The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952)
WOW, SO WE THOUGHT we were nestling in on the couch for a run-of-the-mill Robin Hood film, done 1950s Disney style. Apparently “done 1950s Disney style” means, sado-masochism, thuggery, crazy religious guys and crooning. Yeah!
Hang on to your tunic, cuz we’re going 1190 on thy arses.
Imagine this, only played 800 years earlier, on a lute:
Wait, didn’t the shorter one play the middle girl on Full House?
ANYWAY, ROBIN AND MARIAN are in love. That much is clear from the start. We first see them playing in the forest together, running around chasing each other. It all seems sweet and innocent. Then things take a dark turn. Robin uses his bow to trip Marian. Then as the music swells, Robin pulls himself closer and closer until he’s basically on top of her.
He says, “There’s more than one way to bring down a quarry!”, a hunting term from which we can deduce that once he has had his way with Marian, she will meet a grizzly Silence of the Lambs-style end.
Thankfully, we are spared this gruesome scene by Marian’s handmaid who saves her by interrupting them to bring her back, cussing her out for keeping her father waiting and “showing her garter” (i.e. being a ho) and “grovelling in the dirt” (i.e. being a dirty ho). Never mind she was about to be assaulted.
Marian and Robin tell the handmaid to bugger off, and then things get really weird.
Marian: And you good rogue, have my gracious leave to pine and fret till my return.
Robin: Oh! Why should I?
Marian: To please a Lady.
She gets off on male suffering?
Robin: If I could please myself, I’d take the cross and follow my king to the Holy Land.
He gets off on raping and pillaging? That makes sense given what he was about to do to Marian.
Marian: ‘T would come to the same thing in the end. Chop off enough heads; you will come back a knight. As a knight, you would go jousting in a tournament, to please a lady, and have you own head chopped off!
She gets off on men brutally murdering and then being brutally murdered?!
Robin: Ah! It will be worth it!
She then asks him to describe this ‘mystery lady’ and he gives a description that does not match Marian at all. She immediately kicks him in the shin, grinds her enormous heel into the top of his foot and then pushes him over running away. Robin smiles. (Probably thinking about killing her)
This scene is just weird. Robin and Marian are clearly sado-masichists, taken to an extremely psychotic and bizarre level for a Disney movie . It is truly unsettling (yet strangely arousing).
NEXT WE’RE INTRODUCED to King Richard. Dickey-pants (as his friends like to call him, after an embarrassing high school incident) hates the moslems. In fact, he hates the Jews too. So he’s going on a crusade to kill as many of them as possible (including some Christians, if things get boring along the way). Before they leave, Dickey-Pants asks the Archbishop of Canterbury for a “blessing on this most holy enterprise.”
King Dickey-Pants exclaims, “Advance my banner! God wills it!” Then they ride away, singing merrily.
King Richard leaves his brother, Prince John, in charge. Maid Marian’s father goes on crusade, too, and has the Queen Mother look after his daughter while they are away. The Sheriff of Nottingham and his men offer to join the king and he lets them; leaving the task of finding their replacements to his brother. Prince John wastes no time in installing a new sheriff and together they gather a band of thugs loyal to Prince John who enforce strict taxation laws on the people of Sherwood Forest.
AN ARCHERY CONTEST is held at Nottingham Fair in which many of the sheriff’s men are competing along with others, like Robin and his dad. People are already grumbling about their ill treatment at the hands of the sheriff’s thugs. Robin’s dad wins the contest, but because that’s not in the script, he asks for Robin to be counted the victor. (His arrow had split Robin’s on the target.) The Queen Mother acquiesces and Robin is awarded a golden arrow. Robin then gives his golden arrow to Maid Marian, saying “to please a lady” as he gives it to her.
Then they roll out a barrel of English ale and the party begins!
Sheriff offers jobs to all those who did well in the contest. Robin and his dad decline, prompting others to rethink their decision. Robin’s dad says being in the service of the sheriff is no better than tax collectors.
Later, we see Robin and his dad in the woods. Just as Robin is saying that his dad should watch what he says, his dad says “I’ll speak my mind as an englishman and no lixmiddle sheriff will say me nay.” and is immediately shot in back.
Robin is shot at but ducks behind a tree. Robin kills the sheriff’s finalist who was shooting at him. Horsemen give chase, but Robin escapes.
Robin then spends some time with his mentor, Jess Moondragon, going on many naked nature walks with him, before settling on a course of action.
The sheriff’s men intimidate the poor who cannot pay their taxes. Robin looks on as a man is captured for killing one of the king’s deer. Despite explaining that he had been taxed to poverty and had no choice, the man is taken away to be punished.
