The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Robin Hood (1973)

Errol Flynn, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Sean Connery, Cary Elwes and an athletic, wise-cracking fox. What do they all have in common? They have all played the iconic literary character and legendary Middle Ages outlaw Robin Hood. Does that last one seem out of place? If it does, shame on you. You must not have had an entertaining childhood. Change of pace review today, a favorite from growing up, the 1973 animated Disney classic, Robin Hood.

Outlaws on the run, Robin Hood (voice of Brian Bedford) and his portly sidekick Little John (voice of Phil Harris) are living it up in Sherwood Forest. In the nearby town of Nottingham, the weakly Prince John (voice of Peter Ustinov) and his enforcer, the Sheriff (Pat Buttram), are taxing the population heavily to the point where there is no money left in town. Always one from steal from the rich and give to the poor, Robin and Little John do their best to cause all the problems they can for Prince John to deal with, but that roguish outlaw has other plans. Robin also wants to win back his longtime love, Maid Marian (Monica Evans). Wouldn't you know it? All these problems might end up crashing head-on.

Is there a more pointless plot description than the one I just wrote? Everyone and their Mother knows at least part of the Robin Hood story, right? Eh, maybe I'm wrong, but I weep for those people. The names are iconic and instantly recognizable, everyone from Robin Hood to Little John to Friar Tuck (voice of Andy Devine, a perfect, spot-on choice, Tuck as a badger) to the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. It's that familiar image of the iconic outlaw in his Lincoln green clothing, appearing out of Sherwood Forest to wreak havoc on the rich. This Disney classic is a classic for a reason, putting a spin on the story for a younger audience. I grew up watching this one, loved it then, loved it now. Yeah, I sound like an old fogy, but they just don't make them like this anymore.

Ready for the part that will blow your mind? Well, that is if you've already forgotten the first paragraph a few clicks up. All these characters are played by anamorphic animals. Flynn, Costner, Crowe, Connery, all fine actors, but they just don't hold a candle to Robin Hood as Between the 1950s and the middle of the 1970s, the Disney animated movies were cranking on all levels, many of them using animals as main characters in this way. Maybe it's the little kid that grew up watching these movies, but there's something cool about seeing Robin Hood (a fox) and Little John (a bear) fighting the Sheriff (a wolf) and Prince John (a lion). It sounds criminally simple that it should work so well, but it does. So there. Deal with it. I love this movie and won't be swayed from my opinion.

All these old animated Disney movies are a gem in my head. Yes, some are better than others, but in the age before computer generated images, these movies were actually drawn. They look great, a portal into a time that we may never see again in movies aimed at families with young children. The screen is always full of color and action, and the animation -- dated though it may be -- is a gem to watch. Pixar Studios is immensely talented, and I'll always enjoy their ventures into animated movies, but there is an undeniable charm to these old school Disney flicks.

Oh, right, the voice talents involved. There's not a bad choice in the bunch as the Robin Hood story turns into a story performed by animals. British actor Bedford has some fun as Robin (called 'Rob' by Little John), giving an animated character some personality, as does the whole cast. Harris (Baloo in another classic, The Jungle Book) brings his big, booming voice to the table, providing a great sidekick for Robin. Ustinov is an inspired choice for the weakly, sniveling Prince John, Terry-Thomas playing his maligned "assistant" of sorts, Sir Hiss (a snake). Carole Shelley is very funny as Lady Kluck, always at Maid Marian's side (Evans doing a fine job as Robin's lost love). George Lindsey and Ken Curtis supply their voices as Trigger and Nutsy, two of the Sheriff's dimwitted vulture guards. Yes, vultures. I told you this movie was awesome. Watch the intro HERE to get a look at all the main characters. 

A childhood favorite. I love it and always will.  Also worthwhile for the voice talents of singer Roger Miller who plays Allan-a-Dale, the talented singing and colorful rooster of Sherwood. The main theme -- Oo-de-lally -- is a classic, listen to it HERE. There's a handful of other songs too, all of them memorable, especially Harris' song as Little John mocking Prince John. The soundtrack in general from frequent Disney composer George Bruns is a classic in itself, just one in a sea of positives about this movie.

Robin Hood <---trailer (1973): ****/****

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