It's just another day for Robin and his--maybe not Merry but certainly Possessed of an Air of Self-Satisfaction--Men in 1960's Sword of Sherwood Forest. Produced by Hammer and directed by Terence Fisher, I was surprised to find this to be by far the most unenthusiastic Robin Hood movie I've ever seen. It's like watching office workers chatting around a water cooler except it's shot outdoors in beautiful Irish forests and everyone's in costume.
The film stars Richard Greene as Robin Hood, reprising his role from a Robin Hood television series that ran from from 1955 to 1959. Maybe the lack of energy is due to the familiarity. This might also be why the film tends not to bother explaining or ever referring to a lot of things, such as the reason for Robin and his men living as outlaws and the complete absence of Prince John.
Greene is too busy being thoroughly smug to ever seem desperate or excited. It makes me think about why Errol Flynn is so effective--certainly Flynn comes off as smug but there's something oddly inviting about it. Like he's simultaneously a big child ready to enjoy adventure at the same time he's perfectly aware and respectful of the stakes involved. Greene seems lost in his own world of self-admiration.
He certainly doesn't have any chemistry with Sarah Branch as Maid Marian. They meet at the beginning of the film, something that makes me assume the movie's not part of the TV series continuity, when he finds her bathing in a river. Everyone involved in the movie seems so aware of how typical the scene is that no-one seems emotionally connected to it. Branch seems obligingly upset at being peeped at but more like she's going through a minor chore than like a maiden flustered at being glimpsed by a ruffian. She comes off as neither naive, regal, or passionate, her rapport with Greene somewhat like the manager of a McDonald's indulging the flirtations of patronising customer.
She sets up a meeting between Robin and the Sheriff of Nottingham, played by Peter Cushing, who does a fine job but he doesn't have much to sink his teeth into when the script asks him to have one casual conversation after another. His scheme in the film is to swindle someone out of their lands but he's stopped by the Archbishop of Canterbury, based on the real life Hubert Walter. Like the real life Walter, he's also Lord Chancellor (though earlier than the real life Walter achieved the status of Archbishop or Lord Chancellor), so he's presumably in charge of England in Richard the Lionheart's absence while taking part in the Crusades, as usual. Indeed, everyone seems to recognise the Archbishop's authority. When we first see him he pardons a man about to be executed despite not even asking the man's crime.
The implication in any case is that he's a just ruler. One wonders just what the point is of Robin's whole enterprise.
Actually, Robin spends a lot of the film in a casual archery competition with the Earl of Newark (Richard Pasco).
A few moments of emotion occur thanks to a young Oliver Reed playing a member of the Earl's retinue who really hates Robin after the Earl has Robin shoot his hunting falcon.
The film also spends a remarkable amount of time focusing on the trouble Friar Tuck (Niall MacGinnis) has with his donkey.
It all contributes to a puzzling feeling of nothing being particularly urgent or important. This is in spite of the fact that some people do die, shot by arrows. Particularly deflated is the fate of the Sheriff of Nottingham. I really wonder if anyone involved with making this movie remembered working on it after two months.