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on April 17, 2003
Many Disney fans born after 1960 aren't aware that Disney wasn't all about cartoons; in the early 1950s his studio released a number of live-action adventure films, which were nowhere near as financially successful as his animated movies. But a few of them were as good as many of his cartoon features, and none was better than "The Story of Robin Hood", which appeared in the summer of 1952. Set in 12th century England at the start of Richard the Lionheart's crusade to the Holy Land, we see England as it was then, rural, mainly poor, solidly Catholic, devoted to the Holy Mother Church, and ruled over by a benevolent king about to set off to holy war while he leaves his evil, scheming younger brother, Prince John, behind to rule in his stead. When the film opens, their mother, Queen Elinor of Aquitaine, is giving her blessing to the enterprise while reminding all within earshot that she needs no looking after ("The woman who bore two sons like you", she informs her oldest son the king, "can take care of herself"). And here is Robin, 18 years old, wishing he could tag along after the king, but without a care in the world except winning the upcoming archery tournament and chasing Maid Marian. But this idyll is about to come crashing down; after winning the tournament and rudely rejecting to serve under the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham, Robin's father is murdered by the sheriff's right-hand man, and is killed by Robin in turn. It's off to Sherwood Forest for life on the run as an outlaw, while Robin gathers around him other outcasts who have been impoverished by the sheriff's rapacious deputies. There's fun galore as we see Robin and his merrie men robbing the rich to aid the poor, rescuing the downtrodden from the sheriff's villainy, kidnapping the sheriff himself and lightening his purse, and helping to pay King Richard's ransom after he is captured in the Crusades by robbing the loot King John and the Sheriff have stolen from the poor.
Ken Annakin keeps the film solidly on target in time and place. The movie's score is exceptional; from Allan A'Dale broadcasting the news as a wandering minstrel, to the Gregorian chant sung by the knights as they set off on Richard's crusade, we are transported 800 years back in time. And Annakin reminds us, in a telling scene where Allan A'Dale is snubbed by some villagers, that not everyone in merrie olde England thought Robin and his men were saviors; to most of the upper class, and many of the small but growing middle class, they were a gang of thieves and worse.
A great cast helps keep the film rolling. Richard Todd was never better than he was as Robin; bold, generous, not to mention full of himself; merciless to the enemies of the underclass, he's a winning hero. Joan Rice is sweet and sassy as Maid Marian; no simpering damsel is this young lady, she gives as good as she gets. And the minor cast is terrific: James Robertson Justice is just right as Little John; Elton Hayes is excellent as Allan A'Dale; Anthony Forwood is sly and cynical as Will Scarlett, and James Hayter almost walks off with the film with his hilarious performance as Friar Tuck. The movie works both as an action/adventure film and a fascinating romp through medieval England. It's one of Disney's best.
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on October 18, 1999
This movie is often overlooked, because Disney made a cartoon version years later which is what people usually think you mean when you refer to "Disney's Robin Hood." It is a small, jewel-like film, with great photography and a joyful, boy's book quality not found in other versions such as the overblown Costner flick. In its own unassuming way, it's a kind of masterpeice. James Robertson Justice is perfect as Little John. And Prince John is a great under-stated villian. The Sherrif of Nottingham in none other than Peter Finch. A real sleeper.

2008 Update - Buy the now-available DVD. Much better quality. The DVD is a limited "club" edition, but can be purchased from Amazon's outside sellers.
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on April 20, 2009
It's about time they finally released this excellent film version of the Robin Hood legend on DVD. Many Disney fans born after 1960 aren't aware that Disney wasn't all about cartoons; in the early 1950s his studio released a number of live-action adventure films, which were nowhere near as financially successful as his animated movies. But a few of them were as good as many of his cartoon features, and none was better than "The Story of Robin Hood", which appeared in the summer of 1952.

