There have been a number of Robin hood productions. The character has been in the popular imagination for literally centuries. Which means two things to movie makers.
One, that there is a built-in audience for the stories, and producers love a built-in audience. Producers really hate risk, when it comes to putting money into films they can be very conservative.
And two Robin Hood is in the Public Domain and they don’t have to pay no rights to nobody.
This production of Robin Hood was hardly the first. Douglas Fairbanks had been in a very successful silent version and was considered the definitive screen Robin Hood until this film was realeased.
This Technicolor movie was a BIG production for 1938. (They spent about two million dollars on the film, and that is in unadjusted dollars.) They were rewarded with a massive hit and what many people consider to be the best film Robin Hood ever produced.
Count me among those who think that this movie is the best Robin Hoods movie. I have seen a number of productions and in my opinion they all fall short. Why do you think that is?
Personally, I think the problem with a lot of recent Robin Hoods is the fetish for historical accuracy. This production was hardly accurate in any aspect of 12th century english life, and frankly it is the better for it.
Robin Hood is not a story about the Crusades, it is not a story about the Lords and Barons of the Norman Invasion, it’s not about the endless goodness of Richard The lionhearted. It is none of those things, it is a myth and myths are always about the eternal moralities. They heros in myths are unblemished and do not resemble flesh and blood people. They are ideals that flesh and blood people should strive for, not biographies of faulted and flawed human beings.
Robin Hood is about the struggle against injustice.It about the rights of men. If you are doing a Robin Hood story and your choice is between historical detail and mythological symbols, chose the symbols.
I am reminded of commentary I heard on the DVD for Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl. Whenever history started to intrude on their writing, like just how bloody savage pirates really were, the writers reminded themselves they were NOT doing a movie about pirates, but a pirate movie. Which is a very different thing. (And something I think they lost in the sequels.)
This film is dated. The love story is terribly repressed and restrained, no good guys even get seriously hurt, the bad guys all are punished and Richard is just SO GOOD, but the emotions of this film transcend all this. If you have never seen it, get a copy of the blu-ray and watch it. The film is lovely and the acting perfect.