Robin and Marian
Robin and Marian (1976) Not your usual Robin Hood story. The writer, James Goldman, assumes you know all that Errol Flynn and his merry men in Sherwood Forest stuff. Here we meet Robin and Little John after they’ve been Crusading for 20 years with Richard the Lionheart, who has become just another Christian butcher. (Not that he was ever much of a king, or a human being.) When the king dies the pair return to Merrie Olde, where Robin is shocked to learn that Maid Marian entered a nunnery 18 years ago. But she can’t resist his charms …
This is primarily a love story, but it’s also a tale that reminds me a bit of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Wild Bunch; stories of men who have lived violent lives and are now a bit over the hill, whose moment has come and gone. They are fated to “die bloody,” as the sheriff in Butch says, and their only choice, if they’re lucky, is to pick where and when. And as age robs a man of action of his dignity, the sooner the better is probably the best choice.
The milieu is Richard Lester’s trademark squalor; don’t expect to see clean streets and clean people in 1190 AD. There’s lots of mud. The fights are also realistic, in that you don’t see anybody jumping nimbly around and clashing basically harmless epees against each other like fencers. These men wield ponderous broadswords, and hack away like lumberjacks. And, wonder of wonders, they get pooped. At one point Robin and John are trapped inside the castle. Errol Flynn would have cut a convenient rope, grabbed hold, and flown up to the parapets. (The Middle Ages were apparently lousy with pulleys and ropes with weights on the other end, just as Tarzan’s jungle always had a perfectly-positioned vine close to hand when he needed to swing.) Robin and John laboriously and awkwardly climb the stone walls, and they’re about half dead when they reach the top. The climactic battle with the Sheriff of Nottingham is a sad scene of two over-the-hill warriors, each bloodied and barely able to stand at the end. Not a real happy picture, but a good one.