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Film / Robin Hood (1991)

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The year 1991 saw the release of two films based on the Robin Hood legends: this one and the much better-known Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Directed by John Irvin and produced by 20th Century Fox, it was relegated to television in the United States due to Prince of Thieves but received a theatrical release abroad.

Simply called Robin Hood, it stars Patrick Bergin as Robin and Uma Thurman as Maid Marian. Other cast members include Jürgen Prochnow and Jeroen Krabbé as the villains, Owen Teale as Will Scarlet, Jeff Nutall as Friar Tuck, and David Morrissey as Little John.

Sir Robert Hode is outlawed after he saves a poacher and makes an enemy of Sir Miles Folcanet (Prochnow) and Baron Roger Daguerre (Krabbé). Calling himself "Robin Hood", he becomes the leader of a band of outlaws called the Merry Men. They take their revenge on the establishment by robbing the rich, while also giving to the poor. Robin also falls for Marian, Baron Daguerre's niece who is promised to Folcanet, and the feeling is mutual. The tensions between Normans and Saxons also play a part.

Tropes in this work include:

  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Robin Hood's real name is sometimes given in 18th-century works and onward (not the older medieval ballads) as "Robert Fitzooth", but is here portrayed as "Robert Hode" - which isn't really changing much, as Robin as a pet name for Robert and Hode is just an older spelling of Hood.
    • Miles Folcanet is basically Guy of Gisborne under a different name, fulfilling a similar role of a knight who is an enemy to Robin.
  • Adaptational Nationality: In contrast to Guy of Gisborne whom he is based on, Miles Folcanet is actually from Normandy instead of being Anglo-Norman.
  • Anachronism Stew: It adapts the Norman vs. Saxon conflict from Ivanhoe and likewise sets the story during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. It goes further by having Robin being an earl as the story starts, in good standing with the Norman establishment. One of the lasting consequences of the Conquest was the near-total dispossession of Anglo-Saxon-held lands and titles, and the replacement of the Saxon elite by Normans, south of the River Tees. At best, a nobleman like Robin would have been an Anglo-Norman with a Saxon heiress for a grandmother.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted, arrows are lethal, especially after Robin acquires a cache of Welsh longbows which plow straight through Norman armour.
  • Anti-Hero: Robert/Robin, compared to most adaptations. He's immensely prideful (leading directly to his being declared an outlaw), and has to be prodded by Will Scarlett into doing the right thing more than once. For instance, he initially just robs taxes for himself and his men out of revenge and doesn't consider giving it to the poor until Will voices his concerns.
  • Anti-Villain: Baron Daguerre is against Robin due more to the law than to malice, though he does allow acts of cruelty in the course of enforcing the law. At the start, he's Robert's friend and tries to be fair to all sides when Sir Miles Folcanet demands that Robert be tried for aiding a poacher. He orders just one stroke of the lash, but this is too much for Robert who insults them both and gets outlawed. In the end, while Robin kills Folcanet, he surrenders to Will Scarlett and he's even at Robin and Marian's wedding. He's also Marian's uncle.
  • Armour Is Useless: In the climax, outlaws in carnival costumes are beating up fully armoured soldiers with ease.
  • Badass Boast: Will gives one on Robin's behalf, when Little John starts insulting them.
    Will: Careful. He doesn't like being called names.
    John: And what do you do, ferret face?
    Will: I just follow him around and bury all the people who've called him names.
  • Batman Gambit: Marian's wedding is scheduled for All Fools' Day. The outlaws (except Robin, who sneaks in first) dress up in festive costumes and form a procession to get past the city gates, as merry-makers cannot be refused entry.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Sir Miles and Baron Daguerre with the former taking the role of Guy of Gisborne and the latter the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham, both traditional members of Robin's rogues gallery who have held such a position.
  • Blue Blood: Sir Robert/Robin is a Saxon noble, the Earl of Huntingdon, while Baron Daguerre and Sir Miles are Norman nobles.
  • Bow and Sword in Accord: Robin does at least as much sword fighting as he does archery.
  • The Cameo: Edward Fox as Prince John.
  • Casual Kink: Flirting with Marian, Robin playfully threatens to give her a lashing. Marian seems to be rather more into the idea than otherwise, saying "I've never had someone make me beg them to stop."
  • Convenient Eclipse: The heroes need to gain access to the Big Bad's castle. They use the fact that it is All Fool's Day, and no group observing the festival can be denied admission, to get in and execute their plan. On any other day of the year, presumably, the castle guards would simply reply by riddling the merry men with crossbow bolts.
  • Corrupt Church: The Church is an acceptable target for robbing. Also, Friar Tuck passes off chicken bones as those of saints (holy relics) and sells them.
  • Cue the Sun: The sun doesn't shine until the Norman/Saxon rift begins to heal with the marriage of Robin and Marian.
  • Darker and Edgier: Subverted in that compared to the Technicolor-bright Errol Flynn film, the colors are much more drab and muted. The squalor of the common peasants is more keenly felt. The outlaws live in caves instead of the greenwood. Even the weather is always downcast, misty or rainy until the ending, when the sun finally comes out. The subversion comes from the Merry Men being just as their name implies, a slapstick fight involving dyes and the film having a perfect balance between drama and lighthearted adventure.
