin and Marian." Lester, best known for directing the Beatles in "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!," steps away from his comedy résumé to create a more cynical, realistic look at the effects of maturity on a man who is associated intimately with virility and youth.
Everybody's favorite James Bond, Sean Connery, is Robin Hood. He has spent decades on the Crusades with Richard - this time he is not a disinherited nobleman, but a peasant who has achieved greatness and fame. However, King Richard (Richard Harris, "A Man Called Horse") is a selfish and venal ruler who instills fear by force and takes without giving. Wounded while laying siege to a lesser lord's castle, he dies from the strain of an attempt to kill Robin for insubordination. This leaves Robin and his Lieutenant, Little John (Nicol Williamson) at loose ends, so they decide to return to England, which they haven't seen in twenty years.
Robin Hood and Little John are both flawed men. Robin Hood refuses to acknowledge he isn't the young man he was when he fought Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Little John is loyal to the point where he won't allow himself to disagree with Robin, even when he's plainly wrong.
When Robin takes a spontaneous notion to visit his old haunts in Sherwood, Little John tags along, and they run into Friar Tuck (Ronnie Barker) and Will Scarlett (Denholm Elliot). There is talk of a peasant rebellion against King John (Ian Holm), who is just as bad a ruler as when he stood in for his brother, but it doesn't really come to anything.
Robin Hood doesn't realize he's getting old, though he references his age. When he rides out to seek his long-abandoned love, Maid Marian (Audrey Hepburn, "Breakfast at Tiffany's"), he finds she's become a nun. However, he refuses to believe Marian might have higher priorities than cheap thrills, and insists she join him in the forest. Because King John is on the outs with the Pope, Marian is a criminal, but she wants to be a martyr. Robin won't let her do so and steals her away, putting him in bad blood with his old foe, the Sheriff of Nottingham (Robert Shaw, "Force 10 From Navarone").
Robin wants to be the hero he was two decades ago. His companions know they are staring down the throat of mortality, but they don't seem to know just what that means. Only the Sheriff seems to have a strong grasp of human nature, and is willing to let bygones be bygones, except that he has orders from the King, who he must not disobey.
Though the characters are all the same age and have the same level of experience, there is a visible generation gap between them. Robin and, to a lesser degree, his companions, all want to be the heroes they were before they became fairly legitimate. Marian has a strong sense of responsibility, but is willing to play Merry Men with Robin until it proves he's not just playing. The Sheriff is a quiet, peaceful, indeed almost fatherly figure who exacts discipline because it's needed, not because he relishes it.
Robin is the eternal child, the fox that Walt Disney painted, while the Maid Marian has grown a human spirit as she's gotten older. She recognizes her limitations and is unwilling to revert to the play of two decades earlier. She realizes Robin is caught in a relentless cycle of violence, but she no longer wants to be a part of it. When Robin crows, in the wake of a successful battle, "We'll never have a day like this again," the two put very different meanings on that sentence.
This dark view of English history and heroes invites obvious comparisons to "King Lear," but it is very much the product of a more modern ideal. Great figures, renowned for their youth and virility, Sean Connery for instance, were increasingly being forced to recognize they weren't kids anymore. They had to make choices - hang onto youth with both fists, grow up and seek spirituality, grow up and seek worldliness - and there was no straddling the fence. All these options are reflected in "Robin and Marian," and even more - as many options as there are characters, as many options as there are people who face age.
There is no clear answer provided as to what way to face age is the correct one, but when is there in this life? When some people choose one way and some choose another, conflict is inevitable. What matters is less who chooses correctly than how all involved deal with their respective choices. Time reveals how everyone deals with their choices in this movie, but bear in mind - no one is spared the consequences of their actions, for good or ill.
This timely take on the timeless story will appeal to many different ages and outlooks. However, this is no comedy, no romance. This is a hard look into human motivations. Remember that and don't say you weren't warned.
on January 27, 2000
Robin Hood! The name invokes images of Errol Flynn in green tights. Lighing sword fights. Deeds of daring in Sherwood Forest. Cunning villians. And romance between a handsome young couple.
"Robin and Marian" approaches that subject from a completly different angle. Here Robin is middle-aged and balding. The Sheriff of Nottingham is cynical and tired. And Marian is an experienced nun! It truly is different- Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest twenty years AFTER his glory days. It is also very well-done. The cast is indeed fantastic. Imagine if this cast had been assembled to make a Robin Hood film twenty years earlier. Young Sean would provided a grittier alternative to Flynn's performance. And who would have made a more beautiful Maid Marian than Audrey Hepburn in 1956?
