A Challenge for Robin Hood (1967) 

Some impressive set-pieces in Hammer's third swashbuckling Robin Hood adventure film. An impressive looking E-M-S German R2 DVD.

The Film

The setting is Medieval England, King Richard is prisioner in Germany and Price John is running the country into the ground. At the Courtenay castle, the elderly Sir John de Courtenay reads his out final will before dying. He leaves his estate in equal measure to his sons Henry and Roger, and to his nephew Robin (Barrie Ingham). Angered by this, Roger kills Henry and frames Robin for the murder. Robin escapes with Friar Tuck and they flee into the forest where they meet a band of outlaws, former landowners who were kicked out under Prince John's brutal regime. It soon transpires that Robin is a born leader for the group, and they band together around him. Meanwhile, the scheming and clever Sheriff of Nottingham has joined Roger de Courtenay in the castle where they are holding Lady Marian (the sister of one of Robin's band) as a semi-prisioner. Looking to flush out Robin, Roger orders that his friend Will Scarlett be hung at the upcoming fair. Robin and the men sneak into the fair, free Marian and Will Scarlett before fleeing the scene. With Robin and his men continuing to fight against Nottingham's brutal treatment of the local people, Nottingham sends a force against Robin and they recapture Marian. It is up to Robin and his men to get her back and be rid of Roger and the Sheriff...

Hammer's third Robin hood film, and as usual it is no place for gritty realism or complex plotting. Designed as a family-safe U rated adventure film, the plot flows along merrily with plenty of chances for Robin and his men to get into sword fights and send-up the Sheriff's employees; with a nice big fight at the end, and a set-up for a non-existant sequel. The differences drawn between bad-guys Roger and the Sheriff are quite interesting: Roger is plain bad, abusing his men and letting the castle become a mad-house, while the Sheriff is smart and scheming, a worthy adversary for Robin. However, the script does flow past a few things disappointly fast - one of the outlaws at first opposes Robin leading their group but is won over very fast, his opposition could have added an interesting element to the story. Robin takes to living in the forest very well, and some harsh lessons in life, bringing him down to earth, would have made another interesting story element. Ultimately, the script provides what it sets out to, a light hearted swashbuckling adventure story, but little more.

Obviously shot on a bigger budget than Hammer's earlier Men of Sherwood Forest (1954), the film boasts some impressive set-pieces - notably a big county fair, complete with jousting tournament, and the impressive hall at de Courtenay castle. In true Hammer style, the rest of the sets and the costumes all look great. One-off Hammer director C.M. Pennington-Richards does a solid job, but little more and the flair of Hammer's usual directors is not present. Hammer's period adventure composer Gary Hughes provides a typical orchestral score. The sword-fights are well choreographed, and are not spoilt by any modern style fast-cut editing.

None of the usual Hammer cast are present here. Barrie Ingham makes an interesting Robin Hood, certainly not as grizzled as the real life character would have been, but he is tall enough and shows some impressive agility; overall, not as good as Don Taylor from Hammer's 1954 film, but still better than Richard Todd in Disney's The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952) and he comes off very convincinly at the start as a nobleman. James Hayter reprises his role as the Friar from the earlier Disney movie and certainly looks the part, as does Leon Greene as the big, strong Little John. Peter Blythe as Roger and John Arnatt as the Sheriff play their roles very well, and the rest of the cast give adequate backing, even child actor John Arnatt looks good.

Another Hammer family-fun swashbuckler, and as with most of the films, there is potential for a clever script, but it is passed over in favour of a simple, entertaining blast. The production is big enough to pull off some nice set-pieces, and the cast look pretty good. Recommended for anyone looking for some simple family-safe entertainment, that just happens to carry the Hammer brand.

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? No-one of note
Directed by anyone interesting? C.M. Pennington-Richards - a one-off Hammer director who also filmed several episodes of the Invisible Man (1958/9) television series.
Any gore? A little blood.
Any sex? None.
Who is it for?
Has a general appeal.
Good soundtrack? Standard Hammer orchestral score.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.66:1 widescreen (might have been shown 1.85:1 in the USA). Anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
The disc is very strong visually, good colours, minimal print damage is evident.
Audio English and German language mono audio.
Apart from a one second drop-out, the audio is strong and clear.
Subtitles German and German HOH.
Run-timeFeature: 1hr 32m 05s (PAL)
Extras The disc includes:
  • The Thrillers episode of 'World of Hammer'. This was a 1980 documentary series, narrated by Oliver Reed, about Hammer studios. It provides some interesting clips of Hammer's various historical action films, but no interviews and little detail about the films. English. (25m 02s)
  • Original English trailer, good PQ/ (1m 48s)
  • A gallery of lobby cards and publicity stills with soundtrack backing (4m 08s)
  • Shots German pressbook of the film (1m 00s + 3m 49s)
  • Liner notes (German).
AvailabilityGerman release. DVD Title: Robin Hood - Der Freiheitsheld
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Similar Spanish R2 disc.
Cuts? The film is believed to be fully uncut.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 26th March 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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