Robin sends an arrow by relay to his camp to inform them of a man in need in Nottingham square. The man who killed the deer is hung over a fire in the skin of the deer he killed and is flogged as an example to any who refuse to pay taxes and give aid to Robin and his merrie men. The people start shouting “Shame!” Robin and his men unveil themselves and set the man free. The people are emboldened to throw food at the sheriff as he retreats. His men attack the crowds as Prince John arrives and quickly gets inside.
Prince John is angry and bitch slaps the sheriff. The sheriff then promises to eliminate Robin and his supporters from the forest before the sheriff returns to Nottingham. They make out (and it’s weird).
In a homoerotic scene rivaling that of the volleyball scene from Top Gun, the deer-skin man is given a sponge bath (in slow motion – that’s how we watched it anyway), and quickly expresses his willingness to join Robin.
Others join the ranks of the merrie men, like Will Scarlet and Little John (who joins Robin after defeating him in a pointless battle over being able to use a bridge over a shallow creek). They decide they want a ‘man of the cloth’ and Robin sets out to recruit Friar Tuck.
The friar is possibly the biggest waste of man in Disney filmage since Benchley. While all of the peasants around him starve, Friar Tuck is the most rotund and drunken man in the land. He obviously is eating much of the food and drinking much of the alcohol that could be going to others in need. On top of this, he has serious mental issues hearing voices; changing his vocal patters to verbally express them (sometimes through song). On top of that, he’s not very nice and a pretty terrible clergyman.
Instead of introducing himself nicely and asking Friar Tuck to be one of his merrie men, Robin makes Friar Tuck carry him across the stream at knife-point (on the premise that he has come to pray – bullshit).
Robin seems to have some weird thing about crossing bodies of water, usually involving a needless confrontation with a man larger than him (also happened with Little John). Weird.
Upon reaching the other side, Friar Tuck pulls his own knife on Robin (because that is exactly what Jesus would have done) and makes Robin carry him back.
The tables turn again and Robin is carried part way across again until a fight breaks out between them, which is interrupted by the Sheriff and his men. Friar Tuck demands that he have the right to finish Robin off, but the Sheriff refuses, instigating a fight in which Friar Tuck kicks more ass than he has any right to. Robin, who again proves himself to be a useless fighter, runs away only to be saved by his merrie men and by Friar Tuck’s dog, who is the most useful fighter in the battle; single handedly capturing the Sheriff. The merrie men then take him back to their hideout.
For a group of men who are supposed to be in solidarity with the starving peasants, the merrie men eat extremely well; keeping a lot of their stolen food supplies for themselves, rather than distributing to those in need. At the feast, the position of Robin and his men becomes clear: the problem is not that the poor do not have a voice in their political system, nor is it a call for systemic economic change. Robin is all for the feudal system (as a yeoman he was in a pretty good position compared to many peasants). He just opposes Prince John’s usurpation of power and heavy taxation of the poor in the midlands.
After forcing the Sheriff to make an unconvincing pledge to oppose all of the King’s enemies “whether they be peasant or prince,” Robin sends the Sheriff back to Nottingham tied up, wearing deer antlers, facing backwards on a horse. Robin explains, they are making “a spectacle out of you, whereby the poor you persecute find new courage to resist.”
TWO YEARS GO BY and King Dickey-Pants’ attempt to wipe out all of the non-Christians in the Holy Land has gone rather badly and he’s in an Austrian jail being held for ransom. The Queen Mother and the Archbishop scrounge around for the money to get him out. Prince John is being a cheap-ass, plus he really doesn’t want Dickey-Pants back. When the Queen Mother and the Archbishop show up to ask him for money, he uses the excuse that he has been made poor because he has had to spend all of his money chasing an outlaw that ‘threatens civil war.’
Marian, who had accompanied the Queen Mother to Nottingham and learned about Robin becoming an outlaw, asks the Queen Mother for permission go to Robin. While pouting about not getting permission to go, a page named Giles casually mentions he’s going near Sherwood Forest.
The next thing we see is her, wearing the page’s clothing, wandering out towards Sherwood Forest. How she got the clothing and what happened to Giles is unexplained, but based on her character, we have to assume she seduced and killed him for his clothing.
Along the way, Marian is joined by the minstrel (who has been providing musical interludes throughout the film and doesn’t sound at all like Nelson) and another man carrying a sack of flour. Robin and his merrie men show up and show their true colours picking on the poor guy with the flour for no discernable reason, almost entirely wasting all of the flour that was likely a whole day’s work for someone, and possibly his entire income for the week. Weak-ass, guys. Once Marian’s identity has been revealed, Robin immediately roughs her up and carries her into some bushes.