The most interesting aspect of "Robin and Marian" is Connery's Robin Hood. Everyone has aged twenty years. Yet with the exception of Robin, they have all gained from wisdom and experience. Robin, although jaded by the Crusades and Richard the Lionheart's cruelty bordering on madness, is renewed in spirits by his return to Sherwood. There he is still thought of and worshipped as the young hero he was twenty years earlier. The worse thing is he believes it himself. Everyone close to him knows the glory days are gone- even his closest and most loyal companion- Little John. Yet everyone loves and worships Robin too much to tell him the truth. Even his adversary, the Sheriff of Nottingham, had grown wise in his years. He now knows how to deal with Robin and will no longer make the errors of his youth when opposed by him. The ending is truly poignant with Robin the legend being unmasked by the Sheriff as Robin the tired middle aged man. It is an unbearable sight to Little John, Marian, and all his followers. Marian decides that the legend, whom she loved, will never be besmirched again.
on June 2, 2002
This is a movie that, if memory serves, performed less than spectacularly at the box office. I suppose the reason for this is that when people go to see a movie about Robin Hood, they generally want to see swashbuckling action, topped off with a happy ending where good triumphs. That's what viewers of Robin Hood movies have been used to ever since Errol Flynn swung a sword in the role. This movie, on the other hand, features relatively little action, and a distinctly tragic ending (it's also the only screen treatment of the character I know of that portrays a variant of the actual legend of Robin's end, and the arrow shot blindly to mark the site of his grave). Instead of an upbeat, good-triumphs-over-evil swashbuckler, which most Robin Hood movies are, "Robin and Marian" is melancholy character study with a rather tragic ending. I think this left moviegoing audiences feeling a bit let down when the film debuted, and resulted in a relatively poor box office performance.
But since then, many people have come to appreciate the movie for its considerable artistic merits. I have always loved this movie, and for many of the reasons already listed by other reviewers. It has a truly inspired cast, a tremendously moving ending, the chemistry between the two leads is extraordinary, and the movie presents a new and interesting take on some of the classic characters of English folklore.
What really stands out for me though is the late Robert Shaw's brilliant performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham. This is the only time I have ever seen the character portrayed on screen as anything other than a throughly contemptible villain. The Sheriff has been seen as everything from the greedy, rapacious robber baron of the old British "Robin of Sherwood" TV series, to the over-the-top, caricature of evil portrayed by Alan Rickman in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves". In this movie, Shaw shows us a very believable, and very human Sheriff.
He's obviously cleverer than Robin, and it's also obvious that he truly respects his old adversary. A really touching scene is when the Sheriff warns Robin not to interfere and try to rescue Marian from the fate she has chosen for herself. It's clear he doesn't at all want to be Robin's enemy again. In another scene, he actually laments the death of one of his soldiers - something no other actor's Sheriff would have done in a million years. This Sheriff is actually a rather likeable figure in his way, and if he's a bad guy, it's only because he is a creature of duty and is determined to carry out the orders of his king, even when the king is an unworthy master.
It's fascinating to see such a human portrayal of the Sheriff, to match the realistic human portrayals all the other actors bring to their characters. This is really one of the most underrated pictures out there. I highly recommend it.
on June 4, 2011
Bar none ...
& there are more than a few outstanding actors who have been Robin Hood on the screen (Russell Crowe, Errol Flynn & Jason Connery on the little screen) ...
Sean Connery & Audrey Hepburn gave the Robin Hood story its heroism (which most of them do), its depth & humanity. This is not a carboard cutout love story - it's a love story for romantics who have grown older & wiser & who are still in love.
Robert Shaw plays a conflicted Sheriff of Nottingham - a soldier faced with fighting an opponent he knows is a better man than he is because the king says he must.
& Nicol Williamson as Little John is both Robin's friend & a realist who worries that his old friend's insistence that he is the Robin Hood of the ballads is bound to end in disaster. Little John knows that Robin has grown old & that his muscles ache in the cold & the wet, but he follows him to Sherwood nonetheless.
& Richard Harris is a splendid, mad, megalomaniac King Richard Lionheart who dies in a French field fighting for nothing more than a piece of carved stone.
Bar none ...
Robin & Marian is the best Robin Hood ever.
on October 15, 2012
I guess what this one has over the rest, besides Sean Connery, is realism. There is nothing fancy here, no castles and armies that really never existed, but what actually probably would have happened in a period where resources were scarce and people relatively few.
