Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Sword of Sherwood Forest (1961)

A lesser-known entry in the Hammer studios back catalogue, Sword of Sherwood Forest is a slight and only sporadically entertaining take on the Robin Hood legend. The plot sees the Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Cushing) trying to get control of the estate of a nobleman who has been killed fight in the Crusades. When the Archbishop of Canterbury intervenes, the Sheriff plots to have him assassinated. Meanwhile Robin finds himself falling for the mysterious Marion - despite her links to the Sheriff.

Unfortunately, the story is part of the problem, not being substantial enough to sustain a whole film, instead feeling more suited to an episode of the Robin Hood TV show of which Green was the star. Green himself is another part of the problem, seeming a little long in the tooth, lacking the exuberant energy of Errol Flynn.

Thankfully his co-stars pick up some of the slack, with Peter Cushing oily but charismatic as the evil Sheriff and Niall MacGinnis (who played the creepy Julian Karswell in Night of the Demon) as a fun and funny Friar Tuck. Look fast for Desmond “Q” Llewelyn and a virtually unrecognizable Oliver Reed, although as the former has no lines and the latter is dubbed, neither of them make much of an impact

The other asset the film has is legendary Hammer director Terence Fisher who makes the most of the beautiful Irish countryside locations and ensures the sword fights and horse chases are fast and exciting, even if the script is not. Sword of Sherwood Forest was not the only time Hammer adapted a TV show, but unlike with the other examples such as the Quatermass series, here they failed to develop it into something cinematic.