As yet another retelling of the Robin Hood tale—this time a burly, violent version, courtesy of “Gladiator” director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe—rumbles into theaters this weekend, Salon’s Graham Fuller takes stock of the changing story arcs and styles across the many on-screen depictions of the fabled Sherwood Forest socialist. —KA
In all, Robin Hood has featured in around 50 live-action films, 15 TV series and 15 cartoons. Five were made in the early silent period before Allan Dwan’s 1922 Douglas Fairbanks vehicle set a benchmark for flamboyance. It’s a wildly uneven film, ranging from the monotonously ceremonial to the absurd, with the acrobatic star proving giddy to the point of clownish. Inarguably the one masterpiece in the canon, Michael Curtiz’s swashbuckler “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938) starring Errol Flynn implied a comparison between Prince John’s cruelty toward the Saxon peasants with Nazi atrocities in Europe. However, with its chemically bright Technicolor palette, majestic Erich Korngold score and Flynn’s gentrified Robin in sequined Lincoln green, it is wholly artificial, a fantasy extrapolated less from the 15th-century ballads, in which Robin is often brutal, than from 16th-century plays and bucolic Victorian renderings.