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Film / The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men

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Hark to the tale of Robin Hood
And his Merrie Men
Whose like you are not like to see
In all the world again...

The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men is a 1952 Disney live-action film starring Richard Todd as Robin Hood.

King Richard the Lion Heart leaves for The Crusades, accompanied by the Earl Of Huntingdon and the old Sheriff of Nottingham, and leaving the country in the hold of Queen Eleanor (who is also taking care of Huntingdon's daughter Marian), the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Prince John. Then Prince John starts to scheming to take over the kingdom with the help of his new Sheriff, starting with an archery contest to gather an army, which results in Robin Fitzooth, Marian's sweetheart, becoming an outlaw and taking the name Robin Hood. Robin and his band of Merry Men try to foil John's plans, but then news arrives of Richard's capture, and things start to deteriorate.

Not to be confused with Disney's 1973 animated Robin Hood film, which is an Anthropomorphic Animal Adaptation.

Provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Robin Hood has all three of his most famous surnames referenced. He is first called Fitzooth, a name tied to the yeoman Robin Hood, which he is at first, then upon being ennobled receives the title Earl of Locksley, the name made popular in Ivanhoe. Finally, his Perfectly Arranged Marriage to Marian of Huntingdon implies he will add Earl of Huntingdon to his title as well.
  • All-Knowing Singing Narrator: Alan-a-Dale wanders through the early parts of the film singing about events that have just taken place. Even after he joins the Merrie Men, he plays no real part in the action.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Prince John and the Sheriff seem much more interested in each other's company than in pursuing the eligible Marian— and they both sport impeccably coiffed hair. (On the other hand, it's entirely possible they're just posh and villainous and in a family-friendly film.)
  • Audible Gleam: When the Sheriff's ill-gotten gains are spread out across the counting table, they are accompanied by a glissando in the soundtrack.
  • Badass Preacher: Tuck fights off multiple mooks in one scene, and the Archbishop of Canterbury threatens mooks with a mace!
  • Batman Gambit: A variation: Prince John's plans not only rely on knowing how people will react, but also using their past behavior against them. His plan to prevent Marian from telling Robin his plans, for example, would not have worked unless she had already dressed as a man to escape the castle.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Robin is always affable and polite. But threaten Marian or kill his father, and he will immediately become deadly serious and cold.
  • Big Bad: Prince John. A surprisingly competent version.
  • Big Fun: Friar Tuck, as per the usual legend, is a large man and a Large Ham, and has no scruples about being just as sassy to Robin as Robin is to him.
  • The Big Guy: Little John. Big enough that he carries Much the Miller with only one arm as a joke!
  • Composite Character: Baldwin of Forde was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1184 to 1190, Reginald Fitz Jocelin was archbishop from from November 27th 1191 to December 26th 1191, after that the position was vacant until Hubert Walter became archbishop in 1193 with his tenure ending in 1205. The film combines the three into one character.
  • The Coup: Prince John's ultimate plan is to use the excessive tax revenue he's "collected" from the people to overthrow Richard.
  • Death Glare: The Sheriff, played by Oscar winner Peter Finch, has some nasty glares he shoots Robin's way.
  • Decomposite Character: Will Scathlock is generally held to be a variant spelling of Will Scarlet, and Will Stutley probably is as well. In this version, all three are separate characters.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Marian arrives to donate the Merry Men's gold to King Richard's ransom. Still dressed as a boy. The queen gasps in shock - not just at the fact that she's crossdressing, but that her legs are visible.
  • Devious Daggers: Unusually, given that it's a traditional swashbuckler and Robin's traditional Bow and Sword in Accord image, he never uses a sword in this movie, and actually crosses blades with Friar Tuck using only his knife and has a habit of flourishing it menacingly at the Sheriff and Prince John, making him look a bit more roguish.