  • Decomposite Character: The traditional Sheriff of Nottingham Evil Overlord figure is split between Baron Daguerre as the feudal lord and a minion called Miter as the actual Sheriff.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: Much is portrayed as having lost two fingers on his right hand prior to the story as punishment for poaching.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Much is about to have his eyes put out for his second offense of poaching (nobody aside from the king and nobles could hunt deer). Robert Hode (future Robin Hood) steps in to stop this, which ends up getting him outlawed for it.
  • Duel to the Death: One half of the climax involves a duel to the death between Robin and Folcanet in the chapel of Nottingham Castle.
  • The Dung Ages: The English countryside, and the towns and villages apart from the castles are quite dingy and grimy compared to earlier colorful depictions, and even the weather is nearly always downcast at best.
  • Famed In-Story: Robin and the Merry Men by the climax are spoken of in tales even among the Welsh, as a Welsh bowmaker and trader gladly lets them use his stock.
  • Eye Scream: Falconet is eager to see this done to Much the Miller for poaching. Robin stepping in and preventing it is what sets off the clash between the two men, and by extension the whole movie.
    • Played straight with Harry, who betrays Marian to Daguerre and Folcanet expecting a reward and is next seen by the other Merry Men in a cage, dead with his eyes put out and maggots swarming across his head. Judging from his corpse's expression he wasn't already dead when the mutilation was done.
  • Gratuitous Latin: Robin recites some lines from the Lord's Prayer while fighting Friar Tuck.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Lord John, as he would have been called historically, only appears once. As the superior of Big Bad Ensemble Folcanet and Daguerre, he is naturally a greater scope villain.
  • Honour Before Reason: Possibly Pride Before Reason would be a better description in this case. Daguerre sentences Robert to recieve one stroke of the lash, administered in private; the minimum punishment he could inflict under the law. If Robert had accepted this, everything would have quickly returned to normal. But Robert feels betrayed, insults Daguerre and, in a rapid escalation of events, ends getting himself outlawed.
  • Important Haircut: Marian cuts her hair when she runs away to Sherwood Forest. This symbolizes the moment when her allegiance shifts from the Normans to Robin and the Saxons.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Robbing the rich is just for revenge at first, but Robin decides to give to the poor to ensure their support despite the big reward for his head.
  • Large Ham: Both villains, particularly Folcanet, and Robin himself in a more dashing hero way. Also in his brief appearance, Prince John.
  • The Lancer: Will Scarlet is Robin's right-hand.
  • Manly Facial Hair: Robin's Porn Stache contrasts with other Robin Hoods who usually have some sort of beard, but also with Daguerre and Folcanet who remain clean-shaven throughout.
  • Morality Pet: Will Scarlett to Robin; he prods him to intervene when Mulch the miller is threatened for poaching, and persuades him to give back stolen tax money to the peasantry instead of keeping it all.
  • Porn Stache: As anyone can tell from the page image this is the kind of mustache that Robin has.
  • Punny Name: Will Scarlett is a pseudonym, as his real name is Will Redding.
  • Outlaw: Robin Hood and the other bandits who are hiding out in Sherwood Forest. Bonus points for the fact that the film explains what historical outlawry really was too—not the status of being a criminal, but a specific sentence.
  • Religious Bruiser: Friar Tuck, who despite being a portly mendicant, fights back fiercely when gets robbed by the bandits, then later against soldiers after joining them.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: When one of the outlaws rats out to the authorities, he's next seen dead in a gibbet with maggots in his empty eye sockets.
  • Runaway Fiancé: Maid Marian runs away to Sherwood Forest to escape her arranged marriage to Sir Miles Flaconet.
  • Slashed Throat: Will Scarlett does this to Folcanet twice non-fatally, the first time when taking him hostage so Robin can get away, the second time because "evil wounds don't heal".
  • Shown Their Work: Viewers aware of noble ranks may not understand why Robert Hode, an earl, answers here to Baron Daguerre. However, Daguerre was a tenant-in-chief of the king, getting land directly which he then gave to lesser nobles, regardless of rank. The ordinary ranks were subordinate to this.
  • Splitting the Arrow: Playfully subverted. In the archery contest, the first archer's arrow hits just to the side of the target (a slim wooden wand), a very respectable shot. Then Robin shoots his arrow and hits the wooden wand dead on— splitting the target in two.
  • Slapstick: There's a colorful fight between the outlaws and the Sheriff's men in a house full of dye vats.
  • Storming the Castle: The climax of the film involves the Merry Men storming Nottingham Castle. Robin is not involved having snuck in prior.
  • Sue Donym: "Robin Hood" is barely different from "Robert Hode", and he only adopts it to avoid giving his real name to the outlaws but Daguerre and Folcanet quickly figure out who he is anyway. Much the same goes for Will Scarlett/Redding.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Marian sneaks out of the castle, cuts her hair and dresses as a man to join Robin.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Daguerre attempts to sentence Hode to this. Hode's refusal to accept this punishment and his subsequent insulting of Daguerre result in his being outlawed.
  • Welcome to Hell: Said by Friar Tuck to a fatally wounded Folcanet when he emerges from the chapel to see the Merry Men in their festival costumes. Folcanet's reaction is a horrified scream before falling dead.