Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

"Austria is a nation no longer," screams a newsreel included as an optional pre-show feature on the new DVD version of 1938's The Adventures Of Robin Hood. That reel follows a piece on some newly developed knee-high anti-tank devices designed to send a two-man machine-gun crew into battle in a skeletal, open-air vehicle which forces them to ride flat on their stomachs over bumpy terrain. No wonder Sherwood Forest looked so good in 1938. Robin Hood brings to life a storybook 12th-century England that, in the absence of crusading king Richard the Lionhearted, is under the sway of Richard's tax-hungry brother John (Claude Rains) and his henchman Basil Rathbone. Led by Errol Flynn as Robin Hood, a pocket of good-spirited, colorfully attired resisters remains loyal to the true king, and to redistributing the excess wealth of the rich among the poor. It's easy to see why the tale of a witty, morally committed hero with a particular affinity for the less fortunate would have special appeal as the end of the Great Depression faded into WWII, but taken out of context, The Adventures Of Robin Hood still earns its reputation as studio-created escapism of the first order. Flynn is every inch the movie star in a performance that emphasizes the merriness of the famed merry men, as he traipses through the well-established moments of his character's legend, but he lets the mirth melt away in his tender moments with Olivia de Havilland's Maid Marian. Stepping in to replace William Keighley, Michael Curtiz provides confident direction, but as the non-stop commentary track by Rudy Behlmer and the in-depth documentary on the features-jammed second disc point out, Adventures is best seen as a team effort that carefully balances a witty script, peerlessly executed fight sequences and arrow stunts, more-brilliant-than-life Technicolor photography, and a rousing score by Erich Korngold. Then again, it's the sort of sweeping adventure that makes it difficult to think about anything–from film credits to the growing Nazi threat–other than the action at hand.

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