Set in 12th century England at the start of Richard the Lionheart's crusade to the Holy Land, we see England as it was then, rural, mainly poor, solidly Catholic, devoted to the Holy Mother Church, and ruled over by a benevolent king about to set off to holy war while he leaves his evil, scheming younger brother, Prince John, behind to rule in his stead. When the film opens, their mother, Queen Elinor of Aquitaine, is giving her blessing to the enterprise while reminding all within earshot that she needs no looking after ("The woman who bore two sons like you", she informs her oldest son the king, "can take care of herself"). And here is Robin, 18 years old, wishing he could tag along after the king, but without a care in the world except winning the upcoming archery tournament and chasing Maid Marian. But this idyll is about to come crashing down; after winning the tournament and rudely rejecting to serve under the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham, Robin's father is murdered by the sheriff's right-hand man, and is killed by Robin in turn. It's off to Sherwood Forest for life on the run as an outlaw, while Robin gathers around him other outcasts who have been impoverished by the sheriff's rapacious deputies. There's fun galore as we see Robin and his merrie men robbing the rich to aid the poor, rescuing the downtrodden from the sheriff's villainy, kidnapping the sheriff himself and lightening his purse, and helping to pay King Richard's ransom after he is captured in the Crusades by robbing the loot King John and the Sheriff have stolen from the poor.

Ken Annakin keeps the film solidly on target in time and place. The movie's score is exceptional; from Allan A'Dale broadcasting the news as a wandering minstrel, to the Gregorian chant sung by the knights as they set off on Richard's crusade, we are transported 800 years back in time. And Annakin reminds us, in a telling scene where Allan A'Dale is snubbed by some villagers, that not everyone in merrie olde England thought Robin and his men were saviors; to most of the upper class, and many of the small but growing middle class, they were a gang of thieves and worse.

A great cast helps keep the film rolling. Richard Todd was never better than he was as Robin; bold, generous, not to mention full of himself; merciless to the enemies of the underclass, he's a winning hero. Joan Rice is sweet and sassy as Maid Marian; no simpering damsel is this young lady, she gives as good as she gets. And the minor cast is terrific: James Robertson Justice is just right as Little John; Elton Hayes is excellent as Allan A'Dale; Anthony Forwood is sly and cynical as Will Scarlett, and James Hayter almost walks off with the film with his hilarious performance as Friar Tuck. The movie works both as an action/adventure film and a fascinating romp through medieval England. It's one of Disney's best.

Judy Lind
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on May 9, 2000
This film really deserves rediscovery! It is so far superior to the animated Disney version, and explains so much more about the legend of Robin Hood and how he assembled his Merrie Men. It also gave some background on his friendship and love for Maid Marian, and the whole setup of why King John was in power to begin with. The animated film tried very hard to be cute, but left out a lot in terms of character development and plot. By comparison, The Story of Robin Hood is far and away a stronger film!
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on April 10, 2009
I believe that this Disney version of the story of Robin Hood is as good as the Errol Flynn movie and far superior to the Kevin Costner movie.

The cast is uniformly excellent: Richard Todd is very good as Robin Hood and Joan Rice is a sweet and very believable Maid Marian; Peter Finch is easily the best Sheriff of Nottingham and James Robertson Justice is the best Little John of all the Robin Hood movies; and Elton Hayes singing as Allan-a-Dale throughout the movie is wonderful.

