Robin and Marian (1976) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
29Jan/111

Robin and Marian (1976)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

Danny INDIFFERENT

Ripe fruit. Rotting fruit. The sun. A sword.

It's strange that Audrey Hepburn would return to the screen after a decade long sabbatical in a film that primarily serves as a rumination of age. Older but still regal, Hepburn is shoved into a near-supporting role, as most of the film concerns Sean Connery's Robin Hood.

King Richard had gone mad during his long time pursuing the Crusades, and Robin-- who'd given up his youth to follow the charismatic leader-- feels betrayed. One of Richard's last acts involved murdering a castle full of children for a rumored golden idol that simply turned out to be made from stone. Since Robin had refused Richard's order, Richard threatens to kill him, only to recant in his own final moments. Robin always thought he was equal to Richard, and, in the end, Richard can't bring himself the will to prove otherwise.

Marian was hanging out in a convent for all of this, revisiting her Nun's Story glory days.

Trekking back to England, soon him and Little John, who'd been along for the Crusades, find themselves in Sherwood. They catch some poachers and prepare for a rousing fight when it turns out that the men are Friar Tuck and Will Scarlet! That they've done nothing in the intervening twenty years besides sit in the forest and hunt game doesn't deter Robin, because as soon as he hears that the Sheriff of Nottingham is still around, it seems like a good time to turn the fortunate reunion into another rebellion.

Robert Shaw plays the Sheriff of Nottingham and is by far the most sympathetic character in the movie. While other men ran off for glory and riches, he minded the homestead and kept the peace. Once he finds Robin is back and sees what the Crusades have done with him, a flicker of pity for his old nemesis crosses his face. But as soon as he finds that Robin is rearing for a fight, he calmly and methodically plans out his own.

The title of the film, Robin and Marian, and its cheeky tagline ("Love is the greatest adventure!") would seem to indicate that it's a romantic comedy, or, hell, a romantic drama. It's barely that. The film is an obvious product of its time, a relic about a generation that felt like relics: the old hero you respected has become a monster, and the man next in line is already a monster himself. Robin and Marian, coming a half a decade after the resignation of Nixon and the ascend ency of Gerald Ford, is laced with the faithlessness of experience.

I like ideas in the movie, like how the young Lord in the Sheriff's employ is aching to take down Robin Hood and prove his superiority and how the Sheriff shuts him down at every opportunity. The Sheriff knows Robin's tricks, and that the favor of the people is fickle. He left them once before, and with him out of the way again, the rule of law will once again reign.

This is a pessimistic view, but carried on by a game cast. Connery, still in his ostensible prime, cries out to people, "You think I'm old?!" They lie to him.

I may be old, but I can still climb trees and steal honey! And shoot arrows too, I guess.

So if I'm so enamored with this movie, why the big fat yellow mark at the top? Quick and simple, the ending doesn't really work. The romance with Marian throughout is problematic-- while we know the tales of their romance, their reunification is too dour. And while the movie plays its cards right in the adventure portion, the romance completely seems to miss its mark. The realism the rest of the movie strives for falters here, and the ending, which turns Robin into the legend he'd always seen himself through a swift act of Marian's-- feels too optimistic for the rest of the film.

Still, in the overall canon of films about Robin Hood, this one at least offers a message besides the usual anti-governmental, anti-tax hoopla. What good do you do if you don't see your ideals through until the end?

Posted by Danny

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  1. The ending really sucked. Marian poisons Robin. Why? It’s such a selfish, stupid act.

    I thought at the end, when Robin asked John for his bow, that he was going to shoot Marian for killing him.

    That would have made for a much better ending!


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