Richard Lester is very much the archetypal British director and also a director par excellence of historical dramas (Four Musketeers, Royal Flash). He also provided flair for the Beatles films and Superman II and III but this is one of his unheralded gems that sadly flopped on release, perhaps because critics and audiences were expecting an all-action movie.
What they got was the story of the final days of a legend and his love, made with compassion and wit and beautifully shot by David Watkin and Paul Wilson. Sean Connery is Robin Hood, returned from the Crusades after the death of King Richard (Richard Harris), with Little John (Nicol Williamson) his companion. Returning to Nottingham, he finds his mortal enemy the Sheriff (Robert Shaw) still in charge but worse, his love Marian (Audrey Hepburn), having given him up for dead, is now the Mother Superior of the nunnery (giving rise to just one of the great exchanges – ‘You never wrote.’ ‘I don’t know how to.’) Robin and Little John return to Sherwood Forest and Marian joins them but the Sheriff sets up camp on the forest’s fringes and the scene is set for the final confrontation between the two adversaries.
What sets the film apart are the two central characters. They are no longer young and athletic (Robin is suffering from a touch of arthritis and feels the cold) but they are still passionately in love and as Robin woos Marian again, so the tenderness returns. But underlying the love story is the knowledge that death awaits, either violent or natural, and that little time remains. And equally passionate is the Sheriff’s enduring hatred for the enemy that has eluded him for so long. As Time Out points out, the elegaic mood of the movie is not too far removed from Don Siegel’s The Shootist – which was released in the same year – as once heroic characters realise that they are not, alas, immortal. The ending, while not unexpected, is both stunning and moving. and Language.
UK | 106 minutes | 1976
Director: Richard Lester
Writer: James Goldman
Nicol Williamson as Little John
Peter Butterworth as Surgeon
Audrey Hepburn as Lady Marian
Ronnie Barker as Friar Tuck
Kenneth Cranham as Jack’s Apprentice
Robert Shaw as Sheriff of Nottingham
Esmond Knight as Old Defender
Bill Maynard as Mercadier
Sean Connery as Robin Hood
Richard Harris as Richard the Lionheart / King Richard
Denholm Elliott as Will Scarlet
Ian Holm as King John
Kenneth Haigh as Sir Ranulf
Veronica Quilligan as Sister Mary
John Barrett as Jack
Victoria Abril as Queen Isabella
Montserrat Julió as 1st Sister
Victoria Hernández Sanguino as 2nd Sister
Margarida Minguillón as Third Sister
You may also be interested in...