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Rogues of Sherwood Forest (DVD Review)

22 May, 2010 By: Mike Clark

Sony Pictures
$14.94 DVD
Not rated.
Stars John Derek, George Macready, Diana Lynn, Alan Hale Sr.

Every time a major movie comes out involving some famous literary/movie hero with a long screen life and likely public domain status, the studios that control DVD rights to any antecedents chant that familiar rallying cry: “Let’s go to the vaults!”

This time we’re talking Robin Hood, subject of a new and self-consciously brooding 140-minute collaboration between Russell Crowe and his Gladiator director Ridley Scott. Cashing in is a Columbia Pictures quartet that’s far more modest and, in fact, mostly on the ‘B’-level: The Bandit of Sherwood Forest (1946; starring Cornel Wilde; and the biggest production of the bunch); Prince of Thieves (1948 and top-billed by Jon Hall, onetime star of John Ford’s The Hurricane but here descended into ‘B’-dom before going on to star in TV’s “Ramar of the Jungle”); and Sword of Sherwood Forest (a 1960 Hammer Studios cash-in with Richard Greene, who had previously played Robin for 143 episodes in a popular CBS-TV series but one who, at 42, was now a little ripe for the role). Plus John Derek vehicle Rogues, which is the one I was most curious to see. 

But first, let’s de-clutter the specs for these individual Sony releases (no box set this time). Bandit and Rogues were shot in first-rate Technicolor, which still gives them a decided visual advantage. Prince was in cheaper Cinecolor, and good luck in finding many greens. More expressive but also dribbly is the Eastman Color for Sword (though it’s the only anamorphic movie of the bunch, shot in what Hammer used to bill as MegaScope). And whereas Prince and Sword deal with the real-deal Robin Hood that moviegoers have known through all their Douglas Fairbanks-Errol Flynn-Sean Connery-Kevin Costner incarnations, Bandit and Rogues both deal with Robin’s son. This last is the role Derek plays in Rogues — and with a nod to Mel Brooks, the actor who in real life married Ursula Andress, Linda Evans and Bo Derek takes to his green tights reasonably well. Certainly, he looks like someone who could be Flynn’s progeny.

This film’s “Robin, Earl of Huntington” eventually gathers up some of dad’s old buddies (Little John, Friar Tuck, the usual suspects) to curtail the heavy taxation King John is imposing with force on the justifiably bellyaching citizenry. The latter is played by George Macready, the actor famed for having made Rita Hayworth’s life so miserable in Gilda. The opening credits are barely over when he and a “Sir Giles” played by Paul Cavanagh are conspiring to get the younger Robin killed by fixing a jousting match. Instead, the rival jouster gets run through with an arrow sticking out his back — the kind of scene that would probably earn a “TV-14” rating today yet was, in fact, the kind of thing that any non-wussie kid in the ’40s and ’50s saw every week as a matter of course at the kinds of kiddie matinees for which Rogues was designed.

The movie is minor — yet looks as if it cost four times more than it must have, so splendid is the Technicolor that hits us in the face with its reds even before the match begins. As the king’s ward “Lady Marianne,” co-star Diana Lynn (who was almost always a kind of tomboy type, anyway) is so bound up in flesh-concealing duds that she can’t be much of a romantic interest, though she does rate a negligee late in the picture. This cozy-garb scene also rates a laugh (at least from me) when Robin sends Marianne a secret message — attached to an arrow that flies in through the castle window and hits her bedroom door with a quivering thump. Of course, from Rob’s presumed vantage point, the end target could have been her left eye or something.

Reprising the Little John role he made his own in 1922’s Robin Hood opposite Douglas Fairbanks and 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood opposite Errol Flynn, Alan Hale Sr. made his last screen appearance here before he died the January before the July Rogues was released. The movie is directed with professionalism but no particular style by Gordon Douglas, a journeyman I’ve always found intriguing because he subsequently directed Frank Sinatra five times, James Cagney twice (in both cases memorably), Liberace (once was enough) and even those mutated giant ants in Them! Meanwhile, Alan Hale Jr. went on to co-star on "Gilligan’s Island."


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