The Adventures of Robin Hood

Hollywood legend Errol Flynn stars as Robin of Locksley, better known as Robin Hood. He and his band of Merry Men rob from the rich and give to the poor to offset the heavy taxation imposed by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Melville Cooper). He also woos and wins the heart of the lovely Lady Marion (Olivia de Havilland), who in turn spies for Robin on the goings on of Price John (Claude Rains), usurper of the throne.

This 1938 classic garnered three Academy Awards (Art Direction, Film Editing, Original Score) and really stands the test of time 70 years after its theatrical release. The cinematography is stunning, although one can only wonder how magnificent it would look in a Cinemascope presentation, but that didn't make its debut until 1953.

Using the same VC-1 encode from the previously released HD DVD, Warner has done another outstanding job at restoring a Hollywood classic. The highlight is the color rendition, which shows its full Technicolor glory with rich blues and reds along with vivid purples and bright yellows. Detail is a bit on the soft side, and the print shows its age on occasion with some damage. Also, the black levels are a tad elevated, looking more gray than black. But regardless of its minor flaws, this is a stellar presentation.

With a 70-year-old mono soundtrack, my expectations regarding the audio were quite low. The Dolby Digital Plus 1.0 track is collapsed in the center speaker, even with Pro Logic IIx processing applied. Fidelity and dynamics are surprisingly good with the Oscar-winning score, although it sounds relatively flat compared to a modern soundtrack. Dialog is astonishingly clear and well-centered, but this is not a demo-worthy mix.

Ported over from the DVD and HD DVD releases, The Adventures of Robin Hood is loaded with bonus features, some presented in HD. Highlights include an introduction by Leonard Maltin, a commentary track with film historian Rudy Behlmer, a music-only track, and a collection of Errol Flynn trailers.

My favorite is "Warner Night at the Movies 1938," which recreates what you would typically see at the movies during that time—starting with a vintage newsreel, followed by a musical short featuring Freddie Rich and his Orchestra, the classic cartoon Katnip Kollege (VC-1 HD), and the Angels with Dirty Faces theatrical trailer. Rounding out the supplements are some documentaries, vintage cartoons (VC-1 HD), outtakes, and many more.

Compared to modern takes on the legend of Robin Hood, the pacing may not appeal to younger audiences, but my kids seemed to enjoy it. The set design is fabulous, the stunts are plausible, and the witty yet corny dialog is a treat. When you add in the plethora of bonus features, this is a must-have for any film collector.

Release Date: August 26, 2008

Film: 9 out of 10
Picture: 9 out of 10
Sound: 6 out of 10

Review System

Panasonic DMP-BD30

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Pioneer Elite SC-09TX THX Ultra 2 AVR
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector