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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Adventures of Robin Hood (Highly Recommended)



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#1 of 17 Cameron Yee

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Posted September 01 2008 - 08:30 AM

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Release Date: Available now (original release date August 26, 2008)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Year: 1938
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1h42m
Video: 1080p high definition 4x3 1.33:1 / Special Features 480i or 480p standard definition
Audio: Dolby Digital: English 1.0, French 1.0, Spanish 1.0 / Special Features stereo and mono
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish / Special Features none
MSRP: $28.98

Portions of this review are from Herb Kane's 2006 HTF review of the HD-DVD release and are in italics. You can read the entirety of his write up here.

The Feature: 5/5
"The Adventures Of Robin Hood" was originally released in SD as part of the Warner Legends Set. Three years later, it remains one of the most talked about discs in terms of it’s presentation as well as the special features that complement the classic film. It’s hard to say what might have happened if Jack Warner hadn’t been feuding with James Cagney at the time, since he was originally chosen to play the part of Robin Hood. Flynn was his second choice after seeing him in 1935’s "Captain Blood." Ultimately, he was the right pick. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture. Although it didn’t win Best Picture, it did win for Best Art Direction (Carl Jules Weyl), Best Film Editing (Ralph Dawson) and Best Music, Original Score (Erich Wolfgang Korngold). Columbia’s "You Can’t Take It With You" took the Best Picture award.

Even though Jack Warner approved the initial budget of 1.6M, the film wound up costing 2.0M – the most expensive WB picture up to that point. Although the film was a great success, the studio still ended with a yearly deficit of more than 1.9M.

Even the slightest glimpse of Flynn (at least for me) associates the legend with the role of the witty - almost cheeky - Robin Hood. After watching several Flynn films recently including "The Adventures Of Robin Hood," I couldn’t help but think there was no other actor who’d have had as much fun dressing for work… Another footnote worthy of mention was the star’s athletic ability. It was that obvious quality which eventually led to this role (among others) and he insisted on doing his own stunts.

Directed by Michael Curtiz, "The Adventures Of Robin Hood" is the classic story of Robin Hood (played by Errol Flynn) and his group of oppressed Saxons who eventually fight back against their oppressor, Prince John (played by Claude Rains) and his henchman Sir Guy of Gisbourne (played by Basil Rathbone).

Turned outlaw, Robin Hood steals from the rich to give to the poor. After they are taxed heavily by the Sheriff of Nottingham, the group finally rebels. He assembles the demoralized group of Saxons and forms an adept group known as the Merry Men. During the struggle, he falls in love with Maid Marion (played by Olivia de Havilland) who is the love interest of his adversary Sir Guy of Gisbourne.

Not only must Robin Hood fight to win the love of Maid Marion, he and his group of Merry Men must fight to keep Prince John from taking over the throne of England held by his brother King Richard the Lion Heart (played by Ian Hunter).



Video Quality: 5/5
Though I was unable to compare the high definition releases to each other, by all indications this Blu-Ray release maintains the quality and perhaps even fixes the issues Herb noted in the HD-DVD review. I noted no mis-registration at 61m50s. There is some slight flickering in the early scenes, but it is not problematic and not likely to be a video transfer issue. Colors continue to be the standout feature here, the high definition treatment allowing the Technicolor process to shine with eye-popping depth and vibrancy. Texture and fine object detail are remarkable as well - the clarity of glittery fabrics and specular highlights giving depth and realism to the picture. Contrast and black levels also appear stable and uniform - remarkable for a 70-year old film. Though "Robin Hood" is not my favorite Technicolor film, it's a great appetizer for the eventual Blu-Ray releases of films like "An American In Paris" and "Singin' In the Rain." I can hardly wait.


Audio Quality: 3.5/5
The previous HD-DVD release had a Dolby Digital Plus (DD+) mono track. The Blu-Ray release only has Dolby Digital mono (DD+ being optional for the format). Though we can object to the downgrade on principle, practically speaking I think most of us would be hard pressed to tell the difference, especially with a mono track. As things are, the track sounds clean and free of artifacts. Dialogue is clear and intelligible and the film score comes across nicely, with little strain or harshness.


