Friday, September 20, 2013

Tonight's Movie: The Bandit of Sherwood Forest (1946)

I hadn't watched a swashbuckler in a while, so tonight I popped in THE BANDIT OF SHERWOOD FOREST, starring Cornel Wilde and Anita Louise. It proved to be a colorful, pleasing variation on the Robin Hood legend, enthusiastically performed by a fun cast.

It should be clear at the outset that THE BANDIT OF SHERWOOD FOREST cannot compare to THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), but then, few films can; I consider THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD to be one of the greatest movies ever made.

However, taken on its own terms, THE BANDIT OF SHERWOOD FOREST provides 86 minutes of quite enjoyable Saturday matinee style entertainment, filmed in gorgeous candybox Technicolor which, as the saying goes, is worth the price of admission in and of itself.

The Prince Regent (Henry Daniell) has rescinded the Magna Carta and imprisoned the young king (Maurice Tauzin). The Queen Mother (Jill Esmond) and her loyal lady-in-waiting Catherine (Louise) escape from the castle and ask for the help of Robin Hood (Russell Hicks) and his son Robert (Wilde).

Robin and Robert, along with Friar Tuck (Edgar Buchanan), Little John (Ray Teal), Will Scarlet (John Abbott), Allan-a-Dale (Leslie Denison), and the men of Sherwood Forest, infiltrate the castle to battle the Regent and his men and restore the rightful king to the throne.

In terms of story and lighthearted style, this movie actually at times seemed like an early version of THE COURT JESTER (1956), though without all the rhyming! It's a good-natured film where soldiers may fall to the arrows of Robin and his men, but no one ever seems to be in very serious danger. Rather, a good time is had by all.

Cornel Wilde is somewhat lacking in charisma and depth as Robert, all surface smiles but nothing solid to emotionally connect with underneath; that said, he's energetic and adequate enough in the part, given the movie's style. Anita Louise is lovely as the confident Lady Catherine; it must be said she's got fantastic hair, and she's beautifully gowned by Jean Louis.

Among the supporting cast I especially enjoyed Edgar Buchanan (stuck with an all-too-obvious skullcap) and Ray Teal; what fun to see an actor who appeared in so many Westerns turning up here as Little John.

The supporting cast also includes George Macready, Lloyd Corrigan, Ian Wolfe, and Miles Mander.

Curiously, the movie had two directors and three cinematographers! Henry Levin and George Sherman share directing credit; the movie was filmed by Tony Gaudio, George B. Meehan Jr., and William Snyder. Gaudio was actually one of the two cinematographers who filmed THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938).

The movie seems to have been filmed in a Southern California park -- IMDb mentions Corriganville -- with a pretty matte painting doing service as the castle.

THE BANDIT OF SHERWOOD FOREST was released on DVD by Sony in 2010. It can be rented from ClassicFlix.

This Columbia film has also been shown on Turner Classic Movies.

Stuart Galbraith IV of DVD Talk shares my enthusiasm, admiring the "extremely vivid three-strip Technicolor," the "Disneyland-like...art direction," and the film's "beguiling air of fantasy."

Recommended.

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