“Only the rainbow can duplicate its brilliance” ran the tagline to the swashbuckler from 1938 which took a young Tasmanian and gave him a movie role that would define him for ever. Errol Flynn may have become a fat roué in later life but here, as Robin Hood, he is every inch the handsome, athletic, cocky, light-hearted and brave hero. The film too is full of that brio, telling a story of good v bad, true love v convenience, rich v poor, idealism v cynicism. That “brilliance”, by the way, comes from the costly and technically demanding Technicolor three-strip process, which produces colours more saturated than any subsequent process has managed. Everything – from the dresses of Maid Marian (Olivia De Havilland) and the lush tapestries of Nottingham Castle to the Lincoln Green of Sherwood Forest (California, actually), even Friar Tuck’s brown habit – glistens like nothing on earth, especially in the almost magically restored print that’s now available (that’s a screengrab from the Blu-ray, above). And complementing that brilliance are baddies of pantomime blackness, Claude Rains as the pitiable Prince John, and Basil Rathbone as the despicable Sir Guy of Guisborne. Flynn would later come to regret the string of adventures he’d make with Hood director Michael Curtiz, wishing he’d instead made films that had left an artistic legacy. Sorry, Errol, you’re just going to have to settle for immortality instead.
© Steve Morrissey 2006