The cinematography by Guy Green is beautiful. All in all, a great version of the Robin Hood legend.
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on March 15, 2002
This Walt Disney version of an age old legend is unique and, I think, on par with the Eroll Flynn version. This British made Disney version has a great producer/director team (Perce Pearce/Ken Annakin) and it shows. Great cinematography of English countryside, atmospheric stage sets, good casting of most/all characters by actors who can be invisioned as their character (Instead of being protrayed as strong willed and direct, Prince John is portrayed as a subtle and conniving younger brother, as he would have to be if usurping his older brother's crown), and the musical score by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is just downright charming. (To this day, whenever I watch the opening credits where Alan Adale wanders through Sherwood singing the opening theme while playing a lute, I end up whistling and humming the tune for some time afterward. Charming!!)
I believe the reason that so many studios can make their own version of Robin Hood and an audience can watch all of them without becoming bored with the Robin Hood story (or favoring one studio's version over another) is because each studio can emphasize a different aspect of the story; Robin and his relations with Marian, Robin and his relation with his followers, Robin interacting with Sheriff of Nottingham, the exact reason why Robin becomes an outlaw, whether Robin started as a nobleman or became one when Richard returns, and how much the story develops the characters of Prince John and Richard I. This version by Disney includes interaction between Robin and his father which I do not think any other version has. There is also some story line for Eleanor of Aquitaine, the mother of Richard and John as well as the archery contest being at the beginning of the story instead of the middle or end. All these differences keep the story fresh and not just a stale rehash.
I personally would like to see some studio make a version in which the story continues long after the reign of Richard and into the reign of John with King John outlawing Robin a second time ( on some trumped-up charge, of course) For example, the last scene could concern King John signing the Treaty of Runnymede in 1215 with his barons and earls with Robin (now older and maybe middle aged) having a minor/background role in the signing of the Treaty, being the Earl of Huntingdon after all; or at least being present at Runnymede when it was signed. True to the Robin Hood? Maybe not, but the essence of Robin Hood is the struggle of common men against the caprice of great noblemen. So, I think it makes sense and would make for a four or six hour drama instead of the usual two hour.
Anyway, to conclude, this film is in the true, original Disney fashion when old Walt was still around to do quality control( i.e. before the Eisner era) and I consider it picture perfect. no pun intended, and one should purchase a copy before it disappears!!
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on April 30, 2009
This is amazing! I love this movie! What more needs to be said? The acting is definitely characteristic for the time in which it was filmed, but it's got everything you could ask for - humor, drama, action and much more! This is probably the best film of the story of Robin Hood I've ever seen!
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on July 4, 2009
I can only concur with all the enthusiasm about this movie on display from other reviewers (with the possible exception of the person who noted that the acting "was characteristic of the time the movie was made". ??? I hope the reviewer meant by that that the acting here is vastly superior to the current laughably low standards of grunting and mugging seen every day on tv and in a theatre near you). It is an excellent version of the Robin Hood story, which brings out the "boy" in every man or boy who sees it. It is also in many ways superior to the revered Flynn version.

Alas, the dvd transfer is simply terrible. The same washed out, fuzzy Eastmancolor print used for the laserdisc was the source for the dvd. Surely the rather well-to-do Disney organization could have afforded to make a new 35mm print from the negative sitting safely in their vaults. The horrible film print detracts from the enjoyment of the film and has an adverse effect upon the cinematography of Guy Green and Geoff Unsworth. A lovely movie like this deserved much better.

If you have the laserdisc don't bother to buy the dvd.
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on August 17, 2008
A number of years ago, I reviewed the VHS version of this live-action Disney version of Robin Hood. I consider this to be the best Robin Hood film, but the VHS print was washed out and grainy. This DVD print is not a restoration, but colors are vibrant and the image and sound are at least three times better than what we had to settle for on VHS.

A lot of major artists were involved in the production of this movie, including Geoffrey Unsworth (cinematographer of Superman I), Muir Matheison (conductor of the London Symphony)and director Ken Annakin (pal of George Lucas and namesake for Skywalker Anakin, AKA Darth Vader). Every major cast member (Academy Award winner Peter Finch, Joan Rice, James Robertson Justice, Hubery Gregg) is long dead, with the exception of Robin Hood himself, Richard Todd, who as of this writing at least, is spending his late eighties in a peaceful village north of London. I wonder if it's near Sherwood Forest?
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on May 19, 2010
Next to the Errol Flynn version, this is probably the best one I've seen. The acting is uniformly terrific and the dialogue is smartly written, even a bit dense for children. However I can only imagine the picture looks great because...the DVD quality stinks! For a major studio release, this is one of the worst-looking transfers I've ever seen. It looks like a 2nd generation VHS recording, the colours are faded and the picture clarity is muted at best. To top it off, there are NO chapters! If you stop halfway through, as I did, you have to fast forward from the beginning to get to the spot you left off at. Disney should be ashamed!
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