Before Hammer Films began its regular output of horror movies, they made quite a number of dramas and also experimented in other genres…including swashbucklers. One year before Richard Greene became the idol of youth in television’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, Hammer tried their hand at spinning a yarn of the legendary English outlaw with Men of Sherwood Forest (1954).
In this jolly outing, Robin Hood and Friar Tuck attempt to track down a band of thieves who had attacked an abbot passing through Sherwood Forest, an abbot who was carrying a secret message hidden within a small statue. King Richard, who was held captive in Austria, has been freed and is returning to England to reclaim his throne from Prince John. The message tells where and when he will land, but it is now in the hands of one of Prince John’s noblemen who will use the information to set a trap to kill the king. Only Robin Hood and his band of merry men can save the king!
The Men of Sherwood Forest was the first film that Hammer Studios shot in color and it proved successful enough for them to continue making color productions, even though this was costly for such a small production company. In 1951, Hammer signed a four-year distribution agreement with Lippert Pictures, an American producer. Robert Lippert insisted that the films he would be receiving from Hammer have American actors in their leads so that they would be more marketable stateside. Hence, in The Men of Sherwood Forest, we see a band of British outlaws led by a very American Robin Hood – Don Taylor. At first, this bit of casting seems strange (especially since Don makes no attempt at an English accent) but as the film progresses, his portrayal of Robin Hood grows more likable and by the film’s end you’ll find yourself thinking what a fun Robin Hood he made!
The film is indeed a merry lark. The plot is not substantial, romance is minimal, and it is sorely missing the presence of Little John ( although Reginald Beckwith makes up for this omission with his amusing portrayal of Friar Tuck ), but the location filming in England is scenic and the antics and escapades that Robin finds himself in are fun to watch.
Constance Metzinger runs the website Silver Scenes, “a blog for classic film lovers.” This post originally ran last year.