December 21st, 2009

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) ***

The Adventures of Robin Hood was one of the earliest Robin Hood movies and it’s easily the most iconic and (for most viewers anyway) memorable.  Countless other versions of the tale borrowed heavily from this flick, but since I’ve seen just about every other Robin Hood movie EXCEPT this one; it probably didn’t have the same impact as it should have.  Because the elements were so overly familiar, The Adventures of Robin Hood held few surprises for me.  I still liked it a lot and it’s definitely one of the better adaptations of the story.  (My favorite Robin Hood flick is still the animated Disney version.) 

 

The only thing that’s really different about this movie is that The Guy of Gisbourne is more of a threat than the Sheriff of Nottingham.  Other than that, it’s just like every other damn Robin Hood movie and cartoon you’ve ever seen.  Robin busting in on Prince John’s party and making eyes at Maid Marian?  Check.  Robin battling Little John then becoming friends with him?  Uh-huh.  The archery contest?  You betcha.

 

What separates The Adventures of Robin Hood from the rest of the pack is Errol Flynn.  This dude is a Grade A pimp in this movie.  Any guy who can prance around in some awfully “Merry” looking tights and is still able to act like a total badass gets mad props from me.  He also gets some pretty fly dialogue too.  Here’s my favorite exchange:

 

Maid Marian:  “You speak treason!”

 

Robin Hood:  “Fluently!”

 

The rest of the cast is aces.  Basil Rathbone is quite slimy as Guy of Gisbourne and Claude Rains kicks ass as the wormy Prince John.  Olivia de Havilland is mega-hot as Maid Marian; although she’s pretty much covered head to toe throughout the entire movie.  C’mon Liv, I know it was 1938 but couldn’t you show a LITTLE skin?

 

The Adventures of Robin Hood is on The Video Vacuum Top Ten Films of 1938 at the Number 2 spot; which puts it in between Room Service and Sex Madness.

 

AKA:  Robin Hood.

HIGHLANDER (1986) ***

I saw Highlander 2:  The Quickening in the theater without the benefit of seeing the first film and it was so bad that I swore off ever watching the original (or the slew of sequels and various TV shows and spin-offs for that matter).  In fact, I used to make fun of people for liking this movie.   Over the years I would catch part of it here and there on television but I’d remember my promise and quickly turn it off.  After a two decade long embargo, I finally decided to check it out.  Now that I’ve seen it all way through I have to say it’s pretty badass.  Flawed and overlong; but badass nonetheless.

 

Connor Macleod (Christopher Lambert) is a Scottish dude in the 15th century who gets mortally wounded in battle but doesn’t die.  His clan thinks he’s touched by the devil so they cast him out of their village.  Then along comes this Spaniard swordsman (Sean Connery) who tells Connor that he’s actually immortal and trains him how to use a sword so that other immortals don’t try to knock his block off.  Then some burly looking motherfucker named Krueger (Clancy Brown) tracks them down and kills Connor’s teacher.  Centuries later, in modern day New York, Krueger finally finds Macleod and they have a knock down drag out swordfight because “THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!”

 

Highlander was directed by Russell Mulcahy and it’s definitely one of the most stylish looking sci-fi action flicks of the 80’s.  What can I say?  The man just knows how to film swordfights and people getting struck by lighting.  He also did a good job at incorporating the Godfather 2 style flashbacks into the narrative.

 

Of course he still doesn’t explain the film’s biggest plot hole:  How can immortals be “immortal” if they can be killed by decapitation?  You probably got to ask someone at a Starlog convention to get a straight answer to that.

 

What makes the movie work is the chemistry between Lambert and Connery.  You can’t beat the sight of James Bond dressed like a 15th century Spanish pimp teaching Tarzan how to swordfight.  These scenes are kinda like a cross between the training montages in Rocky and the scenes where Luke learns the Force from Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.  That is to say they rock.  Speaking of “rock”; the non-stop Queen music isn’t up to snuff with their stellar work from Flash Gordon but middle of the road Queen is still better than no Queen at all

 

The constant swordfights and decapitations aside, Highlander isn’t perfect.  The pacing starts to flag about 2/3 of the way through and almost comes to a screeching halt when Lambert starts playing kissy-face with a forensics expert broad.  These little detours aren’t enough to completely derail the film and the rousing climax makes you forget about that dopey lovey-dovey subplot.  Besides, any movie that features a random ass cameo by The Fabulous Freebirds is OK by me.

 

Suggested Drinking Game:  Take a shot every time somebody says, “There can be only one!”

 

Brown gets the best line of the movie when he says, “Nuns… no sense of humor!”

WEAPONS OF DEATH (1982) **

A black guy, a white guy, and an Asian guy kidnap a girl.  No, this isn’t the start of a joke, it’s the beginning of a movie; Weapons of Death.  On second thought, this movie is a joke, so it’s fitting I guess.

 

Anyway the chick’s karate chopping brother (Eric Lee) tries to stop the kidnapping but he’s unsuccessful.  He then gets his various brothers, half-brothers, and even his estranged father to help get her back.  This leads to a bunch of haphazardly choreographed Kung Fu sequences and swordfights.

 

Director Paul Kyriazi also helmed the semi-classic Death Machines but forgot to throw in those little goofy touches that made that film so memorable.  All Kyriazi really gives us in Weapons of Death is a lot of badly choreographed action sequences.  (It’s almost as if he just turned the camera on and told everybody to do whatever they wanted.)  He must’ve been under the impression that quantity is better than quality.  And for some reason, he spends more screen time following the exploits of the kidnappers than the heroes, which is really weird if you ask me.

 

Eric Lee is an OK action hero in that he is adept physically.  When it comes to “acting” though; forget about it.  He emotes like a five year old and flubs way too many of his lines (“Next time… I’ll fight you with… uh… two swords!”) to carry the movie effectively.

 

Still, Weapons of Death is not without it’s merits.  You don’t have to wait very long in between action sequences; even though they are all more or less pretty crummy.  The final twenty minutes is basically just wall to wall action and while it isn’t quite what I’d call “good”; it’s definitely not boring.