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The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men DVD Review

The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men DVD cover - click to buy from Amazon.com The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men
Movie & DVD Details

Theatrical Release: June 26, 1952 / Running Time: 84 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Ken Annakin

Cast: Richard Todd (Robin Hood), Joan Rice (Maid Marian), Peter Finch (Sheriff of Nottingham), James Hayter (Friar Tuck), James Robertson Justice (Little John), Martita Hunt (Queen Eleanor), Hubert Gregg (Prince John)

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio), Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: April 26, 2009 (Disney Movie Club Exclusive in July 2006)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5); White Keepcase

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By Mark Probst

In the early 1950s, Walt Disney decided to expand his franchise by breaking out into live-action films. In the 1940s, he had made animation/live-action hybrids but never an exclusively live-action film. Walt set up a film crew in England to work on a series of projects. The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men, released in 1952, was the second project, the first being 1950's Treasure Island. This version of the Robin Hood story stars Richard Todd as the dashing hero; Disney would use him in two later swashbucklers filmed in England The Sword and the Rose (1953) and Rob Roy the Highland Rogue (1954). Disney's interpretation, while similar in style and tone to Warner Brothers' 1938 Errol Flynn classic, is still a fresh and entertaining take on the legend, though no one would deny that the Flynn version is superior.

Robin comes to the aid of the Queen on a journey through Sherwood forest. Robin and Friar Tuck meet for the first time with a slight difference of opinion.

The movie follows the familiar story of King Richard going off to fight in the crusades and leaving the Kingdom to be ruled by his greedy nefarious brother Prince John (Hubert Gregg).
In no time, the Prince has hired a villainous sheriff (Peter Finch, a two-time Disney lead best known today for his rants in Network and subsequent posthumous Oscar win) and is taxing the subjects into poverty. Robin starts up his little band of outlaws to undo some of the sheriff's atrocities. As Robin's popularity grows, the prince is more and more determined to capture and execute him. When King Richard is held for ransom in Austria, Maid Marian (Joan Rice) prevails upon the outlaws to help and they find an ingenious way to get Prince John and the sheriff to donate their tax collections to the ransom fund. The story is lively and good-natured and very much in the tradition of Disney entertainment. There are some unique ideas, such as the whistling arrows the outlaws shoot over the forest trees to send signals to each other. The storytelling technique is decidedly old-fashioned, which may put off some, but fans of classic Disney are sure to enjoy it very much.

Arrows fly in the royal archery competition. Robin keeps the maiden's feet dry as he returns her to the castle.


I wasn't expecting much in terms of quality, given that this is a Disney Movie Club exclusive. I have compared it to the laserdisc released in 1992 and can confirm that it is the exact same transfer. Now the laserdisc jacket boasts that this was "restored and remastered." Well, let me say that by today's high standards, a 1992 restoration is most unimpressive. Colors are faded and the image is quite soft and lacking in fine detail. The picture is only marginally sharper than the laserdisc due to the fact that DVD boasts higher resolution. Like its predecessor, The Story of Robin Hood was filmed in 3-strip Technicolor. An extensive restoration could make for a visual treat, as many Technicolor movies from that era have been restored with eye-popping results.
However if Disney had chosen to spend money on a new restoration or even a new remastering, then this certainly would not have been a Club exclusive.

Audio is mono and is quite acceptable for a 1950s soundtrack. There is no notable hiss, and dialog is clear and distinguished.


This is barebones as you can get. There is no trailer, no real extras, and furthermore, there are not even any chapter selections. There is just one 4x3 menu screen with the option of "Play." The one thing you do get (without asking for it) is a dreadfully poor quality opening to "The Wonderful World of Disney" which they included just so they can call this a "Wonderful World of Disney" edition. This is silly since the movie is presented as one whole movie and not broken into two halves as it was presented on the anthology program in its 1955, 1958-59, and 1965 airings. Furthermore, during those broadcasts of Story of Robin Hood, the anthology series was known as "Disneyland", "Walt Disney Presents", and "The Wonderful World of Color", making the opening all the more misplaced. Unfortunately the original TV introductions hosted by Walt are not included. These would have made for a valuable bonus feature as they did for Johnny Tremain on its DVD.

King Richard returns and finds that Marian has joined the merrie men. The Friar offers Maid Marian all the outlaw's money for the King's ransom.


For those of you who already belong to the Disney Movie Club (or are intending to join) and don't mind the mediocre quality of an older transfer, you can own an acceptable, though not stellar release of a Disney classic for $19.95 plus shipping charges (or a bit less in tandem with a special offer and other Club purchases). There have certainly been worse looking catalog titles on DVD. I wouldn't recommend joining the Club just to get this or any other exclusive disc, unless there were many other non-Club-exclusive Disney titles you plan on buying.

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Buy The book: The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green

Related Reviews:
Robin Hood (1973 Animated Retelling) Kidnapped (1960) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Johnny Tremain (1957) The Shaggy Dog (1959) Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
Davy Crockett: Two-Movie Set (1955, 1956) Third Man on the Mountain (1959)
Old Yeller: 2-Movie Collection (1957, 1963) Treasure Island (1950)
Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959) Walt: The Man Behind the Myth (2001)
The Great Locomotive Chase (1956) Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Lady and the Tramp: Platinum Edition (1955) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
Walt Disney Treasures: Elfego Baca The Swamp Fox - Legendary Heroes (1958-60)
Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro - The Complete First Season Walt Disney Treasures: Dr. Syn, The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh

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List of Disney Movie Club Exclusive DVD Waves:
March 2005: Benji the Hunted* (1987) Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken* (1991) Mail to the Chief (2000)
June 2005: Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventure (1995) Geppetto (2000)
September 2005: Shipwrecked (1991) Rocketman (1997) A Knight in Camelot (1998)
January 2006: The Horse Without a Head (1963) DuckTales: The Movie (1990) Smart House (1999) Jumping Ship (2001)
April 2006: The Yellowstone Cubs (1963) A Tiger Walks (1964) The Bluegrass Special (1977)
July 2006: The Story of Robin Hood (1952) Zorro: Season 1, Volume 1 (1957) Zorro: Season 1, Volume 2 (1957) Kidnapped (1960)

* - subsequently released to general retail in near-identical DVD

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Reviewed July 27, 2006.