Special Features: 5/5

The rich and numerous special features from the HD-DVD release have been carried over to Blu-Ray. For whatever reason the following items were omitted from the HD-DVD review:

Breakdowns of 1938 (12m45s): Warner Brothers' blooper reel from its year of films. I have to say this is my first time seeing bloopers from this era of filmmaking and found it quite surreal. In my mind actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood continue to have a rather protected and innocent quality, at least when they're on film. Watching the blooper reel was akin to hearing my grandmother swear or make a dirty joke.

Outtakes (8m24s): Alternate takes and second unit footage from the "Adventures of Robin Hood," with excellent commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer.

A Journey to Sherwood Forest (13m16s): Home movies by Rathbone and composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold provide a rare behind-the-scenes look at the production. Behlmer again provides commentary.

Gallery: About 100 images covering historical art, costume design, scene concept drawings, cast and crew, and publicity and posters. For whatever reason the images are quite small and do not fill the screen.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold Piano Sessions (16m36s): Twelve pieces, played on the piano, from Korngold's various film scores.

The Robin Hood Radio Show (28m34s): Rathbone narrates a classic radio show version of the Robin Hood story, set to Korngold's film score.

The following is from the HD-DVD release review:

Like many of the previous WB HD releases, the Special Features from the SD have been ported over for the upgraded release – and that’s fine, particularly in this case as the features here are fantastic. There’s also a bonus inclusion (see below).

First up is a Commentary By Author/Film Historian Rudy Behlmer. This effort offers up some interesting tidbits and history relating to the film including some of the film’s inconsistencies from the novel. Behlmer has a rather soothing voice and listening to him never gets monotonous. Very thorough and informative.

Music Only Track is as you might imagine the entire film with just the music score only – no dialogue. A must for fans of Erich Korngold's legendary score.

Warner Night At The Movies starts off with an introduction from Leonard Maltin (2m41s), who puts many of the extras into context. Next is a theatrical trailer for the great 1938 Cagney film, "Angels With Dirty Faces." A Newsreel (1m23s) follows, which is nothing more than a feature on a new machine gun carrier invented for military use. Freddie Rich And His Orchestra (11m05s) are featured next with a number of swing tunes from the period. The final piece is a 1938 Looney Tunes short, "Katnip Kollege" (7m25s). As an unexpected bonus, this and two other cartoons (see below) are in 1080p HD, going a long way to whet the appetite for others to appear in the same manner.

The next special feature is an extensive collection of Errol Flynn trailers titled, the Errol Flynn Trailer Gallery. It contains twelve trailers from the following films: Captain Blood, The Prince & The Pauper, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Dive Bomber, They Died With Their Boots On, 1948 re-issue of The Adventures of Robin Hood, Dodge City, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, The Sea Hawk, Objective Burma, Kim, and The Master of the Ballantrae.

The next feature is a fabulous documentary, "Glorious Technicolor," narrated by Angela Lansbury (60m04s). This in my opinion is the icing of the special features on this set. It covers a mini biography on the Technicolor process founder, Dr. Herbert Kalmus. There are a number of comments from likes of Jack Cardiff who recalls various experiences as well as techniques used during different films. Covered are most of the original pictures that used the process including animation at Disney and Warner Brothers. Personally, I found the documentary worth the price of admission alone.

"Welcome To Sherwood – The Story of The Adventures Of Robin Hood" (55m42s) is another featurette with Behlmer that describes how Warner Brothers wanted to change direction from their gritty gangster films to go on making films like "Robin Hood."

Up next are two short films. The first is "Cavalcade of Archery" (9m24s), a short biography of Howard Hill, the pro archer used during the filming. The next short is "The Cruise Of The Zaca," (19m56s) a portrayal of Flynn, who was an avid yachtsman, and a chronicle of some of his voyages with various friends and family.

"Robin Hood Through The Ages" (6m52s) is a brief account of the various Robin Hood productions that exist today, including the 1922 silent version starring Douglas Fairbanks.

And finally a special treat - Looney Tunes cartoons "Rabbit Hood" from 1949, which has the infamous Errol Flynn scene edited in, and "Robin Hood Daffy" from 1958. Both are presented in 1080p HD and look great on the big screen. In addition to "Katnip Kollege," these are fantastic inclusions and I look forward to more of these HD offerings in the future.



