“The Adventures Of Robin Hood” won three Academy Awards for Best Music, Best Art Direction and Best Editing.
Fans familiar with old VHS and TV prints will likely get close to their TV screens with this premiere DVD release. The image clarity is stunning, and you won't believe the vivid quality of the colors. With “Robin Hood,” generations unfamiliar with the Technicolor look can get a really good sampling of why film historians and cinematographers rave and are overcome with a peculiar nostalgia for the color schemes that literally glow, as evidenced from interviews with cinematographers Jack Cardiff and Vittorio Storaro in the excellent documentary on Disc 2, “Glorious Technicolor,” an overview of the company and key personnel, derived from Fred Basten's 1980 book.
The sound has been cleaned up, showing off the great sound effects and Eric Wolfgang Korngold's Oscar-winning score (isolated as an alternate separate track on Disc 1). Korngold's music is also showcased in Disc 2's Audio Vault, which features the composer performing favourite film themes for a private audience, on piano; and an original radio broadcast of the music, from acetates that sat in the vaults for decades.
In 1985, film historian Rudy Behlmer authored a definitive examination of vintage studio production with “Inside Warner Bros,” so he's a natural choice to chronicle the film's production aspects, with heavy historical and cast/crew/location profiles. He's also the de facto host for each of the featurettes, so it's better to leave his commentary until last; there's repetition in spots, but with greater depth, and some tangents fans should enjoy.
It's pretty amazing so many archival materials have survived after 65 years, and Disc 2 will make “Robin Hood” fans giggle incessantly. (I think I woke up my neighbours around 3:00 a.m.)
“Welcome to Sherwood: The Story of The Adventures of Robin Hood” is an excellent making-of documentary that literally covers everything, using rare film clips from early Robin Hood versions, and fascinating outtake and 16mm color/black & white behind-the-scenes footage (archived separately as well, with good commentary from Behlmer). Some production aspects are also given larger coverage outside of the doc in “Robin Hood Through The Ages” and “A Journey To Sherwood Forest;” each making generous use of stills and surviving production footage. (Additional stills for costumes, sets, cast/crew portraits and publicity materials are archived in a separate gallery, as well.)
There's also two cartoons that many will remember well: Bugs Bunny in “Rabbit Hood” (“Arise! Sir Loin of Beef!”); and Daffy Duck, in “Robin Hood Daffy.”
“Cavalcade of Archery” is a Technicolor short with ace archer Howard Hill, showing off his prowess with the bow and arrow. A consultant for the film, Hill also directed and appeared in a series of instructionals, and viewers will notice some stock “Robin Hood” shots not used in the finished film, and get a kick out of the narrator's homespun humour regarding “three little girls from archery school.”
“The Cruise of the Zaca” is derived from 16mm Kodachrome footage from a series of Errol Flynn's ocean trips, with his learned father, and other marine biologists, and was released by Warner Bros in 35mm Technicolor prints. The surviving source materials have some picture damage towards the middle and wobbly registration, but the audio – mainly Flynn's amusing narration and stock music – are fine.
The silent deleted scenes and outtakes used in several of the aforementioned docs and featurettes appear in the “From the Cutting Room Floor” gallery. All are in color, with helpful intro and commentary from Behlmer, pointing out some of the Warner contract directors that filmed additional material; plus an unused ending, with Flynn and de Havilland smooching on horseback.
Lastly, Leonard Maltin introduces a collection of shorts in the “Warner Night at the Movies” section, that recreate the kind of pre-television programming that audiences enjoyed for less than 25 cents in cinemas. Some of the older Warner Home videotape releases – like “Dial M For Murder” – contained a selection of vintage goodies before the “A” film, and it's a delight to see this feature – here programmable on Disc 1 – added to DVD.
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan