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Customer Review

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.
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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