Senior HTF Member
- May 9, 2002
- Real Name
- Cameron Yee
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Release Date: Available now (original release date August 26, 2008)
Studio: Warner Home Video
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
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.
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.