  • Disney Villain Death: Averted. The Sheriff falls... right into a closing drawbridge. A Gory Discretion Shot spares the audience his crushed body.
  • Dressing as the Enemy:
    • The Sheriff's men dress in Lincoln green to make it look like Robin's men stole King Richard's ransom.
    • Immediately afterwards, Robin and the Merrie Men infiltrate the castle to rescue Marian disguised as the Sheriff's men.
  • The Dragon: The new Sheriff is The Heavy for the majority of the film, and his defeat marks the end of John's plots.
  • Evil Chancellor: Prince John, who – unlike most depictions of the character – is not ruling as king in his brother's absence but explicitly as his subordinate, largely only in control of the Midlands.
  • Evil Plan: Discussed by Prince John and the Sheriff at the start of the film. Prince John plans to overturn his brother with an army of his own – specifically, the men hired as the Sheriff's enforcers – and finance it by more harshly enforcing the tax laws.
  • Exact Words: The Black Knight says that he "comes to rid this forest of outlaws" and that he comes "in the King's name." Both are true.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The Sheriff of Nottingham is crushed by a drawbridge.
  • False Flag Operation: How Prince John intends to regain the money Robin stole from the Sheriff for Richard's ransom: have his men dress in Lincoln green and rob the convoy while very loudly proclaiming their allegiance to Robin.
  • Food Slap: During the fight against Much the Miller, Robin upends a sack of flour on top of Much's head.
  • The Gadfly: Robin loves to do this:
    • He describes his lady love as a tall, blonde, blue eyed, sweetly-tempered lady to the short, impetuous brunette Marian, just to rile her up.
    • He joins the Friar in a duet just to annoy him, and makes him carry Robin across the river just for the fun of it.
    • He plays an affable host to the sheriff so he can mock him.
    • He and Little John carry the sheriff on their shoulders to celebrate his "generosity" in contributing to Richard's ransom, then dump him in the moat immediately after revealing their identities.
    • And at the very end, after being declared Earl of Locksley, he leaves Marian in the dark so that she is heartbroken by her Perfectly Arranged Marriage to the Earl of Locksley.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The sheriff of Nottingham's death.
  • A Handful for an Eye: When Robin, Little John and Scarlet demand Much's gold, he claims it is hidden in his sack of flour. He digs his hands into the flour to find it and, as the three outlaws are leaning over the sack, he flings a handful of flour into their faces. He then starts whacking them with his staff while they are blinded.
  • Holding Both Sides of the Conversation: Friar Tuck's introduction. He holds a conversation, and then sings a duet, between himself and a "blushing maiden," complete with separate voices.
  • Humiliation Conga: The sheriff promises to lead a full force against Robin Hood himself. The next day, he loses a battle against Friar Tuck's bulldog, is taken back to Robin's camp, forced to drink a toast in favor of King Richard and pay for all the outlaws' wrongs, and sent back in disgrace, riding his horse backwards while dressed in the deerskin he forced Stutely to wear.
  • Involuntary Charity Donation: When the townspeople are raising money for King Richard's ransom, Robin (in disguise) riles up the crowd to publicly shame the Sheriff into a matching donation of over a thousand marks. Meanwhile, the Merry Men have been raiding the treasury, and just as the Sheriff says he wishes he could give more, they show up and empty his entire treasure chest into the donation pile. The look on his face says it all, but there's nothing he can do because the people are all cheering for him.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Well, yeah. When Robin holds people up on the highway, he assures them they are making a donation to the poor.
  • King Incognito: King Richard rides into Robin's camp dressed as a black knight (in a scene probably inspired by Ivanhoe) and receives pretty short shrift from the outlaws until he removes his coif and reveals his true identity.
  • Left the Background Music On: When Robin and his men stop Allan-a-dale, Much the Miller, and the disguised Marian, they claim a toll from Much, and tell Allan to play a song (since they "do it better to music"). He continues playing even while they're fighting, and only stops playing when Marian's true gender is revealed.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the 1938 version with Errol Flynn. Or at least more toned down.
