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Robin Hood returns
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 29 - 04 - 2010


By Lubna Abdel-Aziz
He is back once again, unleashing hell in Sherwood Forrest. To those who have no clue about this dashing English gent in green tights and a feather in his cap, are in for a genuine treat. To some of us, familiar with the entrancing legendary hero we can hardly wait to see him reign at Sherwood Forrest. Once again he will steal from the rich to give to the poor, righting the wrong of the corrupt sheriff of Nottingham. Robin Hood is the quintessential hero of the common people, a symbol of "right against might." His endless quest for justice, his romance with Maid Marian and his charming band of merry men, will revisit us via the big screen following its Out of Competition Opening Night premier, at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, May 12th.
England's favourite bandit has been the subject of countless ballads, stories and poems that date back to the 1300s. Filmdom could hardly keep its hands off this dramatic, romantic action tales of the mythical hero. The first three silent British films about him were Robin Hood and his Merry Men (1908), Robin Hood Outlawed (1912), and Days of Robin Hood (1913), all thoroughly forgotten. Americans also borrowed the English outlaw as subject for two silent films Robin Hood (1912, and 1913), Hollywood's first major production of 1922 starred Douglas Fairbanks, with a staggering budget of $1.5 million. It was the most expensive film produced to date. The sets were the most lavish ever built in tinsel town, with a complete mediaeval castle recreated in every detail. Striving for perfection, Fairbanks, who was also producer and writer, fills the screen with medieval pageantry in a fast moving epic silent film. The cast included Wallace Beery as King Richard the Lion Heart and Alan Hale as Little John, who also recreated the role in three other later versions. Sword fights, jousts, and stunts, dazzled audiences of the early 20th century, eclipsing all before it.
With more than a dozen screen Hoods, only one thus far has been voted as best by fans and critics. Directed by Michael Curtiz, and starring the dashing Errol Flynn, it is the definitive film portraying the captivating legend of Robin Hood. Olivia de Havilland is the beautiful Maid Marian and Claude Rains is the evil Prince John. The glowing Technicolor adventure was set to an Oscar- winning score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The film won three other Oscars and remains a timeless classic often seen on your late TV.
Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn tackled an older version of Robin and Marian (1976). After years of campaigning with King Richard (Richard Harris), Robin returns home to find the people are still oppressed under the rule of Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin Hood rekindles his romance with Maid Marian, now a nun, and faces a final challenge against his arch enemy, t he Sheriff of Nottingham (dir. Richard Lester). The film has a weepy final scene, where Robin, badly wounded, shoots an arrow out of the window and, as in an early ballad, he asks Little John to bury him where it lay.
The most embarrassing version, at least to the Brits, was Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991) with Kevin Costner playing Robin with a California accent and sun- kissed highlights in his hair.
Ridley Scott's version is likely to erase all the other versions that preceded it from memory. For months the crew and the four main members of the cast camped on Crowe's vast farm in New South Wales in preparation for the shoot in England. They went through a veritable bonding experience as they practiced a grueling daily routine of bike riding, horse riding, yoga, gym work, and archery that kept them busy by day. Nights were saved for music as all the cast members are also musicians. A close friendship developed off screen making the relationship among the four men genuine and convincing.
Ridley Scott works best on a grand scale. Sherwood Forrest no longer existed in Surrey near to what it was in the 13th century. So, the scenes were all shot in Australia. An entire Nottingham Village however, was built on a private estate in Surrey. Scott retained his Oscar nominated production designer, Arthur Max., now on their seventh film together. The crew, who brought us The Gladiator, is ready to amaze us once again with Robin Hood.
Did Robin Hood really exist? no one knows whether it was pure myth or based on a real person. According to one version, Robin Hood was actually Robert Fitzooth, Earl of Huntington. Most believed Robin Hood to be completely fictitious. The oldest written reference appears in the, "Version of Piers Plowman," a long poem written about 1378. Robin Hood was probably the subject of many earlier folk tales handed down from one generation to another.
In 1495, the first detailed description of Robin Hood activities was the "Hytell Geste of Robin Hood." Hood also appears as the character Locksley in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (1819).
Cannes viewers will surely be drooling over the inimitable bad boy Crowe. His portrayals have had 3rd, 4th, and 5th dimensions, and though he has been in some bad films, he has never given a bad performance. Bursting on the Hollywood scene in LA Confidential, Crowe has been consistently outstanding, whether as mathematician John Nash A Beautiful Mind, or the brave Roman gladiator, or the triumphant boxer in Cinderella man. His appearance on the screen is, in itself, a thrill.
There is chemistry galore between Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, and fans cannot wait to see them roam through Sherwood Forrest in the grandest form. As Russell Crowe put it "it is a real adrenaline rush." That we need, every now then.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing
-- Edmund Burke (1720 -- 1797)


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