This is the story of Robin Hood after his return and disilussionment of the Crusades. The charcater of King Richard is excellent and one gets a feeling of hopelessness and waste brought on by the crusades, and we see an older Robin Hood who wants nothing more than to return home and to Marian.
However, people do not change, and Robin Hood fights battles when he arrives home that no one asked him to, including Marian. This leads to the realistic conclusion of what happens when one tries to fight the man.
What is also great about this movie is the depth of the character of the Sheriff. In most of the Robin Hood lore he is two-dimensional evil character, and in this movie he is much more realistically depicted as a beleagured bureaucrat that actually attempts to defend Robin Hood initially until Robin Hood crosses lines that cannot be backed away from.
on July 7, 1999
Lovely Audrey Hepburn, as beautiful as she ever was, rekindles a long lost romance with her then groom-to-be Sean Connery twenty years after they separated. Only trouble is ...the Sheriff of Nottingham is out to get them because she's Lady Marian and he's Robin Hood! All this played out in tongue-in-cheek style by director Richard Lester. I saw this movie in 1976 for the first time, and just recently a few days ago. It is still one of the best romances ever made, and, probably, the Dream Cast ever: Robert Shaw, Nichol Williamson, Richard Harris, Denholm Elliott, Ian Holm as Lackland John and, as his young bride ...Victoria Abril in her first role! Don't miss it!!!
on October 7, 2004
There is very little wrong with this movie, but what IS wrong is horrific. How CAN you go wrong with a cast that includes Sean Connery, Audrey Hepburn, (it was her last top notch movie, too, btw,) Nicol Williamson, Ian Holm, (guy gets around, doesn't he?) Richard Harris, Denholm Elliot and Robert Shaw? To top it all off, this was Richard Lester's last substantial film as well, done right after his masterpieces The Three and Four Musketeers. Richard Lester stopped being "Richard Lester" after this, and directed pretty much pedestrian movies like Superman(s) II, (enh!,) and III, (a disaster!) and "Juggernaut", a complete mediocrity. But this was one heck of a swan song!
The story starts out with Robin, played by Connery, and Little John, played by Williamson, who are inseparable throughout the film, scouting a potential battle scene for King Richard. The bastion they are met with has but one old blind man and a few women and children, and no sign of the treasure Richard thinks should be there. They tell Richard this when he arrives, but he still itches for battle and lays waste to the bastion anyway! After this, he goes mad, dying from an infection caused by an arrow wound received in the battle. Richard's death makes the universally disliked Prince John king, hence, Robin and John officially return to Sherwood Forest to look up their old mates after 20 years of following Richard all over the middle east to fight the Crusades. Will Scarlett, Alan-A-Dale and Friar Tuck are still around, but Marian has become a nun, pretty much leaving her old life behind.
Robin will have none of it, and the twenty years they have been apart start to tell...on their affections for one another, on their adroitness and on how their values have changed and/or stayed the same. They flirt, they love, they argue, and it's obvious that there is still a spark between them. There's a very tragic aspect to the ending of the story where Hepburn's character, Marian, tries to cancel out a masochistic line she spoke earlier in the film, that will have you scratching your head for a while. The "reasoning" Marian uses for it is completely delusional, even sick. This was a heavy film, in many ways, but I'm PRETTY sure it shouldn't have ended the way it did.
There is still a spark of hostility left between Robin, Little John and the remains of the band and the Sheriff of Nottingham and his henchemen, who has had the edge taken off of him for this film's handling of the character. He isn't quite so evil as he's been portrayed in other films here.... that is, until the end, when he and Robin confront each other for one last time!
Connery falls into his part like a foot into a comfortable old sock...he seems a perfect natural to play this Robin of Locksley, and Hepburn is a delicate, but dangerously unpredictable, presence as Marian. Few actresses could project such exquisite innocence or pureheartedness as Audrey Hepburn, and this movie showcases that beautifully. The gritty, dirt-under-the-fingernails look of the film once again lends authenticity to the period the story is set in. The ability to meld this sort of down-to-earth, genuine-looking aesthetic with the contemporary psychology of the character interpretations without having them seem out of synch is a gold star for the screenwriter and director, not to mention the actors!
There is the use of symbolism utilizing three golden apples in the beginning and end of the film, showing them fresh, and then half-decayed, commenting on the effects of aging as it pertains to the characters. The gruesomer aspects of this film may explain why Lester, if he is still with us, hasn't directed a "Richard Lester" movie in ages.
A heavy one, as stated before.