  • Little Girls Kick Shins: Not that she is particularly little at the time, but the teenaged Marian kicks Robin in the shins when he is teasing her at the start of the film.
  • Male Gaze: The way Robin ends up identifying Marian when she's dressed as a page boy: she's lifted up by Little John and he gets a good look at her stockinged legs and backside.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Prince John is more cunning than the Sheriff, and his plans would have succeeded if not for Stutely acting as a Spanner in the Works.
  • Mugged for Disguise: The Merrie Men snatch two of the Sheriff's servants and steal their livery and uses the disguises to ransack the Sheriff's quarter and deliver his wealth to the ransom table.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Eleanor of Aquitaine. She stops a robber band from attacking her through sheer force of will.
    Eleanor of Aquitaine: HOLD!
    The robbers: [pause in the middle of stealing a box of money]
    Eleanor of Aquitaine: I am Eleanor, Queen of England. Down on your knees, you traitorous dogs!
    The robbers: [start to put down the box]
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": Averted. Everyone sights, then aims upward before releasing.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: The only person John even comes close to striking is while helping his servant lock Marian in the dungeons.
  • No-Sell: Little John does this to Robin's hit with the quarter staff, laughing and complimenting him about it afterward.
  • Not Me This Time: Robin Hood gains a reputation for robbing rich passers-by of their money (and, to a lesser extent, being where Marian is). Thus he is forced to prove to the skeptical Queen and Archbishop that this time, the attempted theft of King Richard's ransom and the disappearance of Marian aren't his fault.
  • One-Steve Limit: Played with. Wills Stutely, Scathelock, and Scarlet all appear, but the former two are only referred to by their last name while the latter is only called Will.
  • Rightful King Returns: Richard, as the Black Knight.
  • Shipper on Deck: Friar Tuck hires Alan-a-Dayle to play a love song for Robin and Marian. It works.
  • Shout-Out: Richard returns as a Black Knight, just as in Ivanhoe.
  • Shown Their Work: Most of the story owes more to the original ballads and Howard Pyle's version of the legend than to later movies and books. Much, Tuck, and even Marian, to some degree, have their arcs copied almost exactly from the source material. Robin's even a yeoman instead of a knight here.
    • Also, the Sheriff is referred to as De Laci in his first scene. Roger De Laci was an actual High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire during the period.
    • The Archbishop overseeing collection of the ransom is also historically accurate.
  • Smug Snake: The Sheriff tries to be a cunning adversary, but his Villain Ball moments come back to bite him often enough to make him almost pitiable.
  • Splitting the Arrow: At the archery competition. Notable in that the person who splits the arrow is not Robin, but his father Hugh Fitzooth splitting Robin's arrow. When offered the golden arrow as a reward, he gives it to his son, since he hit the mark first and his aim "was no less true than mine."
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Marian sneaks out of Prince John's castle and journeys to Nottingham disguised as a pageboy.
  • Tap on the Head: Friar Tuck is knocked out by the flat of a sword being smacked against his pate.
  • Tempting Fate: The Sheriff swears to bring Robin Hood and all his men to justice the next day. The very next scene chronicles Robin meeting and recruiting Tuck and John into his band...
    • Happens again during the gathering of the ransom. The Sheriff is forced by the crowd to donate his entire coffer (1,187 marks) and claims that doing so has left him penniless. At that moment, Robin's men come out dressed as the Sheriff's men, lugging a big trunk full of gold and silver.
      The Sheriff of Nottingham: I would to heaven I could give ten thousand more.
      Robin, in disguise: Heaven has heard you, my lord high Sheriff!
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Marian and Robin.
  • Waterfall Shower: Robin rinses himself off under a small waterfall in the outlaw camp while Scathelock is tending to Stutley's wounds.
  • You Killed My Father: Robin's father Hugh Fitzooth gets shot in the back by Red Gill, acting on behalf of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin kills Red Gill in revenge, thus becoming an outlaw.