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Undoubtedly, 1938’s THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD ($29) is one of the greatest swashbuckling adventure movies of all time. Produced in glorious Technicolor, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD has been the yardstick by which swashbuckling adventure movies have been measured for seventy years. With its mixture of action, spectacle, romance and humor, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD is about as close to perfect entertainment, as any film produced during Hollywood’s golden age. Additionally, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD has had its cinematic reputation cemented by some of the most rousing cinematic swordplay of its era. This renowned cinematic classic also features legendary stars in its leading roles, as well as the support of some of the best character actors the day.

Adapted from centuries old English legends, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD tells of the 12th Century Saxon noble Sir Robin of Locksley (Errol Flynn), who is forced to turn outlaw when King Richard the Lion Heart (Ian Hunter) is kidnapped while returning from The Crusades. Richard’s kidnapping makes it possible for the King’s brother Prince John (Claude Rains) to usurp absent monarch’s throne, and oppress those loyal to Richard. Backed by the Norman nobles, including Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone), Prince John begins the oppression the Saxon people by extolling huge taxes… this escalates into a reign of terror, which includes the maiming and killing anyone who can’t pay said taxes or dares to complain.

Driven off into Sherwood Forrest, Sir Robin becomes known as Robin Hood, leader of those poor Saxons remain loyal to the true King, but are forced into a life of thievery by Prince John and his followers. With his "Merry Men" behind him, Robin Hood begins robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. Of course, in the midst of his rebellion against Prince John and the Normans, Robin still manages to find time to romance King Richard’s ward- the lovely Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland). The fine cast of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD also features Patric Knowles, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale, Melville Cooper, Una O'Connor and Montagu Love.

Warner Home Video has made THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is nothing short of spectacular, if only all seventy-year-old movies were to look this marvelous. As much as I loved the SD DVD, the high definition Blu-ray easily bests it in resolution and color reproduction. Having the film in high definition allows one to fully appreciate Warner’s Ultra-Resolution process and the fine details that it reclaims from the three strip elements. This presentation produces a level of clarity and a depth of detail not seen the original IB Technicolor prints and only partially realized on the SD DVD release. Just check out the texturing of the costumes to see what has been missing. Sure, there are some shots that appear mildly soft, but they are fairly inconsequential in relation to the vast majority of the presentation. The Technicolor look of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD is more faithfully recreated and the hues appear more vibrant, accurate and stable on Blu-ray than it is on DVD. Blacks are deep and inky, while the whites are smooth and silky. Shadow detail is very good for a film of this vintage, plus the film’s day-for-night sequences look outstanding. The film elements from which this presentation has been mastered were digitally fine-tuned and restored, which leaves behind only the most minor of print flaws. A grain structure is noticeable at various points throughout the presentation, but it helps to maintain a very film-like look for THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. Some sequences contain more grain than others, but for a seven-decade-old film, everything is as it should be.

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a surprisingly capable Dolby Digital monaural 192kbps soundtrack that is identical to what was contained on the DVD. Recordings of this vintage are notoriously lacking in fidelity, but for its age THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD is remarkably solid, despite the inherent technological limitations. Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Academy Award winning score sounds quite pleasant when amplified and the music remains free from serious distortions. Dialogue is very cleanly rendered and always maintains full intelligibility. Additionally, most traces of background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process. French and Spanish language tracks have also been provided on the disc, in addition to English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the excellent complement of supplemental materials, most of which have been duplicated from the DVD release. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with film historian Rudy Behlmer. This is a highly informative audio track that explores the nitty-gritty of the production, as well as the legend of Robin Hood. Next up is a Warner Night At The Movies 1938, which recreates the full motion picture experience. Hosted by Leonard Maltin, this cool little feature offers a trailer, newsreels, a musical short subject and a cartoon from the year 1938, along with the feature presentation. Moving on, we have the Documentaries. Glorious Technicolor is a sixty-minute program narrated by Angela Lansbury that looks at the history of the Technicolor process, as well as offering interviews with various cinematographers, plus a few stars of the Technicolor era. Welcome to Sherwood: The Story of The Adventures of Robin Hood runs several minutes shy of an hour, but the program, featuring historian Rudy Behlmer, offers a detailed account of the making of this classic film. Robin Hood Through the Ages is a seven-minute program with Rudy Behlmer discussing various film productions of Robin Hood, with a comparison of the 1938 Errol Flynn and 1922 Douglas Fairbanks versions.

A Journey to Sherwood Forest offers a thirteen-minute look behind-the-scenes, via various home movies shot during the production of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. From The Cutting Room offers various outtakes and alternate takes from the movie, in addition to Breakdowns of 1938- twelve minutes of Warner players flubbing their lines. Next up are two terrific Looney Tunes cartoons with a Robin Hood theme- Rabbit Hood and Robin Hood Daffy- both of which have been upgraded to high definition presentations for the Blu-ray release (that’s a big WOW for animation buffs). The Audio Only Features include a Music Only presentation of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s classic score, the National Radio Broadcast of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score with Basil Rathbone narrating the story, plus a Korngold piano session of his various compositions. Finally, Splitting The Arrow Galleries is an amalgam of stills and artwork from the film.

Seventy years down the line, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD remains one of the greatest swashbuckling adventure movies of all time. Warner’s Blu-ray release is phenomenal, eclipsing everything that has come before… even Warner’s own marvelous SD DVD edition. The outstanding high definition presentation of this classic film makes this a must have for any movie buff. Absolutely positively recommended!



The Adventures of Robin Hood [Blu-ray] (1938)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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