ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE: BEST PICTURE
When an evil prince uses state power to rob his subjects, Sir Robin of Lockesly turns outlaw to defend justice and the poor. [Dir: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley/ Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains/ 102 min/ Action-Adventure, Romance/ Anti-Taxation, Corrupt Government]
“Our men can’t even lay a hot iron on the eyes of the tax dodge without getting a [knife] at the throat. It’s an outrage!” No, that’s not the current commissioner of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service talking; it’s a merciless king’s tax collector.
The time is the late twelfth century. The place is England. An evil prince has just come to power and he’s raising taxes to astronomical levels, enslaving his subjects, and abusing his authority in every way. Enter Sir Robin of Lockesly, a.k.a. Robin Hood, the finest archer in England. He boldly defies the abusive prince, turns outlaw, and organizes every man who’s been beaten or tortured, and every strong man he can find, into a stealthy fighting force of the forest. So formidable is Robin Hood that even the prince’s own minions aren’t safe; and now you know why the tax collectors are complaining.
The antitax aspect of this film is very satisfying, as is the general dramatization of rebellion against a corrupt government. The film even takes a jab at foreign intervention. However, when Sir Robin steals from the rich to give to the overtaxed poor, it’s not clear that he does so exclusively (though it does seem to be mostly) at the expense of state beneficiaries. It’s a somewhat mixed political bag but overall in the right direction.
In any case, this film is a pleasure to watch. It’s the best cinematic telling of the Robin Hood tale: a first-class film with all the elements of greatness, including clever direction, witty dialogue, Academy Award—winning music, and one of the finest casts ever assembled. Errol Flynn makes a classy, daring hero, and despite all the violence going on the film maintains the feeling of a happy adventure. Incidentally, the scene in which Robin Hood splits his competitor’s arrow to win the archery contest wasn’t done with special effects. Professional archer Howard Hill split the arrow on the first try. This film won three Academy Awards.