Recap

The Feature: 5/5
Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5

A film classic through and through, "The Adventures of Robin Hood" gets excellent video, good audio and a truly incredible special features package. It's an obvious "highly recommended" addition for those who don't own a high definition version of the film, though it becomes a slightly harder decision for those HD-DVD release owners. Naturally I can't make that call, but I suspect for fans of the film it will be a purchase, if not now then certainly down the road.
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#2 of 17 Joe Cortez

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Posted September 02 2008 - 04:43 PM

I can't believe I missed the street date on this one last week! I've been holding out for an HD copy of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" ever since it was released on HD-DVD and almost broke down and bought a player just for this disc. Reading your review, I'm glad I held out for the Blu-Ray! Thanks for the heads up, Cameron!

#3 of 17 Cameron Yee

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Posted September 02 2008 - 05:29 PM

Glad to oblige.
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#4 of 17 Reagan

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Posted September 03 2008 - 02:00 AM

My copy arrived yesterday. This is one great looking film. Warners did a great job on this one (aside from the lossy audio). I also like how the movie auto starts - and without trailers and other forced screens (save one FBI warning).

-R
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#5 of 17 Brandon Conway

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Posted September 03 2008 - 03:45 AM

Would lossless 1.0 Mono even be discernible?

"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#6 of 17 Reagan

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Posted September 03 2008 - 04:32 AM

Quote:
Would lossless 1.0 Mono even be discernible?

I do not know if it would to my ears - I'm not an audiophile. But how hard to would it have been to have a PCM 1.0 track put on there? It just feels a little incomplete to not have it. Minor complaint, I'll admit.

Let me reiterate how much I like the no-menu (no trailer) auto-start. I know this is typical for Warners, and I wish Disney would get on board. [By the way Disney, "total menus" (instead of normal pop up menus) stink.]

Final reiteration, the picture quality is an absolute treat.

-R
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#7 of 17 CraigF

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Posted September 03 2008 - 06:47 AM

^ Agree. There's a certain principle involved here.

However, there are a lot of extras (I'm not clear if they're in HD) and disc space may have been at a premium. Not enough room for the (perhaps small) benefit a lossless mono track that's 70 years old might warrant over the lossy. There is even the possibility that the lossless track may have exacerbated the sound of any recording noise (hiss) present...I don't remember if much from the SD version.

#8 of 17 Jonny_L

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Posted September 04 2008 - 03:34 AM

Hmmmm...sounds exactly the same as the DVD set that I already own, save for the HD presentation. Since that's the only difference I think I'll save the $30 until I decide it's time for a projector and 100 inch screen.
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#9 of 17 Douglas Monce

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Posted September 04 2008 - 06:30 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by CraigF
^ Agree. There's a certain principle involved here.

However, there are a lot of extras (I'm not clear if they're in HD) and disc space may have been at a premium. Not enough room for the (perhaps small) benefit a lossless mono track that's 70 years old might warrant over the lossy. There is even the possibility that the lossless track may have exacerbated the sound of any recording noise (hiss) present...I don't remember if much from the SD version.


I believe this was a direct port of the HD DVD so space was not an issue. Having said that I still don't think I'd waste space on a PCM track when a Dolby True HD or DTS Master Audio track would be identical and take up about 1/3 of the real estate.

Doug
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#10 of 17 CraigF

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Posted September 04 2008 - 07:18 AM

^ I think lossless audio on BD is the principle, in whatever form. From what I've read (since I'm certainly not buying the BD discs without it), Warner disagrees with me on this "principle" for BD.

#11 of 17 Douglas Monce

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Posted September 04 2008 - 03:38 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by CraigF
^ I think lossless audio on BD is the principle, in whatever form. From what I've read (since I'm certainly not buying the BD discs without it), Warner disagrees with me on this "principle" for BD.


Well no lossless audio won't prevent me from buying a movie I really want. Particularly considering its been proven that even under the best of conditions with the very best equipment the difference between very high bitrate lossy and lossless is is virtually imperceptible to 90% of people.