The next thing we see is back at camp, where Marian explains what’s happening with King Dickey-Pants and that she thinks they should give all of the money that has been stolen with the intention of helping the poor, to help pay some rich aristocratic despot’s ransom. Showing their true commitment to the cause of liberating the poor, they choose to give the money to the rich despot. Then Robin and Marian wander back into the bushes, this time with some musical accompaniment.
The day comes for the people of Nottingham to show their loyalty to Despot Dickey-Pants. Marian presents the money from Robin and his merrie men, but the Sheriff doesn’t like it–he was all like, “ew, dirty money.” After being challenged by a disguised Robin to give 1G himself, the sheriff calls for his coffers to be brought out. What his guys bring out is a tiny chest of lame. Then he was all like, “if only I could give more.” And Robin’s is all like, “bitch, you can!” This was the cue for Robin’s men, dressed as the sheriff’s thugs, to bring out the rest of the coffers. It’s a shit load of money and is enough to free Dickey-Pants. Naturally, Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham are like, “shit.” They exchange looks, but there’s not much they can do about it. Or is there?
THEY CONCOCT A SCHEME to dress their thugs as Robin’s men and have them highway rob the ransom money from the Queen Mother and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Their plan is foiled when one of the merrie men sees the thugs changing into their merrie men outfits. They attack, but then Robin’s men attack them, and are like, “wait, why is there almost no one traveling with the queen and archbishop with so much money?”, and it’s all a blur of green tunics and really the best thing about the scene is the archbishop wielding a stick with nails in it. (We know there’s some name for that implement, but we’re too lazy to look it up.)
This bit with the scary stroked out archbishop is one of the best parts of the movie.
Anyway, the merrie fakers are stopped by Robin and his merrie men (and the archbishop). The Queen Mother then thanks them, but is a bit torked that Robin is harboring a fugitive Marian. Robin says, he doesn’t know what she’s talking about, then they all realize she’s in grave danger–because, of course, she’s not just on the crapper constipated or something mundane like that. The Queen Mother then suggests they all go back to save Marian from whatever they think has happened to her. Robin convinces them that it’s too important to get the money to Austria to free the Dickey-Pants (never mind he’s already been held captive for two years). He sends them on their way saying,
ROBIN AND A FEW OF HIS MEN show up at the castle dressed as the sheriff’s thugs, enter, then demand Prince John and the sheriff take them to Marian. They are taken to a fairly unscary side room come “dungeon,” where Prince John had her put for some reason. They save Marian and lock Prince John inside. With a knife to the sheriff’s back, Robin, Marian, and the few merries reach the drawbridge. The sheriff is forced to order it lowered, and all escape, but Robin. Deprived of the leverage the knife offered, he has to negotiate getting out alive. He tells the sheriff he could kill him and make it look like an accident. The sheriff looks genuinely terrified and promises to let him go, if he’ll only spare his life. Robin agrees and turns to leave, almost immediately, the sheriff calls for the bridge to be raised does a whole “stop that man!” thing. It’s the climax of the movie.
And Robin gets away. The scene ends with the sheriff caught in the drawbridge, seemingly seconds before being squished in half. Ew.
BACK AT CAMP, the minstrel sings and Marian brings a recovering Robin something resembling broth. Robin is not keen on being bed ridden and spoon fed and gives Marian a hard time. Jerk. So Friar Tuck sits on him and Marian force feeds him.
All of a sudden, someone shows up at camp dressed as a ninja.
They ask him to reveal himself. It’s King Dickey-Pants! He’s a ninja now. Dickey-Pants tells Robin England is deep in debt to him (well, really he’s in deep debt to Robin, but tomayto tomahto). Dickey-Pants then dubs Robin Earl of Loxley. When Marian comes out, they all become silent for some reason. Dickey-Pants then tells her the Queen Mother wants her to marry the Earl of Loxley. Marian, crestfallen, asks if she has no choice. He says no. She turns to Robin, asking his thoughts. He says, who am I to go against the Queen Mother’s wishes. It’s then revealed that Robin is the Earl of Loxley. Yay! He’s not some lowly yeoman! Everyone’s happy. Marian throws herself on Robin and they make out next to a waterfall a few feet away from everyone else (and presumably do something in that bush over there).
Any interpretation of Robin Hood is going to be packed with political economic themes, but what makes this one interesting is how incredibly lame Robin and his merrie men are as liberators of the poor. They keep all the food for themselves, and do more to uphold the feudal system than to bring down its system of radical inequality. It’s really more of a band of guys who are using injustice as an excuse to rob people, despite the fact that they’re not that good at fighting.
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down.
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down.