Starring: Robert Greene, Patricia Driscoll, Alexander Gauge, Archie Duncan, Alan Wheatley, John Arnatt
Here’s nearly sixty hours of classic TV. A bold, brave, fun loving hero set against a devious and cunning villain and his minions. It’s the ancient tales of Robin Hood and his merry band as they foil the evil Price John and his toady the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Robin of Loxely has returned home from the crusades to claim his recently deceased father’s estate. Unfortunately for Robin the country has been overrun by the Normans, including the estate that should rightfully be his. His efforts to claim his inheritance end with him being accused of the murder of the Norman lord who had taken over his lands and Robin is forced to turn outlaw. In the forest of Sherwood Robin finds many honest men who have been forced into a life of banditry by the Norman invaders to make common cause with. The first several episodes are particularly entertaining as Robin’s traditional allies are introduced. The gangs all here, Maid Marion, Friar Tuck, Little John and Will Scarlet all end up joining Robin in the good fight.
It’s all good wholesome family fun, that is if you don’t mind a rather high casualty rate. Robin and his men are rather rough on the Sheriffs men. In nearly every episode the Sheriff or his Deputies set some trap for Robin that he will invariably spring and escape. That’s not he only story line though. There are plenty episodes of Robin helping his friends; common serfs, high lords, clerics and even good King Richard out of little jams they have gotten themselves into. A common theme in the stories is the plight of the serfs who are basically slaves. I don’t know how controversial these stories were in England in the late fifties, but I can imagine it was quite easy to see the struggle of serfs for their basic civil rights and equate it to the civil rights movement that was just getting rolling in the States. Of course there was not only the clash of the classes to provide plot fodder but the struggle of the Anglo Saxons against the Normans as well.
It is really amazing the the story lines stay as fresh and interesting as they do over one hundred and forty three episodes. The production quality is about what you would expect for an English show from the fifties. It was obviously shot on a sound stage except for a few exteriors that you see again and again, much like that log that Roscoe was always running into on the Dukes of Hazzard. The fight scenes can be a bit comical until the swords come out. I guess there were enough stage trained swordsmen to make most of the swordplay at least halfway convincing. Even though I’m sure the action is what drew the audience the show is really about promoting, loyalty, honesty, truthfulness and equality. It’s refreshing to see a show that is unironically about the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.
The video is presented in full screen format in black and white. The film the first season is transferred from is a bit scratched up but the remaining seasons are in pretty good shape. There are a lot of day for night scenes that are a bit obvious including the opening shot of Robin Hood firing an arrow at a tree. The transfer is good, there were a few scenes where some compression artifacts showed up but they were brief and never that obvious.
The audio is in English in the original mono. There are some moments of distortion and even some hum in quiet scenes, but the dialog is always clear and understandable. The score is rousing and almost as entertaining as the rest of the show.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This is a set of eleven DVDs. All four seasons, one hundred and forty three episodes. The individual DVDs are packaged in individual paper sleeves enclosed in an extra thick but otherwise standard case. The artwork is perhaps a bit cliched, but I find it attractive and appropriate. The menus are simple and easy to navigate. There are no special features, but even I find that hard to complain about when the main feature is just under fifty nine hours.
I expected I would enjoy these DVDs, but I was surprised at just how entertaining these episodes are and how the quality was sustained over four seasons.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 8/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10