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#12 of 17 CraigF

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Posted September 05 2008 - 08:35 AM

^ Not to me. Perhaps to the generation brought up on lossy, and those who've lost their hearing, so that accounts for a good portion, LOL. I really can't believe people can't tell the diff in general, but I know what you say is true because in the "audio" forums (like AVS) so many say they can't tell. Whereas for me, the first time I heard lossless I sat up and said "I gotta have that". I really notice the improved clarity and subtlety, and the music. I guess it doesn't matter much for explosions, but I say they do sound better in lossless LOL.

Anyway, I won't buy a BD without lossless audio, like I wouldn't buy a DVD that wasn't anamorphic WS (when appropriate). My minimum technical standard. Especially for a BD that's an upgrade to a fine SD disc; if you don't have a title at all, then that's a different matter. In this case, it is unfortunate that Warner left this one tiny thing to niggle about, it would have been so easy to make it "perfect" (IMO of course). I'm sure that'll happen, no double-dipping on BDs for me until they're in the $5 bins, I've learned my lesson.

#13 of 17 Douglas Monce

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Posted September 05 2008 - 09:24 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by CraigF
^ Not to me. Perhaps to the generation brought up on lossy, and those who've lost their hearing, so that accounts for a good portion, LOL. I really can't believe people can't tell the diff in general, but I know what you say is true because in the "audio" forums (like AVS) so many say they can't tell. Whereas for me, the first time I heard lossless I sat up and said "I gotta have that". I really notice the improved clarity and subtlety, and the music. I guess it doesn't matter much for explosions, but I say they do sound better in lossless LOL.

Anyway, I won't buy a BD without lossless audio, like I wouldn't buy a DVD that wasn't anamorphic WS (when appropriate). My minimum technical standard. Especially for a BD that's an upgrade to a fine SD disc; if you don't have a title at all, then that's a different matter. In this case, it is unfortunate that Warner left this one tiny thing to niggle about, it would have been so easy to make it "perfect" (IMO of course). I'm sure that'll happen, no double-dipping on BDs for me until they're in the $5 bins, I've learned my lesson.


Of course some people can hear a difference. I can hear a minor difference between lossless and high bitrate DD or DD+. But its mostly in very quite sections of a soundtrack where there seems to be just a bit more "air".

The fact of the matter is that most people, estimated to be somewhere in the 90% range can't tell the difference between the original masters and even a theater encode of DD at 320 kpbs. Most people just don't have those kind of ears.

For me the difference is so subtle that with out an A/B I wouldn't know which I was listening too.

By the way this is a very interesting write up about a blind test comparing the various formats under the very best of conditions.

Signal to Noise - Dolby TrueHD & DTS-HD MA vs. Uncompressed PCM | Home Entertainment

This has been linked to in other threads here on HTF.


Doug
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#14 of 17 DavidPla

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Posted April 12 2009 - 03:18 AM

I have never owned this film but I am very interested in picking it up. However, I have found the DVD for about $17 less. I don't want to get into a debate about how much hi-def makes a difference in older films but I was wondering if the blu-ray's image is that much different than the DVD? I am more than happy to spend the extra money but only if it's a large difference. I understand that all the extras are the same.

#15 of 17 Douglas R

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Posted April 25 2010 - 12:04 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidPla 

I have never owned this film but I am very interested in picking it up. However, I have found the DVD for about $17 less. I don't want to get into a debate about how much hi-def makes a difference in older films but I was wondering if the blu-ray's image is that much different than the DVD? I am more than happy to spend the extra money but only if it's a large difference. I understand that all the extras are the same.
Despite being one of my all-time favourites, I was late getting this Blu-ray disc (it's not available in Europe). Having now got it, it's certainly an essential purchase - looking vastly better than the DVD. Good to see that Warner Bros have corrected the spelling of Claude Rains' name on the front cover - it was disgracefully misspelt as Raines on the DVD!


#16 of 17 Eric Peterson

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Posted April 25 2010 - 02:49 AM

This has been available at Best Buy for as low as $9.99....and most recently I saw it for $11.99.   I wasn't planning on upgrading, but I'll be picking this up pretty soon.

#17 of 17 ahollis

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Posted April 25 2010 - 03:05 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Peterson 

This has been available at Best Buy for as low as $9.99....and most recently I saw it for $11.99.   I wasn't planning on upgrading, but I'll be picking this up pretty soon.
I did pick it for $9.99.  I was not going to upgrade since I was happy with the standard DVD, but the low price sold me and I was glad I did. 

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